A star is born in ‘Hail, Caesar!’ | Inquirer Entertainment
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A star is born in ‘Hail, Caesar!’

By: - Columnist
/ 01:09 AM February 11, 2016

ALDEN Ehrenreich Ruben V. Nepales

ALDEN Ehrenreich Ruben V. Nepales

LOS ANGELES—It takes a lot to stand out in “Hail, Caesar!” because it is full of impressive performances by George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton (as gossip-writing twin sisters) and cameos by such actors as Frances McDormand (she has fun with a gag as a film editor) and Ralph Fiennes. Amid these veterans in the comedy set in 1950s Hollywood, Alden Ehrenreich, 26, manages to make a star turn as a popular singing cowboy cast in a parlor-room drama.

We first see Alden as Hobie Doyle, shooting stunts while riding horses and singing à la Roy Rogers and Gene Autry in a movie called “The Cowboy.” This was the golden age of Hollywood, where studios had contract stars at their beck and call.


On his lunch break, Alden’s trick-roping, gun-twirling cowboy is suddenly asked to act in a sophisticated drama that same day.


“Hobie Doyle cannot act!” protested Laurence Laurentz, a cravat-wearing English director deliciously played by Ralph Fiennes.

But Josh Brolin, in top form as the studio’s “fixer,” insisted. So, the cowboy immediately began shooting the drama called “Merrily We Dance.” Next, we see Alden, dressed in a tux, making a clunky entrance in a scene where he fumbles the simple line, “Would that it were so simple.” This taxes the patience of Laurence (Ralph).

Alden’s country and western star having a tough time pronouncing the British filmmaker’s first and last names is hilarious by itself.

Ralph, channeling Laurence Olivier, is wickedly good, but these scenes will make moviegoers ask, who is this actor playing Hobie?

It turns out that Alden, whose last name is pronounced “Air-en-rike,” played that male lead in Richard LaGravenese’s “Beautiful Creatures,” was Cate Blanchett’s son Danny in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” and debuted as Bennie in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tetro.”

The actor’s other credits include the short “Maple Leaves,” “Running Wild,” the documentary “Teenage” and Chan-wook Park’s “Stoker.”


No less than Steven Spielberg gets the credit for discovering the new star unanimously being praised by critics. “I was 14,” recalled Alden, charming and much younger-looking in person. “My friend Johnny and I used to make these silly videos for ourselves, just to make ourselves laugh.

“There was a girl whom we were friends with who was having a bat mitzvah. She asked us to make a video for her bat mitzvah. So, we made one and showed it to our parents.”

“It was about me breaking into a girl’s house, and I am in love with her,” he added about the short comedy. “They screened it at the bat mitzvah. It was on a loop and Spielberg saw me in that video. He liked me, and I got referred. I had a meeting (with Steven) at DreamWorks, and that’s how I got an agent.” The meeting led to roles in TV shows.

Alden holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. For his high school education, he went to Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California, where many Hollywood celebrities’ kids study and whose alum roster includes stars from Gwyneth Paltrow to Kate Hudson. He grew up in tony Pacific Palisades.

“What I enjoyed there (Crossroads) is growing up around people whose parents were in the industry,” said Alden. “It was like a great lesson in seeing behind the curtain a little bit.

A STAR IS BORN IN ‘HAIL, CAESAR!’ Alden Ehrenreich is a singing cowboy, Hobie Doyle, suddenly cast in a drama directed by Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes, right). Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

A STAR IS BORN IN ‘HAIL, CAESAR!’ Alden Ehrenreich is a singing cowboy, Hobie Doyle, suddenly cast in a drama directed by Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes, right). Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Theater program

He credited the school (Crossroads) for helping him land his feature film debut role in “Tetro.” “One of the things that convinced Francis Ford Coppola that I would be able to do it was that I had been so involved in the theater program at Crossroads. He knew about Crossroads.”

Alden admitted that he had to beg to try out for the part in “Hail… .” “I read the script, and I loved it,” he said. “I asked if I could audition. We were told by somebody that I wasn’t right for the part. So we just said, ‘Please.’ They let me come in and audition for the casting director and twice with the Coens. Then, I got the part.”

On shooting the movie, “Merrily We Dance,” within a movie, “Hail…,” Alden said it was disorienting. “It was kind of crazy, because you forget what movie you’re in after a certain point. You are in a movie within a movie.

“Getting to work with Ralph felt great, because it was almost like doing a one-act play. It’s such an involved piece, and you don’t always get to do that. It’s a real thrill.”

Alden said acting in the “Would that it were so simple” scene with Ralph was a treat. “We rehearsed it a bit and we got into it. At a certain point, the job just becomes about how not to laugh. It’s a relief when you get to play a bad actor, because the worse you are, the better you are!”

“This was certainly the most demanding role,” he said. “I had to learn the (Southern) accent, play the guitar, gun and spaghetti noodle twirling and horseback riding.”

As for the stunts, Alden said, “Some of them were by stunt doubles, but I did the horse rearing up, the flip off the horse and stuff. Tad Griffith, who did a lot of the horse stunt stuff, taught me.”

He did some of the lasso tricks, but “not all of it. I had a trick-roping teacher.”

Alden even learned roping tricks with a spaghetti in a date scene with a young Carmen Miranda-type (Veronica Osorio). “We choreographed it with the guy (Christopher Gattelli) who choreographed the tap dancing scene (with Channing) and all the real dances.”

The actor, who auditioned for the title role in “The Amazing Spider-Man” and Harry Osborn in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” said he was surprised at “how fun it was” to work with Joel and Ethan Coen.

“I like the respect with which they (the Coens) treat everybody they work with. They work with so many of the same people for such a long time. I just loved it!”

Asked what he was passionate about in his personal life, the cofounder of The Collectin, a film and theater company, laughed as he replied, “I wish it was more interesting, but it’s really acting and film. When I go home, I watch movies.” And women? “Yeah, women in film are great,” he answered as he chuckled some more.

On having the privilege of working with some of the best directors at such a young age, Alden commented, “I am just lucky to have had them pick me.”

“I grew up watching a lot of those 1970s movies, including ‘The Godfather.’ The exciting thing about working with those people is that I got to ask them so many questions. Like Francis.”

He even got to work with Warren Beatty in the latter’s untitled project, a story about Howard Hughes, with Lily Collins. “Warren was friends with Orson Welles, so you get to learn this background about film,” he said.

“We shot Warren’s film right before we shot this movie,” Alden explained. “He is editing now. He is meticulous.

“I also met with him over five years in order to get the role. Getting to sit down with him for nine hours at a time and just hear all those stories was pretty unbelievable.”

Alden’s innocence, or at least his innocent looks, is a plus, he said. “I feel like the innocence helps me sometimes, career-wise. It’s not innocence as much as it’s a little idealism. When I worked with Francis Ford Coppola, he said, ‘Stay innocent. Don’t get jaded or cynical.’ So, I have tried my best to stay that way.”

“Hail…” will surely bring him more movie breaks. In the meantime, he has two films in the can. “I have the Warren Beatty film. Then, I just did a film called ‘The Yellow Birds’ in Morocco, which is an Iraq war film. And I am editing a short film that I directed.”

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E-mail [email protected]. Follow him at twitter.com/nepalesruben.

TAGS: Alden Ehrenreich, Entertainment, Hollywood

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