Not content with being one of the main players in Netflix’s Stranger Things (he plays Jonathan Byers), Charlie Heaton in now taking on the world of Marvel with his appearance as Sam Guthrie, aka Cannonball, in The New Mutants. Cannonball has the ability to surround himself with an impenetrable force field and propel himself into the air. An apt ability for this rising star. We catch up with the Brit from Yorkshire about making the movie.
How did you get involved with the film?
I was shooting Stranger Things and it was just a regular audition. I knew that it was The New Mutants. Originally I just did a tape for it in the middle of filming and waited a few weeks before I heard anything. Then I found out that they wanted to meet me in Los Angeles and I auditioned with Josh Boone by doing two scenes. It took a long time to find out if I was the one, and I totally get it, there are so many decisions to make. And then I found out that, yeah, I would be playing Sam.
When you got the did you reading the comic?
It was such a fast turnaround, I started prepping at the end of Stranger Things. I started with the script, because what is so amazing is that these characters feel very layered and grounded and very real. I have checked out the comics and I think you can get a lot from them, but a comic is a 2D character and you can’t get too much. It’s very action based, but I don’t think you can really find too much about the character. So I went from the script and I started preparing Sam, and first was the accent.
Being a Brit, how was it to find Sam’s accent?
I do a lot of American work but to be honest, I was pretty nervous about the Southern accent. You really want to get that right so I did some dialogue sessions with some coaches and then I got all these tapes of police officers from Kentucky doing long interviews and spent so much time working on that. I also got a digital radio so I could listen to radio stations in Kentucky. For me, so much about accents is listening and really hearing about how people talk and what they mean when they say words. It’s more than just doing the voice, it’s what makes them a person.
What can you tell us about the character?
We start at the beginning with these characters in a facility. And they are all very damaged.
What’s it like to be part of a superhero movie that is essentially a character piece?
It feels like an indie. We had a lot of people asking what it is like to do a horror movie, and I don’t see this as a horror movie. Yes, horror is one of the big, underlying themes, but it just feels so much more like a drama. It really is cool and, for me, I have always enjoyed studying people and characters but sometimes in a big movie, they can get lost. I feel this movie is very grounded. The X-Men has done that for a long time in the comics, because they are not necessarily superheroes, they are people with mutations who are hated in the world and they all have different feelings about their powers, which is quite a human thing in itself, to be rejected for who you are. Even though there are big production elements and special effects, the kind of atmosphere and vibe feels very spacious and calm. With Josh, at the beginning of this movie he said, with your characters, I want you to do with them as you will, within reason. He really wanted us to take the mantle.
What is your character’s relationship with Dr. Reyes?
Obviously, Sam puts a lot of faith in her at the beginning. There is a line in the script where he says “I belong in this facility”, and I feel like he really means that because he is so scared of what he has done, and he feels like it’s right to be in here in an almost torturous way. At the beginning, Sam practises flying and wants to control his powers so at least he has the idea of getting on with a new life. But as time goes on in the facility, we see him get more frustrated because he learns to forgive himself, yet he also sees that he is not going anywhere.
What is it like to be part of this cast?
I’m working with my peers, we are all the same age, so it’s great. When you are a young actor and you are coming into it relatively new, we all experience things in different ways. I mean Maisie (Williams) has been doing this for a long time, but the rest of us are all relatively new, so it’s nice to go through it together because you kind of realise that everyone works differently. But we all have the same fears and we all sit at night and talk and really help each other get through it; we are all in the same kind of boat. Plus, we have been living together and you kind of bond and make stronger relationships that way. I have known Anya from the last movie that I did (Marrowbone) and Henry and I have really bonded over this movie, Maisie and Blu as well. Everyone is trying to do the best that they can and it’s not a job for anyone, it’s a passion.
This film has been a passion project for Josh Boone for a long time. What is it like to be a part of it?
Josh has been trying to make this film for seven years and when anyone is passionate about anything, you do your best work. There is an excitement on set and you feel that energy.
How do you describe this movie to people, because it really defies what people expect to see in a Marvel film?
Obviously, just the first initial reaction is that I am actually playing a superhero character and my 14-year-old self is screaming out, because that is huge. But at the same time, no one has played these characters before. It was written in the ’80s so these characters were written well before I was born, and it’s like we are the first people to be playing these on screen. And I think that is so cool, we will always be the first people to play the new mutants and that is crazy. As for being part of the Marvel world, I mean it’s so expansive, but at the same time, what we are doing is trying to keep everything fresh and reinvent ourselves, like Deadpool and Logan, and to be part of something that is unique.
The New Mutants is in cinemas on September 10.