From "Laguna Beach" surfer to undersea superhero? It might be a short walk distancewise, but for former MTV reality show star Talan Torriero it feels like a nearly insurmountable chasm. Still, he's not giving up.
Talan gave me a call recently to discuss his latest movie "Driftwood," a horror film about a camp for wayward youths, and wound up dishing dirt on his former co-stars, his love of musical theater, his intense and "crazy" acting method, and why his dream role involves talking to fish.
MTV News: Right off the bat, I'm curious what the heck a guy from "Laguna Beach" is doing in a horror movie.
Talan Torriero: I wanted to do something that was different. I felt like this movie would show people a different side to me, and show that I really am very serious about acting.
MTV News: Yeah, but even on "Laguna" you're playing a character, right? Just a character who happens to be you.
Torriero: It's a reflection of me, exactly. On the show I was myself, and there's no nerves in that, but going to do my first movie I was really nervous. ... I think too much, that's my problem. I think so much about everything that I do in my life.
MTV News: And that's changed now?
Torriero: It's definitely changed. At first I was always very nervous; now it's like I'm very confident, very grateful to be doing what I'm doing. I love playing characters. But playing another character, it can be either be a good thing or a bad thing. A lot of fingers are being pointed at me. Maybe that's all in my mind, but I'm always worried. I'm "that kid from that show." Will people embrace me as someone else? It's a hard one to overcome. Doing the show opened up a lot of doors but at the same time it closed a lot of them too.
MTV News: C'mon, you're one of the beautiful people!
Torriero: I admit that I was fortunate in life. But this business is like a totem pole. I have to start 30 auditions deep. A lot of people think that I start at the final callback just because I was on some show, but it's the opposite: I start at square one with the major cattle call. Not anymore because I've worked to a point where now I get in on a higher level, but at first I had to beat out some big names for some roles that I've gotten. I had to work my way up.
MTV News: Did that change the type of roles you went for?
Torriero: Well, I kind of try and go for movies where my name isn't really a power, because I don't feel like I have a powerful name and I don't want people banking on my name.
MTV News: So, OK, dream role — what would it be?
Torriero: I have to say that my dream role would be doing something like "Into the Wild." I love Method acting, so any way that I am able to become a character, physically, mentally, definitely is something I would love to do. For instance, I did this short film that's going to be unbelievable. It's like "Transformers." Basically I had to act with nothing there, but I remember this scene where I'm running away from this robot, this transforming robot, and I'm freaking out. All of a sudden I was so genuinely scared that there was a robot following me that I had an anxiety attack. I felt like I couldn't breathe and my palms got sweaty. I couldn't even remember my lines — I was literally scared that there was something following me. See, I'm crazy. If I had to do "Into the Wild" I'd literally go live in the wild and eat ... you name it. Like instead of giving me a trailer I'd go live in my little hut in the woods.
MTV News: That's serious commitment.
Torriero: Yeah, like for this movie I did a lot of things of that nature, I actually had to gain 10 pounds of muscle and shave my head. I went to the gym. I really wanted to go to a couple military academies. I even volunteered to stay in one of the cells at night and videotape the whole thing but they didn't want to do that for safety reasons.
MTV News: More like they don't want it to wind up on the Internet. That thing would be online in five seconds.
Torriero: It's funny because a [paparazzo] photographer will be like, "Hey I'll take your picture," and I'll almost laugh because, like, they're not going to make any money off of it. That's never an issue for me.
MTV News: Unlike some of your old co-stars, who I think are contractually obligated to be at every red carpet ever.
Torriero: Yeah, I mean more power to them. Kristen [Cavallari] is working, Stephen [Colletti] is on "One Tree Hill." They're all great guys and they're obviously doing a great job, but I don't want to be known as like a Paris Hilton. I'm private. Whenever I do a movie, I always make the producers sign contracts with me to do X amount of red carpets because I won't do them. I'm very insecure about taking pictures.
MTV News: By the way, your dream role surprised me. Most people pick a superhero.
Torriero: You know what I really am pushing for? I really want to be Aquaman in "Justice League." ... It's a superhero movie, so it's probably hard to even get in there, but I really want it badly. I really want to be Aquaman so badly.
MTV News: Wait, what? Nobody wants to be Aquaman. He's ridiculous. Don't be silly.
Torriero: Well I'm a pretty realistic person. People say, "If you could be anyone you want right now, who would you be?" I could sit here and say, "Oh, Johnny Depp or Jack Nicholson," but is it realistic for me to say that right now? No. But I could be Ryan Reynolds or Paul Walker right now. I love Ryan Reynolds' career, I really look up to him a lot.
MTV News: Word on the street is that you want to be Zac Efron as well.
Torriero: I auditioned for Link in "Hairspray" [on Broadway], yeah.
MTV News: What about "Hairspray" excited you?
Torriero: I love the musical, I watched all the movies and [listened to] the soundtrack, and it just really captured me. But Broadway, it's a dream. Who doesn't want to be under the bright lights on Broadway? And sing. I gave it my best.