In "Animal Kingdom," James Frecheville is a fresh-faced teen thrust into a dog-eat-dog world where vicious people will betray their own flesh and blood if it serves their interests.
So yeah, the role should prepare him well for Hollywood.
That's where the 19-year-old will likely end up after all the praise being heaped on the Aussie crime thriller "Kingdom" – and Frecheville's performance in particular. The Melbourne native plays J, who's forced to move in with his extended family of criminals after his mother dies of a drug overdose. Let's just say they don't exactly roll out the red carpet.
The parallels between his life and art haven't been lost on Frecheville, who heard about the project from a high school teacher and beat out roughly 500 other young men for the gig. "We were both complete opposites moving into an environment of complete professionals," he said. The professionals in the latter include Australian treasure Guy Pearce, who plays a cop trying to protect J from his precarious clan. It's Frecheville's first film role, but he delivers the sort of understated performance that's rare to see from even seasoned vets.
But while "Kingdom" is Frecheville's first professional gig, he's hardly an amateur. He's been acting for over a decade, mostly in community theater. "It's kind of like an overnight success story, 12 years in the making," he laughs. We got the full lowdown on Frechveille when the actor stopped through New York this summer.
What was your first acting gig?
I was Santa Clause in first year of primary school, our elementary’s school play, because I had most panache, that was probably why. I was 5.
Whose career in Hollywood would you like to have?
That's hard. Like I just genuinely don’t have an answer for it. I mean everyone is so different, I just kind of like 'em all and hate 'em all.
What would you be doing if you weren't acting?
I don't know. I've been wanting to do it for o long that I haven't ever thought of anything else. Maybe working as a spy or something. Because I did toy with the idea, and maybe I still do, but I probably can't, now that I've mentioned it in an interview. But that kind of stuff fascinates me. Maybe a writer. But probably a banker or washed up drug dealer or something.
Anything cool you bought with your first movie paycheck?
Yes. Where is it? [He grabs a nearby bag and pulls out a large camera.] My Leica D-LUX 4… It's a big wanky camera. I was thinking of buying a DSLR, but it was a bit stupid to jump into the deep end for photography, without having a camera before. What else did I spend my money on? A lot of cab fares, coming home from nights out in the city of Melbourne.
Do you have a dream role?
Yeah. But it's something that I'm thinking of writing, so I'm not going to divulge it. But if I write it, and you see me in it, then you'll know.
We're going to get a little more random. What was your favorite toy as a kid?
He was this nameless monkey, because he was always just Monkey. And he was made in San Francisco in 1978 and I bought him at some kind of flea market. And when I was playing with him, I was bashing his head on the ground for some reason and one of his eyes fell off. And I cried and cried and cried and cried, it was horrible. And then my mom sewed a black eye-patch on, so then I had Pirate Monkey.
Do you have a nickname?
Yeah, Freshy, or Jimmy. Or probably f**k-wit. [laughs]
What music are you listening to right now?
At the moment I'm listening to a combination of Chet Baker, The Flaming Lips, Frank Sinatra and a U.S. band called Filigar, which are some kids I met in Sundance. They are really talented, they just released their fifth album in June.
What's next for you?
Nothing is planned. Hopefully something but nothing yet.