Alex Pettyfer is 20, charming, dazzlingly handsome and English. He began working as a fashion model at age 7 and broke into acting when he was 14, snagging the lead role in the 2006 kids’ adventure film “Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker.”
But 2011 looks to be his year, with two big new movies. “Beastly,” a teen update of “Beauty and the Beast” will open in March, and “I Am Number Four” opens this week.
It’s the story of a lonely teen who lives life on the run, forever hiding from some kind of unspeakable evil that constantly threatens his life. Fortunately, he discovers that he has some cool powers.
Pettyfer, recently in the Bay Area to talk about “I Am Number Four,” is energized about every aspect of the movie, from his co-stars Dianna Agron (whom he recently began dating) and Timothy Olyphant to the hands-on visual effects.
“We did only one day of green screen!” he says excitedly. His real-life preparation included flexibility training and wire-work, as well as learning to jet ski. “There’s no seat!” he says. “You stand up, and it’s so hard!”
Director D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia,” “Eagle Eye”) loved to get realistic reactions. In one scene in which the character is pursued by a monster down a high school hallway, Pettyfer actually was chased by a huge rolling ball, and the rampant destruction and smashing lockers were all real.
“I remember running and looking back and thinking, ‘I’m going to die,’” he says. “And that’s exactly what D.J. wanted. Not that he wanted me to die, but he wanted that reaction.”
One might imagine that such a handsome fellow as Pettyfer might have issues about his looks, perhaps trying to play them down and focus on his talent. However, the actor is perfectly at ease with himself and with his career.
“This is a great movie!” he says. “I love what I do. We’re just playing fancy dress and we’re having fun. Not many people get paid to do the job that they love.”
He adds that, for “Beastly,” he shaved his head and wears creepy makeup throughout most of the film. “The thing is that I never consider how I look in a movie. I consider the story and the characters. If, in a year’s time, I have to lose weight or put on weight or go bald, that’s what I’ll do.”
IF YOU GO
I Am Number Four
Starring Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand
Written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon
Directed by D.J. Caruso
Running time 1 hour 10 minutes