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Alden Ehrenreich, a 19-year-old NYU freshman, played a cross-dressing punk in a movie he made for a bat mitzvah. It’s what eventually got him the lead in Francis Ford Coppola’s next film.


My mom wouldn’t let me do child acting. But starting in sixth grade, my friends and I would make home movies. In one I ran around as a skinny little punk, trying on girls’ clothes and eating dirt. We decided to show it at another friend’s bat mitzvah. My mom was like, “I really don’t know if you want to present yourself that way. It’s not the best portrait, and there are a lot of people who will be watching this.” To be honest, you go to a bat mitzvah in Los Angeles and you can count on at least a few industry people to be there. But it wasn’t like we thought of that.

Well, Steven Spielberg was there. I got a call afterwards from these giggling girls from school who told me that he had really liked the movie. Pretty soon the DreamWorks people had gotten me an agent, and by now I’ve gone on hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of auditions.

The Coppola audition was the craziest. He first had me read from Catcher in the Rye. Then we had screen tests at his Napa vineyard. Then I got a call to go to Argentina, where I had another four days of screen tests—improvs at cafés and “directing” a group of Argentine actors. I asked him a lot about Marlon Brando. “He was a very dignified man,” he said. Period.

Tetro, Coppola’s Argentine family drama starring Ehrenreich and Vincent Gallo, opens June 11.

As told to Logan Hill.

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