McAuliffe has already attracted a legion of die-hard fans, even though the biggest film he's been in to date is "I Am Number Four." When his next film, "The Great Gatsby," premieres in December, his star will undoubtedly rise even faster. McAuliffe plays the young Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann's much-anticipated adaptation of the classic novel, while Leonardo DiCaprio is the older Gatsby.
McAuliffe called us from the Maine set of "Blue Potato," a coming-of-age story about two young French-Canadian teenagers plotting their escape from their boring town. We chatted about everything from his Zen philosophy on fame to what it was like working with eccentric Luhrmann to the very bizarre questions he regularly gets from his die-hard fans.
I know that you're playing the young Jay Gatsby. How did you react when you found out you got that part? I was pretty ecstatic, as you might imagine.
What did you do to prepare? For the most part the study came from watching some of the scenes that Leo had done to see some of the nuances he had in his performance, which certainly helped. I'm not in any way trying to play the young Leonardo DiCaprio, I'm playing the young Gatsby. Leo is playing a different character than himself, so for me to play a young Leo would be off the mark.
Did you feel extra pressure given that you were sharing this character with someone of his caliber? Very much so! [Laughs] I'm still not entirely sure if I've pulled it off. We'll have to wait and see when the movie comes out. It was very nerve-wracking!
What was the whole experience of working with Baz Luhrmann like? Amazing. He's a very talented man, but he's so eccentric and lively and professional. It was one of the fastest-moving sets I've been on. He gets what he wants within two or three takes, and then he moves on.
I noticed online that you already have a lot of pretty die-hard fans. Have you had any surreal encounters with fans yet? There was a girl standing outside my apartment building holding up pictures of me to sign. I don't know how she possibly found my apartment building! [Laughs] I didn't really know what to do, so I just went down and signed them. [Laughs] Those kinds of situations I suppose would take some getting used to. I look at some of the really immensely famous people like the guys from the big fan favorites like "Twilight" or "Harry Potter," and I just can't imagine having to deal with that kind of attention.
It is interesting that you haven't been in one of these movies and yet you still have these fans. Were you surprised when you first started noticing these fan sites popping up? Not at all. You have to shrink your head a little bit. You realize you could be in any film, and so long as maybe a million people see it across the globe the entire time it exists, you're going to have a couple thousand people, at least, who either enjoyed your performance or who like you as a person. So eventually if you've done a couple of films it's inevitable that you're going to have some people who show their appreciation by coming online and what have you. It's important not to let your head swell. You could have the ugliest guy in the world, if they did a popular film they'd have easily 30,000 fans, which is what I've got on Twitter at the moment. You've got to keep your head the right size.
What questions do fans most commonly ask you? It's interesting. I've never had a standard set of questions. They're usually kind of varied. The majority of my fans are young Filipino girls, for some reason. I'm not sure why! Their questions are all wildly different from what young American girls might ask. There's nothing really standard. I've had some pretty weird questions though.
Oh yeah? Like what? There are the standard ones asking me to marry them or go on a date with them or go to prom and things like that. But then I'll get really strange questions. The normal questions you might expect are what's your favorite color. But I get, "Do you like the smell of grass?" or that sort of thing. [Laughs] Or "What's your favorite swimming stroke?"
Wow. Someone actually asked you that? Yeah, someone asked me that the other day.
What did you say? I'm pretty sure I said "Freestyle." It seems like the one that requires the least amount of effort and gets you the furthest.
"The Great Gatsby" is set for release in 2013.