If you could choose between fame and family, what would you do? For Tony Revolori, the unknown kid who steals the show in The Grand Budapest Hotel, the choice was easy. Wes Anderson had such a clear mental picture of the face he needed for his latest movie that none of the established teen actors would do.
An international hunt for the right guy to play the lobby boy Zero Moustafa ended with an open audition back in the U.S. Only two boys made the cut: Revolori and his big brother Mario.
The boys are so close that they share a bedroom back home in Anaheim, California. Mario, 19, thought he’d done enough in the audition to secure the part ahead of his little bro. “And Wes chose me: so HAHA!” exclaimed Tony, 17, still a little giddy about his abrupt change in fortunes.
“He was a bit disappointed. I’m not gonna lie,” Revolori told the Daily Beast. “But he was happy for me, you know, we’ve been acting for so long. we’ve been competing for roles many times, and he’s beaten me, I’ve beaten him. Of course, this is a big film, so I was lucky enough to be the winner this time.”
It sounds odd for a 17-year-old boy to be describing his long road to stardom, but Revolori secured his first screen role in a commercial at the age of two. After that first baby food gig, he had a series of small parts in TV shows including Entourage, My Name Is Earl, and Shameless.
So, brother or fame? “My brother is gone!” he shouted, laughing. “No, but I know my brother, I doubt that he’s that way, neither am I, and if he was I’d have a completely different life because he’s been very, very influential in my life. I’ve looked up to him for a number of years… Although, if it was a hypothetical, I’d probably still take the film.”
It is certainly a great role. Revolori plays a young lobby boy whose life becomes entwined with the fate of the Grand Budapest Hotel, a faded monument in the fictional European nation of Zubrowka. In a fast-paced tale within a tale, it is Revolori’s character which holds the narrative together.
At the center of a typically stellar Anderson cast that boasts Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Ed Norton, and Harvey Keitel, Revolori holds his own remarkably well.
That’s not to say it was an easy set to walk onto for an inexperienced actor, even if his dad was there to help. Bill Murray, a veteran of Wes Anderson’s movies, spotted the stage dad straight away and warned him to behave: “I’ve thrown parents in the pool before, don’t make me throw you.” His father escaped, but apparently one of the Moonrise Kingdom parents had not fared so well.
The challenge was made a little less daunting by the presence of Saoirse Ronan, who is still 19 despite acting credits that include Hanna, the Lovely Bones and Atonement—in case you were wondering: “It’s Saoirse like inertia. It’s Irish and it means freedom.” The two were in love on screen and clearly clicked on set.
The rising Irish superstar has confidently adapted to the Hollywood buzz and public attention at a young age, so could she share any tips with Revolori? “Please do!” he beseeched.
“I wouldn’t dare,” Ronan replied. “I’m very lucky though because I’ve always got a different colored hair do in each film that I do. So I feel like people are never quite sure who I am. Are you the one that was in the thing with the guy? They’re never sure.”
Even if she’s reluctant to hand out advice, Revolori would be well-advised to follow Ronan’s lead. The plaudits are mounting for the young actress, and she was a star attraction at the Berlin Film Festival despite the presence of her more established colleagues. Her success has come, thus far, without any of the scandals or arrests which have complicated the careers of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and so many of their peers.
Ronan explained that “certain institutions really encourage younger people to be cutesy and smiley” and it can only go on so long before they start acting out. “Kids aren’t like that and teenagers certainly aren’t like that,” she said. “It would be lovely to see more normal people in the spotlight then they don’t feel like they have to prove themselves as an edgy young person because they’ve grown up in a normal situation.”
Is that what Bieber is up to? “I think Justin Bieber is so edgy! Like naturally really edgy,” she laughed. “To be honest, I don’t know what Justin Bieber’s up to.”
Revolori certainly knows what he’s up to. His childhood was spent preparing for the lead role in a major Hollywood movie, but his ambitions don’t stop there. “I’ve been doing music, alternative folk music, but I’ve been pressing pause on my music a bit just to focus on my acting as I feel more passionate about that at the moment, but I’m still continuing going and yeah, I’ve finished the first draft of my film,” he blurted in one breathless sentence. Doesn’t sound like he’ll have much time for drag-racing and sizzurp.