Look! Up on the screen! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s . . . Dylan Sprayberry?
Yes, Dylan Sprayberry, the Houston-born son of former West University residents who transplanted to Los Angeles back when Dylan was only seven, so he could achieve fame and fortune far beyond that of mortal men. Or, failing that, at least make a living as a working actor.
Before departing the Houston area, Dylan started modeling at age 2, began taking acting classes at 5 — and had his first commercial to his credit at the tender age of 6. But his career didn’t really commence to move up, up and away until he relocated to La-La Land, where he was cast as a supporting player in the comedy Old Dogs, landed guest spots in TV series (including Glee, Criminal Minds and Common Law), and generally built up a respectable resume in short order.
"I was three, but I sat through the whole entire thing for three hours . . . I didn’t go to sleep, I didn’t go to the bathroom, I didn’t move — I just watched the movie."
And now, just one month before his 15th birthday, he’s looming large at movie theaters and drive-ins everywhere in the $128.7 million, opening "weekend," smash hit Superman epic Man of Steel. Henry Cavill is the one who gets most of the screen time as the grown-up version of the title character, but Sprayberry nonetheless manages to make a strong impression as the young Clark Kent, depicted here as a secretly super-powerful youngster whose adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner, Diane Lane), want to keep other folks from learning about their son’s remarkable abilities for as long as possible.
Dylan returned home this weekend (along with his hotel manager dad, his hair stylist mom, and his sister, budding actress Ellery Sprayberry) to reconnect with some of his many relatives who still live in the H-Town area, to visit a few of his old stomping grounds — and to answer questions and sign autographs at two Man of Steel screenings at the Edwards Greenway Grand Palace.
While he was at the megaplex, he also took time for a brief chat with CultureMap.
CultureMap: Do you remember how you got your first exposure to Superman? Was in it a comic book? A movie? A TV series?
Dylan Sprayberry: An action figure. A Superman action figure. I had, like, about a four-inch, full-metal vintage action figure — my favorite action figure I ever had.
I actually bought it myself. I was looking through a vintage toy store in Santa Monica. And as soon as I saw it, I said, “Wow! This is the one I want! This guy looks awesome!” And then, later on, I was told about him, and I thought, “Wow! This is nice! I like this guy!” So I started reading the comic books.
CM: What film or TV version of the mythos did you see first?
CS: The first one I was exposed to that had anything to do with Superman in general was Smallville. I watched that one a lot, because my older brother was a big fan — he knows every episode, every plot. That’s really where I got my information about Superman.
And of course, that turned out to be very helpful to me, because that’s like Superman’s origin story, right there in a long-term scale. And I loved Tom Welling’s portrayal of the young Superman.
CM: Did you cram for your first Man of Steel audition by watching other TV shows and movies?
CS: Well, the thing was, they didn’t tell me what I was auditioning for when I went in for it. It was listed as just an Untitled Warner Bros. Project. So when I auditioned the first time, I did a monologue from Stand by Me – one that River Phoenix did.
"There was a bunch of secrecy about the whole thing that was so difficult to deal with, but I had to."
They finally told me what the movie was when I went in to meet the director. But they also told me, “You can’t tell anyone.” There was a bunch of secrecy about the whole thing that was so difficult to deal with, but I had to. And the more we went through the auditions, the whole process, the more I thought I was getting closer to landing this. And when I finally did — it was like a dream come true.
But the funny thing is — you know Pete Ross, the bully character? Well, I auditioned for that part, too. But even when we were doing it, I thought, “You know, I don’t think I’m gonna be able to pull this off.”
Not like Jack Foley, who they cast as young Pete Ross. He’s great, by the way. But I couldn’t have pulled that off.
CM: Some of the best scenes in Man of Steel focus on you and Kevin Costner, who plays Jonathan Kent, Clark’s adopted father. You and Costner seem to have developed a close, credible and compelling relationship on screen.
CS: Yeah, we really connected the first day we met on set. He was really focused on his acting — which made him a really good role model for me to see. But when we were off the set, and not filming, we’d talk about new projects he was working on, and other things he’d done — and he was just so nice. He gave me pointers about what to do on set. And we really became friends, which helped a lot during filming.
CM: For the longest time, Jonathan Kent tries to keep Clark from prematurely revealing his powers to the world — because he’s afraid how people on earth would respond to having someone with Clark’s powers in their midst. Did you and Costner spend much time discussing that aspect of your characters’ relationship?
CS: We figured that Jonathan was just trying to do the right thing, even though Clark might not realize it. It’s a lot like every kid who thinks about their parents: “Oh, they don’t know what they’re talking about.” But Jonathan does know what he’s talking about it. And the proof is, look what Clark becomes when he’s older. He becomes a super hero with this great morality.
But it’s a really strange situation, you know, because as far as Clark knows at first, he is Jonathan and Martha’s son. But he can do these weird things that other kids can’t. That no one can, really. So he already has this weird situation to deal with. And then his parents tell him that he’s not even their son. That he’s this alien that came in this giant ship from space that landed on their farm. That’s really a lot for the guy to deal with.
CM: It must be nice to get to visit your hometown while you’re out promoting your movie.
DS: And I really love the fact that we’re doing this at this particular movie theater. Because I’ve always been a movie fan. And it was at this movie theater that I saw my first movie — the first Harry Potter film. I was three, but I sat through the whole entire thing for three hours, or however long it was. I didn’t go to sleep, I didn’t go to the bathroom, I didn’t move — I just watched the movie.
And, you know, that’s when I realized that I loved movies. And I’ve been going to see them ever since.