Stars of Sundance: Ben Schnetzer

Stars of Sundance: Ben Schnetzer

Back In January, V Caught Up With All Of The Stars Of This Year's Sundance Film Festival For Our Fashion & Film Issue. Below, Ben Schnetzer, talks working with James Franco and Nick Jonas on the Franco-produced film Goat

Back In January, V Caught Up With All Of The Stars Of This Year's Sundance Film Festival For Our Fashion & Film Issue. Below, Ben Schnetzer, talks working with James Franco and Nick Jonas on the Franco-produced film Goat

Photography: Charlie Engman

Styling: Emma Wyman

Text: Natasha Stagg

Ben Schnetzer played a gay activist in 1980s UK (Pride), a Jewish refugee in 1940s Germany (The Book Thief), a hopeless New Romantic in 2000s Utah (Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2), and a wizard in Azeroth (Warcraft), among other roles, before shooting the raw college-age drama Goat (based on the memoir by Brad Land), in which he stars. “It certainly isn’t like I’m reading scripts thinking I need to do something really different,” he laughs. “But you want to stretch yourself and challenge yourself; that’s really the major turn on when you’re going into work.”

He plays fraternity pledge Brad, younger brother of fraternity member Brett (Nick Jonas). The film only spans a few weeks and so leaves itself no room to shy away from any gory details of the hazing process Brad endures (while Brett oversees). Every scene is measured with purpose: a cameo by executive producer James Franco, for example, serves as reminder that fraternities are indeed for life. “We had I think four weeks to shoot it,” says Schnetzer. “The subject matter is quite intense, so we just went into fifth gear to finish it. It serves the film in the end—I think it would have been difficult to maintain that momentum over the course of a three-month shoot.” Goat is in an almost uncomfortably high gear film from start to finish; much like the hazing rituals it depicts, watching it feels like a test of endurance if only because it looks to be—and is based on something—so real. “When we were shooting the hazing stuff, if it was a question of should we do it for real or should we not, we always did it for real,” Schnetzer says. “But there were a few moments—the humiliation scenes, like where they made us get in a pyramid in our underwear, and it was weird; that was a lot harder than any of the physical stuff.”

Perhaps like joining a frat, the struggle made soaking up the film’s success at Sundance all the more enjoyable. Not that Schnetzer or Jonas had much life experience on which to compare the payoff. “[Director Andrew Neel] and I were joking around about how we have this movie about a fraternity and a bunch of actors who either didn’t go to college or who all went to acting school,” Schnetzer says. And research proved slightly more difficult than the actor had imagined. “A buddy of mine was in a fraternity and he just didn’t talk about it. It wasn’t like he signed a code of silence. He was just like, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’”

After everything, the film was met with more than critical acclaim. “I guess Nick is used to those high-intensity events,” Schnetzer says of Sundance. “He reminded me a couple times to just take it in, look around, and enjoy the work we put into this. There was a moment on the carpet during the premiere when there was a million flashes going off and he just grabbed my shoulder and was like, ‘Dude, look at this.’ All of a sudden things just parted and time slowed down.”

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