Booboo Stewart Stands Hollywood’s Test of Time
From 2008’s Twilight to today’s Let Him Go, the 26-year-old actor speaks on his vast experience in the spotlight.
Most people discover their home-away-from-home in the kitchen of their grandparents’ house, or with the keys to their first-ever apartment, or perhaps even in an overnight summer camp’s bunk bed, but for actor Booboo Stewart, that comfort place is a Hollywood film set. “My dad [Nils Allen Stewart] is a stunt coordinator and an actor, so I was on set all the time,” he told VMAN. “I grew up there. I would always try to skip school to go to set with my dad because I loved it ever since I was really young.”
Infatuated by his father’s work, which extends across decades of legendary filmography — most notably for Space Cowboys, The Mask, and Planet of the Apes — Stewart tried his hands in every avenue of the entertainment industry at a young age. Between modeling gigs, a record deal with Disney, and bit parts on early 2000s films including Yard Sale and Pit Fighter, it quickly became evident that Stewart belonged in the spotlight; however, it wasn’t until he saw Heath Ledger playing the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight that he truly discovered his direction.
“When I saw Heath Ledger playing that role specifically, and when all the press was coming out about that character, it instantly sparked something inside me where I was like, ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,’” he explained. “That was really the inciting incident of my spark of love for movies and film.”
And when Stewart says “love,” he doesn’t mean it lightly — from that moment onward, the go-getter religiously watched two movies per day, routinely researched different actors and their individual career trajectories, and perfected his own acting craft with dedicated practice in hopes of landing on the big screen himself. Striking luck in that same year, Stewart played a major role in one of the early 2000s most fawned-over film series: The Twilight Saga.
His role as the heartthrob shape-shifter Seth Clearwater certainly opened a multitude of industry doors for Stewart; however, it didn’t dictate the rest of his career like many would assume; instead, the experience left the actor with a surge of determination to secure even larger roles and continue his legacy in Hollywood. “In your head, you think, ‘Oh, I’m in Twilight, everything’s going to change automatically,’ but that really didn’t happen,” explained Stewart. “It definitely gives you that bit of an edge when you walk into an audition because you’re part of something that’s very popular, but you still have to audition and you still have to put in the work and you have to show up and be prepared.”
Hustling to land his next roles, Stewart endured a plethora of auditions, ultimately claiming spots on X-Men: Days of Future Past playing Warpath, alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Hugh Jackman, and Disney’s Descendants as Jay, the son of Jafar, across Dove Cameron and the late Cameron Boyce. Fast forward to today and Stewart is celebrating the premiere of his latest on-screen appearance as the Native American drifter Peter Dragswolf in Thomas Bezucha’s mystery-drama Let Him Go.
The project first caught Stewart’s eye in an audition notice, which listed two of his all-time favorite actors, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, as leads. “I saw who was a part of the movie, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is incredible. That’s my dream,’” he said. Determined to land the role, Stewart filmed his self-tape audition in a less than ordinary location: the tack room on the ranch where he was raised, just outside of Los Angeles.
“The room is very old. It’s where we keep all our saddles, bridles, and horse equipment, and I wanted to shoot it in that room,” he explained of the setting, which certainly fits the bill for the western-inspired film. “I dressed for the character with pieces I could pull from my closet. I always think the least amount of imagination you can give casting directors is the best.” Low and behold, he got the role.
The storyline revolves around a retired sheriff (played by Costner) and his wife (played by Lane) who leave their Montana ranch to save their young grandson from an unnerving family living off-the-grid in the Dakotas, and along the way, the couple befriends Stewart’s character, who sheds light on his traumatizing experiences in the residential school system in parallel with the film’s plot development. Naturally, in preparation for the role, Stewart purchased a journal and filled its pages with extensive findings on Dragswolf’s upbringing in order to fully embrace his character’s identity.
“I did a lot of research on where I thought my character came from,” he explained. “In Canada, North America, and probably other places too, people were going around and taking the really young natives from their families and putting them in these boarding schools called residential schools. They were trying to strip them of their culture. They would cut their hair, they would beat them. If they would try to speak their native tongue, they would do horrible things.”
With that in mind, Stewart was highly cognizant of the accuracy of his portrayal, making sure to utilize his researched knowledge to engulf himself in Drafgswolf’s world. He didn’t stop there either — Stewart lost 20 pounds prior to filming and maintained a strict diet while on set for the sake of the role. “I got really skinny and that was really hard to maintain because I love food,” he laughed.
On set, the camaraderie was crucial to the film’s success. “Thomas, our director, set such a great tone. He was so relaxed,” Stewart said. “Well, to me, he seemed relaxed. He was probably running laps in his head, but on the outside, he was very relaxed.” And while Bezucha provided space for each cast member to fully engulf themselves in the Let Him Go landscape, Stewart took notes on his main takeaway from the film: watching Costner in his element.
“Kevin Costner, the way he handles himself on set — he really listens to everybody,” Stewart said. “He is very present. He takes his time and that’s something I really admire because a set can be such a frantic space. That’s one of the biggest things I learned from the whole entire thing — how to handle myself with ease. And he does it.”
Channeling Costner’s on-set energy into his next projects, Stewart looks to the future with one clear goal in mind: “I just want people to be inspired to create. If I can make something and someone sees it and thinks, ‘Oh, I can do that,’ like what happened to me after seeing The Dark Knight, I think that’s the most incredible thing. I create, and I hope that people see it and I hope that they want to create because of it.
Watch Booboo Stewart in action on Let Him Go, out on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and more, today.