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The Breakthrough: Alexander Ludwig, football star of 'When the Game Stands Tall'

Former child actor Alexander Ludwig talks about learning football for "When the Game Stands Tall" and growing into older roles, like on "Vikings."

Alexander Ludwig hits the gridiron in "When the Game Stands Tall." Credit: Getty Images
Alexander Ludwig hits the gridiron in "When the Game Stands Tall."
Credit: Getty Images
Who: Alexander Ludwig
Where you’ve seen him: A child actor who was in “Race to Witch Mountain” and “The Seeker,” he transitioned to older roles — after taking a break for college — with the villainous Cato in “The Hunger Games.”
Where he is now: Playing a star high school running back with a monstrous father (Clancy Brown) in the football movie “When the Games Stands Tall.”
Where he’s going: He’s reprising the role of Bjorn Ragnarsson on the next season of “Vikings,” and he’s second billed in the thriller “Final Girl,” with Abigail Breslin.

He had no history with football: “I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, so I basically played every sport but football. When I came to New Orleans to film this movie, I didn’t know a thing about it. I basically learned it from scratch. I played rugby before, so I had some idea of what happens. But I had to learn about it as quickly as possible. Now I’m in love with the sport.”

Did he get good in real life?: “I think I could hold my own. Put me in front of the New England Patriots, though, and I wouldn’t stand a chance.”

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Doing his own stunts: “I wanted to do as much as I could on the field, to make it look as real as possible. There were times when it was strenuous. You get your bruises here and there.”

 In "When the Game Stands Tall," Alexander Ludwig plays a star high school quarterback. Credit: Tracy Bennett In "When the Game Stands Tall," Alexander Ludwig plays a star high school quarterback.
Credit: Tracy Bennett

Shooting football every day: “Physically this was the hardest movie I’ve ever done. We were in New Orleans shooting football every day. It was hot and exhausting. But then you go behind the camera and see what movie you’re making, and you see how amazing it looks. This is going to be the best football anyone’s seen in a film. Football is the star of this movie.”

On acting with noted movie bad guy Clancy Brown as his scary dad: “He is one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met, but he is terrifying when you’re filming a scene with him. I love working with actors who get really physical and try to make it as real as possible. He had no problem doing that with me. We had a great bond that way. He’s so memorable. You don’t forget his face when you see him onscreen.”

It’s all about the story: “It’s great when you can do a movie and get a workout at the same time. But what drew me to the project was the story. I’d never read anything like it. I did ‘Lone Survivor,’ which was really action-packed. But there too it wasn’t that it was a physically demanding role. I don’t want to do some cheesy thing because it has action. I want to care about the story.”

Phasing out of younger roles: “With ‘Vikings’ its been great because I get to really show some range and dive into the character. That’s what I live for.”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
 
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