Local boy gets big movie role

When Wortham’s Luke Winters, then 10, and his father, Shane, heard last summer about an open-casting call in Waco for boys to be in a movie they were intrigued enough to go, but did not have much hope that Luke would actually get a part.

That was in late August 2017, during the time Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, and they were already planning to go to Waco the day of the audition. 

“We got up early that morning, and it was raining out,” Shane said, “and I told the kids, ‘Hey, do you want to have some fun?’ So we ran to Waco, went to the hotel and we were one of the first ones there.”

Film director Damien Chazelle, who had won an Oscar earlier that year for directing “La La Land” as well as for its screenplay, and Ryan Gosling, who won an Oscar for Best Actor in “La La Land,” were working together on the new movie, called “First Man,” which is about astronaut Neil Armstrong’s trip to the moon. They needed three boys; one to play Armstrong’s son, Rick, at age 10; one to play Rick’s younger brother, Mark; and another to play Rick at a younger age. The auditions were held all over Texas, with casting agents and videographers checking each applicant. Luke’s audition only lasted a few minutes.

“Luke went into the room,” Shane said. “The lady had a camera and filmed him, asked him a few questions. He read a couple of lines and we left – never thought anything about it.”

Luke and Shane went back to their lives at their home near Wortham with Luke’s mother, Rhonda,  and his sister Lily, then 8. Shane’s main job is pastoring Lone Star Cowboy Church on Highway 84, a few miles west of Mexia.

Two weeks later, Shane got a phone call from the movie’s casting agent, asking if Luke had any younger brothers. Since Luke only has older brothers, they were not the right age for the parts needed, so the call ended. Another week passed, and Shane got another call from the movie’s producers.

“That’s when everything changed,” he said.

The casting agent told him the director had seen Luke’s initial video and wanted to see a second tape of Luke. She referred Shane to a professional videographer near Waxahachie, Todd Terry, who filmed Luke reading lines from the script and sent it to Chazelle.

Shane asked Terry if he thought this was for real.

“Your son has a gift,” Terry told Shane. “For a kid who has never done anything before, he is absolutely, 100 percent natural. Seriously, he’s very good. He must be pretty good; he’s caught the attention of the director.”

When Shane received a copy of the video by email and watched the up-close recording of Luke reading the script, he realized Terry was right.

“His facial expressions, his emotions – how he knew to do what, I don’t have a clue,” Shane said, “but I thought, ‘Wow, this is really good.’”

The next time the casting agent called

 

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