Nicolas Wright Gets His Break With 'White House Down'
June 23rd, 2013 11:10am EDT
Could Nicolas Wright be the coolest tour guide ever?
In the much-hyped White House Down, which hits theaters next week, Nicolas plays the seemingly average role of Donnie Donaldson, White House tour guide. But he's not just shepherding tourists to the gift shop. When the building is attacked by domestic terrorists, Donnie finds himself in the middle of the action. "Most of my time is with Joey King, and then also Channing [Tatum] as well," Nicolas explained. "They're on the tour when the incursion happens. And then they're separated and that's the moment when the White House goes down. He escapes to go find his daughter and we stay there." But, he teased, "I do meet up with Channing again."
He also crosses paths with terrorist boss Emil Stenz, played by Zero Dark Thirty and The Chicago Code heavyweight Jason Clarke. "I had some scenes with him too," revealed Nicolas. "He's amazing. He's so intense and he's so on it and he's so game. Such a generous actor. So cool and so down to earth, too. When we were shooting this, he had four huge movies coming out. The guy was obviously on fire."
And Donnie isn't defenseless around the bad guys. "I got to go run around with a shotgun, which was pretty exciting," Nicolas added. "That was one of the best days of my career."
What's it like to land a role in a gigantic summer action movie helmed by the director of Independence Day, with a big-name cast around you? Nicolas was surprised to even get the part. "It was a very surprising phone call, because I only went in once for the casting director," he admitted, "and then three weeks later was a call saying 'Yeah, you got it.' So it was a shocker. Normally to get into these projects, there's a few hoops you get to jump through."
Once he arrived on set, "It's super-surreal," he said. "Absolutely surreal and very strange and extremely wonderful. Everyone was just so nice and so down to earth and fun to hang out with. Everything was really organic."
The gig also reunited Nicolas with an old friend. "The first feature film I ever did was called Hatley High, and my co-star in it was Rachelle Lefevre," he revealed. "We've been friends ever since and she told me when she got cast in White House Down. This is the third movie we've appeared in together. It's really cool to act with her in this kind of movie. It was just so nice to share the screen with her again."
As if running around with a shotgun wasn't enough, the role required some serious brainpower, too. Playing a tour guide meant that he gave himself a crash course in White House knowledge. "I did a tremendous amount of research on the White House," Nicolas told us. "I had about three, four weeks to prepare. I was like 'My guy has to know absolutely everything.' I got so good at all the trivia on the set, I was designated to give tours of the set to reporters. It was me and the production designer, Kirk Petruccelli."
"Kirk is a huge hero in this movie," he continued. "He re-created 60 percent of the White House - and the work was immaculate, down to the last detail. I think there were like 350 technicians and crew members that worked on these sets. And it's even more insane when they start blowing them up, because you're just cringing."
That's what separates Nicolas from others in his position. Some actors with a supporting role in a big project like White House Down might just do their part, seeing it as merely a stepping stone for the bigger opportunity to come their way. Yet Nicolas is an actor, writer and general film fan, who genuinely loves the entire process of movie-making, whether it's the production design or even the score. "I became friends with Harold Kloser, who's the composer of the film," he said. "I'm a big soundtrack buff so I said 'Listen, Harold, I would really love the privilege of watching you score the orchestra.' That was a real highlight of the year for me, to watch them score the movie live. I still can't even believe it."
It all sounds fantastic. But there's one elephant in the proverbial room. What about the constant comparisons between this movie and the similarly-set Olympus Has Fallen? Nicolas helped us out there, telling us that "They're very different movies. This is more a buddy-cop movie. It is a throwback to some classic movies, when they were just fun. There's so much fun in this movie. And the action is top-notch."
It's also just one part of what this talented Canadian can do. At the same time that he's acting, Nicolas and his writing partner are continuing to work on that side of the camera as well. Through White House Down, he's become friends with Kloser as well as producers Brad Fischer and James Vanderbilt, and hopes to collaborate with them again on future projects. "There's so many people I want to work with and there's so many jobs I'd love to have," he said, explaining that he aspires to team with people "that will pull performances out of you that make you better at what you do. I just want to learn. That only happens when you work with people you admire."
Asked to pick something else on his resume that stands out, the self-described "comedy buff" picks something you wouldn't expect from a guy who's just held his own with Channing Tatum. "A really fun movie that's kind of gotten cult status is The Wild Hunt, which is a movie about live-action role-playing, and I have a fun little role in that," he explained. "I'm from Quebec, and in Quebec live action role-playing is next level. There's a festival every summer, it's a big festival where 2,500 people descend upon this sort of premade village and they reenact battles. The level of detail in this festival is insane. And we shot there during the festival and it was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life. At night it's literally like you're a time-traveler. It's a really, really amazing, really fun movie to watch." If you're so inclined, you can find The Wild Hunt on Amazon Instant Video.
The fact that he highlights a movie in which he's got a small part, rather than one where he's front and center, says a lot about the type of guy Nicolas Wright is. White House Down is a potentially huge opportunity for him. Millions of people are about to see him in a blockbuster movie. Yet he isn't concerned with if this is going to make him famous. He wants people to know "How excited I am about this film. I think it's going to be an amazing movie. I'm just enjoying this ride. It's been a tremendous experience."
And the next time he ends up in a tour group, Nicolas quipped that he's definitely better prepared: "The first question I ask is where are the exits, absolutely."
You can keep up with Nicolas on Twitter (@NicNook). White House Down opens next Friday, June 28.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Sharp Associates PR