Three Great Things: Tye Sheridan

The talented star of the new drama Asphalt City shares his deep love of movies, travel and adventures in the wild.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the current release in theaters of the new drama Asphalt City, starring Tye Sheridan, Sean Penn, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Kali Reis, Katherine Waterston, Michael Pitt and Mike Tyson, the hugely talented Sheridan – who has been a busy working actor for the past 15 years – shared some of the things he loves the most in life. — N.D.

I love making movies. I love when people come together around a story they’re all super passionate about. And when you capture a lightning in a bottle, when you capture magic through cinema. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, it’s an extremely special experience. I think it often comes with people who are really passionate about a great story and they pour blood, sweat and tears into it. And then that hard work inevitably bleeds into the film, is inevitably in the magic that you capture.

The very first film I ever worked on was Tree of Life, directed by Terry Malick, when I was 11 years old. I never read a script. I never had anything to prepare. We were shooting this movie for almost four months. There were a lot of things we did on that film that would just never happen today, so it’s special to think back on it. I’m grateful for those moments. Sometimes I can get a little frustrated by certain regulations around filmmaking that can make it really hard to capture that lightning-in-a-bottle magic, but I think every film comes with compromises and concessions that you have to make. And as long as you’re smart about those and you’re not sacrificing too much on the story, it’s definitely still possible to make a great film.

I love watching movies, as well as making them. I especially like going to see movies alone in the theater. For me, that’s really fun. Some of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had have been in the cinema by myself and having a special experience. I think I was probably 17 or something like that when I started going to movies on my own. I was working on a movie in Boston and I was staying at a hotel that was really close to an arthouse cinema. During that time, I remember seeing All is Lost, which I really enjoyed, and Rush, the Ron Howard film, which was a cool cinematic experience. Now I watch a lot of films alone that my friends wouldn’t necessarily like to watch with me, but I don’t mind that at all.

Adventures in the Wild
I’m a big adventure guy, and I love the outdoors. Two of my favorite things are bow hunting, which is a very unique hobby, and fly fishing. I grew up in a really small town in Texas, and bow hunting was just something that my dad did, and when I was about 12 years old, I started to get into it. To shoot an animal with a bow and arrow, you have to be really close, and it’s really hard to get so close to certain animals. It takes a particular type of skill, and it doesn’t come overnight. It’s something that you have to work on and that you never really perfect, either.

When I’m bow hunting, I’m mostly hunting whitetail deer and elk. The cool thing about doing these backcountry trips in the mountains, whether it’s in Colorado, Idaho, Montana or Oregon, is you pack everything on your back. You take all your food and camping gear, hike miles into a national forest, and then you’re out there for nine or 10 days, completely off the grid. I always come out a different person, because it’s really hard to break away from society for that long. These days we’re so engaged and connected and everybody lives busy lives and has careers we’re trying to pursue, so it’s really hard to find that time. But I think when you can break away for a week or more and completely disconnect, and have those moments, you become something else. When I get back on the grid and reconnect and see a news headline for the first time, I’ll realize how the lives we live are so dictated by our news cycle, the notifications on our phone, and refreshing our email or social media. If you can contextualize them or give yourself the space to disconnect from them, that’s super important. I haven’t had one of those adventures lately because I’ve been extremely busy, but I’m hoping to have one again soon.

I love to travel alone. I think some of my most fulfilling experiences have just been on a random trip somewhere by myself. When you’re in an unfamiliar place and don’t know anyone, it forces you to connect with the world around you, and you inevitably end up meeting interesting people and doing things you never could have anticipated. It’s really special to have experiences where I’m going with the flow and take a random trip to another town or some small community I would never otherwise have visited and get to understand how people there live their lives.

A while back, I went with my cousin on a trip to Portugal, where we rented a camper van. One day, we went down a dirt road and had driven for two or three miles when we saw a guy in the middle of the road, waving his arms. There was a little house there and a bunch of kids running around, and he told us in Portuguese, “Hey, you guys can’t come down this road. This is a private road only.” We were very apologetic, so the conversation slowly started to evolve and he became more and more friendly. He realized we didn’t mean any harm and was curious about where we were from. After 10 or 15 minutes of talking to us, he was like, “Oh, you guys can use my road anytime. Why don’t you come over for dinner tomorrow?” We said we’d love to, so we showed up the next evening. The kids showed us their pet pigs and at dinner with this family, we found out that the man and his sister had just lost their father and this was the home they grew up in. We found ourself in a really intimate space with this family, and we never would have experienced that if we weren’t exploring and adventuring off the beaten path.

I don’t have any big trips planned, but I will be in Texas with some other people for the solar eclipse, so that should be special. I’ve never seen a total solar eclipse; I hear it’s a spiritual experience, so I’m excited.

Tye Sheridan is currently starring in the lead role in the new drama Asphalt City, opposite Sean Penn, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Kali Reis, Michael Carmen Pitt, Katherine Waterston and Mike Tyson. He made his on-screen film debut at 11 in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, which won the Palme d’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film festival. He has since worked with some of the most creative filmmakers of our time, including Steven Spielberg, Paul Schrader, George Clooney, Jeff Nichols, David Gordon Green, and Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire. For his performance in Joe he received the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best upcoming young actor at the 70th Venice International Film Festival in 2013. In 2017, alongside Nikola Todorovic, he co-founded Wonder Dynamics, whose mission is to democratize the use of high-end CGI and VFX for filmmakers by leveraging state-of-the-art AI. Wonder Dynamics is backed by Epic Games, Horizons Ventures, Founders Fund, Samsung Next and has an advisory board that includes Steven Spielberg, Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo and Antonio Torralba, Head of AI at MIT. (Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr.)