BRITT Robertson has a restaurant receipt in a frame at home, with “A moment of happiness” inscribed underneath. A gift from her lunch companion, it commemorates the moment their meal was interrupted by a phone call from Brad Bird, the director of Tomorrowland: A World Beyond.
“The first thing Brad said to me was, ‘You’re our Casey’. I just started to cry, in a very public place, and I didn’t care because at that moment I was very, very happy.”
The idea of having a breakout year is a little bit sad to me. I mean, what happens when it’s over?Britt Robertson
After six months of auditions, the 25-year-old had beaten hundreds of other actresses to the lead in Disney’s $190 million blockbuster, playing a teen trying to enter a mysterious futuristic world called Tomorrowland, with the help of a genius recluse (George Clooney).
The project was so secretive that Robertson only saw a full script towards the end of her half-year of auditions. “The script was on total lockdown when I first heard about this project,” says Robertson “No-one had read it and it’s been a bit of a dance figuring out what I could and couldn’t say about the film to the press so that we could keep its surprises”
By contrast, she marvels at the openness of her famous co-star Clooney. “We met the day before we started shooting, so we had a chance to get to know each other. I’d seen him in movies, but he’s different to what I imagined. He’s the type of guy who loves having a good time; he wants to entertain people or have conversations. My first thought was that since I was 24 and Raffey [Cassidy, the British actress who plays a Tomorrowland guide in the film] was 12, George would have no way to relate to us. How was he going to feel engaged in conversation with us? But he was encouraging and made us feel involved. He’s pretty normal. But he does love to be silly.”
Does that mean he played the kind of pranks that sometimes make Clooney’s film sets seem more riotous than his finished movies?
“No pranks so far,” says Robertson. “But I worry for my future, because I’m still promoting Tomorrowland.”
As well as the Disney picture, which is currently topping the US box office, Robertson has two more films in the pipeline this year; a drama with Eddie Murphy called Cook, and The Longest Ride, a Nicholas Sparks romance which opens this month and pairs her with Scott Eastwood, son of Clint.
Inevitably, there is now talk about 2015 being the year that launches Robertson from supporting roles in TV series such as Under The Dome and films such as Cake with Jennifer Aniston. The only person fighting this is Robertson herself. “It’s flattering but the idea of having a breakout year is also a little bit sad to me,” she says. “I mean, what happens when it’s over?”
Robertson is in for the long haul. The oldest of seven children, she was home-schooled and was encouraged to act in community theatre by her mother, who was anxious that her daughter feel at ease in social situations. The only role she failed to win was the lead in a production of Annie – “because I am a horrible singer,” she says.
At 14, she left South Carolina to live in Los Angeles and pursue acting professionally. Her grandmother, came with her, attending auditions as well as offering moral support and teaching Robertson to knit so she would have something to occupy her on movie sets.
Does she ever feel she missed out on a regular teenage life? “I was so young that I didn’t know anything else,” she says. Her grandmother used to invite young actors to stay with them, so she would have friends who shared a similar background. “I never had a problem with social situations. A lot of times, when people are in school, they can have a little hesitancy because people are mean sometimes. I never had that problem because I never had that experience. So I had a pretty easy transition.”
Nor is she inclined to tax the stars she works with for tips on acting and handling her new celebrity. “I never bugged George with, ‘Tell me everything you know about the world’,” she says. “I never wanted to be like the pestering young kid who was just trying to get all the goods out of him – but there were times when I’d watch him handle certain situations and deal with fame and celebrity. He handles it all very well so that it doesn’t seem to interrupt his life, which I think is pretty cool.”
Alan Alda is another actor she admires. “He loves people and he’s such a pleasure to be around. He was always talking about his career and his life and how happy he is at 79,” she says, brightening at the thought of the M*A*S*H star. “Plus he’s been married for more than 50 years and every Friday he would fly home from the set back to New York to see his wife for a couple of days, then take the last flight back on Sunday. So he was the most romantic guy on the film.”
The two of them worked together on The Longest Ride, although Robertson’s love scenes were with Scott Eastwood. Shooting her first sex scenes was a little awkward, but “Scott is comfortable showing his body all the time, and I didn’t want to be the lame girl, going ‘Oh I’m so modest’. And actually it was less stressful getting it over and done with – the anticipation was the most uncomfortable part.” There were rumours that the two had coupled up onset, but Robertson is clear that Eastwood is “single and ready to mingle”, and their relationship is more giggly than ardent.
“We’re very much buddies who give each other a hard time. That’s where our chemistry was born out of, our playfulness. Scott is always telling me to think about my career from a business point of view. It just makes me laugh to think of myself in a strategic way, or as the next big thing. The best advice I have ever had was don’t believe your own hype.”
Unlike Eastwood, Robertson is off the market and in a long-term relationship with The Maze Runner actor Dylan O’Brien, who she met when filming their romantic comedy The First Time in 2012. They have been together ever since, despite such traumas as O’Brien having Shelley Hennig as a love interest on his Teen Wolf TV series. Hennig is also Robertson’s best friend: “We try to keep it professional,” she says. “I’ve watched episodes of Teen Wolf with him where he’s making out with my best friend, having sex with her. It’s very funny for us, but there’s also ‘Oh, this is what it would be like to see you cheating with my best friend? Interesting’.” n
The Longest Ride is on general release from 19 June. Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is in cinemas now