Card Counter, The: Tye Sheridan–Next Big Thing

Tye Sheridan on ‘The Card Counter’

Having been named one of Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch, Tye Sheridan has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most sought after young talents.

Tye Sheridan was an 11-year-old kid from Texas when he was cast in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, an experience he compares to “summer camp.” He wasn’t expected to learn lines or even give a performance, but Malick’s set put him on a trajectory towards Jeff Nichols’ Mud and David Gordon Green’s Joe, which cemented his decision to become an actor.

Sheridan, now 24, has since played Scott Summers/Cyclops in the X-Men franchise and starred in Spielberg’s Ready Player One, but he credits it all to Malick, Nichols and Green.

“I was only 11-years-old when I worked on The Tree of Life. I was not an actor yet, you know? I was just a kid from a small town in Texas who happened to be working in a movie,” Sheridan says. “Malick, Nichols and Green really left impression on me at young age and they definitely inspired me. If I didn’t have my start with them, I don’t know if I would be doing what I’m doing now.”

Sheridan returned to the big screen in Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter, alongside Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish. Sheridan and Isaac already knew each other from 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, which was useful when Schrader caught them off guard with unusual approach to their first scene together.

“I was a little nervous, I was trying to feel this character out and trying to feel Paul out,” Sheridan recalls. “Just before we started this big scene on the first day, Paul said, ‘Guys, I want you to start in the middle of the scene, from this line.’ So I was just thrown for a loop. I was thinking, ‘I don’t even know what this scene is and what it needs to be. So how am I going to just take it from the middle of the scene?’ that’s a perfect example of his style, his thought process and where he  spends his time, focus and energy in the scene. That definitely keeps you on your toes, but I loved working with Paul.”

In November 2020, author Ernest Cline released Ready Player Two, the follow-up to Ready Player One, which Spielberg adapted in 2018. Sheridan read Cline’s new book with great interest, but he’s still unsure about the future of the property. (Ready Player One grossed nearly $600 million and received positive reviews.)

“I read Ready Player Two. It’s interesting,” Sheridan says. “I love Ernie. I love all the places that he’s able to go and the worlds that he’s able to imagine. So it’s always fun reading his books. And in regard to a sequel of the film, I have no idea where they’re at or what the talks are at the studio. It’s just not up to me.”

In The Card Counter, Cirk with c; Tye with an e 

People always ask me if it’s Tyler or just Tye. And when I say, “It’s just Tye,” they’re like, “Oh wow, it’s just Tye?” When I say my name over the phone or when somebody asks, I usually say, “It’s Tye. T-Y-E.”  I like to spell it out for people because sometimes people think it’s, like, Kyle. I guess my mom just wanted to make it difficult for everyone.

Urge to Gamble?

Not really.  I’m generally turned off by casinos just because of the cigarette smoke. If I had a role where I was actually counting cards, I would’ve been more interested in playing cards, but I’m not too much of a gambler. At least not in casinos anyway. I’ve got good self-control.  I do like to play poker.

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Tye Sheridan stars as Cirk and Oscar Isaac as William Tell in Paul Schrader’s THE CARD COUNTER. COURTESY OF FOCUS FEATURES

You and Isaac Oscar on X-Men: Apocalypse?

We didn’t have a lot of scenes together, but we were there for so long. So you have downtime, and everybody kind of hangs out together. We got to know each other pretty good in Montreal when we shot X-Men, and I’ve always really liked Oscar. He’s a great actor, and he’s a really great guy, too. So when this project came around and he was attached, I was immediately excited by that. We have very similar taste in music, and we’re always giving each other different music recommendations.

You both play guitar–an acoustic on set?

I don’t think there was too much time between takes, at least not for Oscar and for Paul. We shot the movie in either 20 days or a little over 20 days, so it was a super-fast shoot. We were very much on the move all day long and just pushing to make our days.

Pandemic interrupted those 20 days?

We shot this movie before Covid until we got delayed in production. We shot the movie in four weeks, but at the end of the third week, the producers decided to shut down the production because someone had tested positive on our crew. So that was at the beginning of March, and then we came back to Mississippi in July. And that was very much in the height of Covid, but we finished the last week of shooting. So it was pretty interesting. I had never experienced a production that was put on hold. I live in Texas, and I remember driving back to Texas from Mississippi on a Monday morning. We were supposed to be shooting, but they just told me to drive home. So as I drove home, I just remember thinking, “Man, I wonder if we’re ever going to finish this movie.” In the second week of shooting before the delay, I remember Paul saying, “I don’t think we’re going to finish the film.” And I was thinking, “I think he’s just paranoid. There’s no way.” That was right when we had the first cases in the U.S., and sure enough, it spread super fast and even hit somebody on our crew. So we had to shut down the production, and it got very real, very fast. But we took all of the necessary protocols when we were back in July.

Schrader had more foresight than most leaders

Yeah, he was obsessed with coronavirus. You asked the question about playing guitar between takes, but Paul was reading coronavirus updates between takes, between every setup. He was just constantly following the news and obsessed with it.

How did Schrader direct you and Oscar?

It was very much Oscar’s movie, and even the way that the schedule laid out, I was kind of in and out. Some days, I wouldn’t even shoot the whole day. I would just come in after they’d already been shooting for a couple of hours. So I didn’t get to spend as much time with Paul on set.  When you’re working with a living legend like Schrader or Spielberg or someone of that caliber, you can look at it like, “Oh, that’s intimidating,” or, “Wow, this is really exciting because this guy has made so many great films and I can’t wait to learn and watch him in action.” So for me, the feeling is always the latter. It’s always excitement rather than intimidation. But Paul, he’s a bit of a nutcracker, very transparent. He’ll tell you if he thinks a take wasn’t good or that you shouldn’t do something or that the choice you made was wrong. He’s very transparent in that sense, which is great. He’s straightforward, and he doesn’t do a lot of takes. He’s very economical in style and that took me a bit to get used to.

On the first day, we were doing this scene by the pool, and it’s where Oscar’s character and my character make this bet with each other.  I was a little nervous.  I was trying to feel this character out and trying to feel Paul out. So just before we started this big scene on the first day, Paul said, “Guys, I want you to start in the middle of the scene, from this line.” I was just thrown for a loop. I was thinking, “I don’t even know what this scene is and what it needs to be. So how am I going to just take it from the middle of the scene?” He told us, “I’m only going to be in this shot for the later half of the scene. I don’t need you for the beginning of the scene. Just start in the middle of the scene.” That’s perfect example of his style, his thought process. So that definitely keeps you on your toes, but it was fun. I loved working with Paul.

 

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Oscar Isaac stars as William Tell and Tye Sheridan as Cirk in THE CARD COUNTER. COURTESY OF FOCUS FEATURES