Austin Stowell: Dolphin Tale Hunk Calls Us!
By: Lynn Barker
20-something cutie Austin Stowell who played Jesse in “Secret Life of the American Teenager” plays Kyle, a champion swimmer turned Iraq War vet in the touching and inspiring film Dolphin Tale. He’s calling us from beautiful Clearwater, Florida the home of Winter the dolphin who swims with a prosthetic tail after losing hers in a crab trap while just a baby.
Austin talks about meeting and bonding with the heroic dolphin, sky-diving, talking with war vets and what really ticks him off the most on a date.
Kidzworld: What is your take on dolphins? Did you like them as a kid?
- Austin: Who doesn’t like dolphins? They’re like puppies. Winter responds to everyone. She’s just the friendliest little kid… I always call her a little kid because that’s what she is, very playful. Of course I knew her story by the time I got down here but seeing her in the water playing around was such a surreal experience, “Wow, there she is. She did it!” The best part is seeing kids around the pool. They are in love with her and saying “Mom, Dad! Look at her. She doesn’t even have a tail and look how happy she is”. She’s surviving and thriving.
Kidzworld: What do you think is most inspirational thing about Winter?
- Austin: It’s like she doesn’t even know she’s injured or at least it doesn’t affect her on a daily basis. She’s not thinking about it all the time. She’s certainly not depressed, not asking for sympathy. There’s nothing in life too big to overcome.
Kidzworld: What can kids and teens do to help protect dolphins the world over? Help get laws passed or….?
- Austin: You can first go on the internet and learn as much as you can. It’s a great source of knowledge right at your fingertips. Then you can write to your congressman and get involved (in dolphin protection). There are groups like Oceana http://na.oceana.org/ that are doing wonderful things to help not only dolphins but other sea life.
Kidzworld: We loved you and your character Kyle in the movie. He was inspirational too. What did you know about Olympic swimming? Did you train?
- Austin: What I knew about it was watching Michael Phelps (Olympic swimming champ) and knowing I really had to get in shape to do this movie. I did a lot of training back in L.A. before I got to Clearwater and, once I was here, I had a swim coach and was in the pool for the first two weeks, every day two hours, just working on my stroke and building up the endurance to keep going and going.
- Really, it’s the breathing. As an athlete, it’s the only sport where you literally have to breathe differently. That was a big challenge but once you get it, you fall in love with it and it’s fun to be in the water and feel like you can go forever with your underwater headphones goin’. You can listen to music for hours and keep on swimming.
Kidzworld: When you were swimming but had to pretend you were injured, was that really hard?
- Austin: That’s me, not a double. What we did, is once I had gotten my stroke down, they actually strapped a buoy between my legs so that I would only swim with my arms.
Kidzworld: Wow, that would explain your amazing “guns” then (his big biceps).
- Austin: (laughs) Absolutely. I realized that you can see that in my shoulders in the first scenes of the movie. I’m like “Holy cow!”
Kidzworld: What did you know about being a Marine and did you talk to soldiers who were injured in war?
- Austin: Yeah. I talked to some vets in L.A. about what they go through and do they think about their experiences a lot. I got a wide array of answers. Some people get very emotional which is understandable. Two of my best friends growing up are in the armed services and getting to represent those guys was a big honor for me.
Kidzworld: What trait did you see in some of these guys that you most wanted to make sure you portrayed correctly in the movie?
- Austin: After the injury, what I didn’t want to present was this sort of “woe is me” story. It was more a very real struggle. It wasn’t a self-pity thing but more “I am going through this crisis and I don’t know how to handle it”. With all the training these guys go through, there is nothing to prepare them for not knowing what lies ahead.
Kidzworld: We saw on Facebook that you recently went sky diving. Are you an extreme sports type guy? Anything like that you won’t do?
- Austin: I just went sky-diving for the first time. I’ve always wanted to do those things and now I have more opportunity to do them. I want to get out there and do anything but I still don’t know about riding roller coasters. I’ve never been on one. There is something about being strapped in and on a track, I always feel like we’re going to be launched off somewhere.
Kidzworld: What would be the way fellow students would have described you in high school?
- Austin: I was the guy who was friends with everybody. Yes, I had my core group of friends but I wasn’t part of a clique that excluded people. I hope they thought I was a nice guy. I tried to be just friendly and outgoing. I was class president. I’m supposed to run my class reunion in 2013.
Kidzworld: Can you tell us anything funny that happened on set while you were there?
- Austin: I’ll say that Harry Connick Jr. has many characters in him that come out all the time. He’ll put on an accent and embody this new person. He had a very sassy Southern lady that he liked to become every now and then. It was such a riot. I would be falling over laughing. I’d be like “Dude, you have to stop”. I’d lose it during a take. He kept everything light and was a great guy on and off the set.
Kidzworld: How was working with young teen stars Nathan (Gamble) and Cozi (Zuehlsdorff)?
- Austin: Well, I didn’t really get to work with Cozi but she was on set. She’s the sweetest little girl and both of them are so intelligent; very smart kids. I only wish that I was that smart at their age. Nathan is an incredible actor; very giving. He’s a great listener and that’s what makes him a good actor. During a scene, he’s always listening to you and reacting. He’s in the moment and that’s what actors strive for their whole life and he’s somehow accomplished it at age 13.
Kidzworld: What Hollywood actress are you most looking forward to working with some day?
- Austin: Emma Stone! She’s cute and funny and I really dig her work.
Kidzworld: What must a girl never do on a first date if she wants a 2nd one with you?
- Austin: Name dropping. I don’t care who your friends are or who you know. I’m here because I’m interested in you. As soon as you start talking about the other people in your life (that are famous), I’m very disinterested.
Kidzworld: What would you plan for an ideal first date?
- Austin: I love to go out to dinner. I’m a classy kind of guy. No problem with dinner and a movie or dinner and a walk on the beach. Something where I get to be with the person more intimately and get to know them very personally. I’m very much not that “club” kind of guy. I would never ask a girl out on a first date and go to a club. Makes no sense to me.
Kidzworld: What would you be doing if not acting?
- Austin: I’ve always said I wanted to open a camp for kids. I’d be a camp director.
Kidzworld: That’s so cool! So I imagine it’s in your plans to be a dad someday?
- Austin: Exactly. Love kids.
Kidzworld: You have a movie we haven’t seen yet called AWOL about soldiers returning stateside. Liam Hemsworth and Aimee Teegarden are in that. Is there a love triangle there?
- Austin: No. Liam’s love interest is Teresa Palmer and mine is Aimee. No release date yet on that.
Kidzworld: We’ll be standing by.