Sam Rechner has gone from Sydney boy to Hollywood star after a Zoom meeting in 2020 changed his life.
The Australian actor is in Steven Spielberg‘s new semi-autobiographical film The Fabelmans and was plucked from obscurity by the iconic director himself.
But the 21-year-old tells 9Honey Celebrity the fairytale almost didn’t end happily and he almost lost the role.
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“I had to get an exemption to leave the country and I didn’t get that exemption till the day before my flight,” Rechner says of trying to fly to LA during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“I didn’t feel like I had the role till I sat myself down on that plane and I got myself to LA. So it was just like a series of accidents that finally got me there and in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been there.
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“I remember the producers saying: ‘You know, we had to fight so hard to get you here’. And they were so close to like, ‘maybe this is too much, maybe we have to call this guy off’.
“So for it to actually happen was… I’m just so grateful.”
The Fabelmans tells the tale of Spielberg’s childhood and where his passion for film-making began, as well as showing his complicated family life at the centre of it.
Rechner plays the school bully who still ends up being a bit of a hero in the eyes of Sammy Fabelman (played by Gabriel LaBelle).
The dream part came about after a few auditions but it was Spielberg who offered the then-19-year-old Aussie the part of a lifetime – after making him sweat a bit first.
“I got a call back for a Zoom with Steven [Spielberg] and [co-writer] Tony Kushner and Kate Capshaw [actress and Spielberg’s wife] and then a bunch of producers and it was nerve-wracking at 8am in the morning,” Rechner recalled to 9Honey Celebrity.
“Then they jumped off the Zoom for 10 minutes after we did some auditioning and I was like ‘What did I do wrong?’
“Then they jumped back on the Zoom and Steven was like ‘Sam, we think you are superb. You got the part’ and then it was kind of just chaos from there … so it was kind of just a ‘too good to be true’ kind of moment.”
The Aussie actor says he stumbled into his career path when his professional Rugby Union dreams came to an end in high school, after too many knocks to the head and surgery.
“I had to find another kind of passion and acting kind of jumped in front of me and, as cliché as that sounds, but that was the case and I had a great teacher and mentor at school and then I kind of just fell in love more and more with it,” he tells 9Honey Celebrity.
The actor is currently back in Sydney, spending time with family and friends over the holidays before Award’s Season kicks off in January – where The Fabelmans is already nominated for multiple Golden Globes.
“It’s wonderful. I mean, it’s nerve wracking to be a part of it all, but it’s also so exciting and thrilling … It’s just an honour, really, to contribute.”
But it’s not the glittering events that keep the Aussie newcomer with stars in his eyes about La-La Land he says. It’s being on-set with the likes of co-stars Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams, who he calls one of his acting “heroes”.
“She was just so lovely and so warm and so caring,” he says of meeting the actress during filming.
“And then she jumps back into the scene and she’s like, this just change of character and it’s incredible to witness something like that.”
While he agrees the Hemsworths have paved the way for Aussies in Hollywood, this Sydneysider is looking forward to making his own mark on Los Angeles.
”Those guys surely open the doors for younger Aussies like myself but at the end of the day, you want to create your own path and find your own way in the industry,” Rechner tells 9Honey Celebrity.
“It’s been an exciting opportunity to see how everything works in LA … it’s exciting and it’s heartbreaking at the same time but that’s why it draws so many people over there.”
The Fabelmans is out in cinemas across Australia on January 5.
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