As part of my Pete’s Dragon Event, I was able to interview Wes Bentley about his role as Jack in his first Disney film, Pete’s Dragon.
WES BENTLEY (Jack) first gained recognition for his role in the Oscar®-winning film, “American Beauty,” in which he played Ricky Fritts, the soulful, artistic next-door neighbor to Jane Burnham (Thora Birch). I must say I loved him in this role!
He also portrayed game maker Seneca Crane in “The Hunger Games” and co-stared in “Lovelace” as photographer Thomas. He was most recently seen in Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story: Hotel,” as John Lowe.
In Pete’s Dragon, Wes plays Jack, father to 11 year old Natalie. He is in a relationship with Grace, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Jack wants to support Grace’s endeavors to study and protect the surrounding woods but needs to focus on keeping his lumber mill company profitable.
As a child, Wes was a Disney fan. Now, he will be able to share Pete’s Dragon with his children. His son who is 6 joined him at the Red Carpet premiere.
This was an exciting moment for Wes since some of his other roles were not movies for children. Now, he could share the moment with his family.
I’ve been a Disney fan from when I was a kid I was excited to be a part of a movie with them. Especially because I have young kids, I wanted to do something that my kids could see while they’re young. My son is gonna be six in November, he’s coming with me tonight to the premiere. So it’s gonna be exciting. He’s excited about that. I don’t know how he’s gonna react seeing me, ’cause he’s seen, you know, images of me in a film but of course he’s never seen anything beyond a few words. So this is the first film I’ve really been able to be like that.
On New Zealand
While in New Zealand filming for three months, Wes took time to between shooting to visit the many beautiful places. Just like Bryce Dallas Howard , Wes brought his family for some of the time. His son came to the set and “worked ” with him on set by getting the actors from the trailers. They would pay him with a New Zealand dollar. I’m sure having your family on set creates for a wonderful experience for all.
Oh, it was beautiful. My family came out for the last two months so I had my kids and my wife out there. And, it was beautiful. I had a lot of time between shooting so I got to do a lot of the touring around and we got to go do a bunch of very exciting things. Everywhere you turn in New Zealand there’s something exciting to … So it, it was a blast.
Beautiful place. I mean, I think it’s the, it’s the gem of the world. It’s, it’s so far away from the madness and so you get that element and it was just stunning.
On Becoming a Part of Pete’s Dragon
I luckily was asked to be a part of the film. I had met with David Lowery, on something else maybe a year before or a few months before this came out and he luckily really wanted me to be in this and convinced them that I could be in this and that I could play a nice Disney dad and thankfully he did.
Wes also said that not only is Lowery a talented director, he is also one of the greatest guys he ever met.
On Transitioning to a Nice Guy
It didn’t feel like it should be hard ’cause I am a nice guy…. I’m aware of my film habits because I have for so long played guys who are darker or dealing with very complex issues and they’re dealing with their darker sides. And so I came in like really aware that there were obviously things about me that people see that as.
As one who had played darker characters, Wes worked on being aware of his facial expressions.
On Playing a Father
It’s great that I’m a dad even though these kids were in a different age group than I, than my kids were. It was helpful in every way. I think Jack’s first priority was his daughter and everything he was doing was to make sure life was good for her.
Favorite Scenes from Pete’s Dragon
Being up on the fake dragon with Bryce and the wind blowing and we’re supposed to but aren’t really sitting on a dragon for the whole day. It’s early on in the filmmaking and we’re making jokes with each other trying to make each other laugh and how big we could smile when we’re, when we’re up on the back of the dragon. That was a fun day.
Another one would be in the car taking off with the dragon when they break through the barn and everyone’s chasing them and we’ve got all of those actors there. It felt a bit like it’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World where everyone’s doing the sort of, uh, looking for the money. I don’t know if that, that ’60s film or something like that. And that great cast. We just had everyone together and we’re all standing together and we had to all run to our cars as fast as we could and take off after this truck.
I too was a fan of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and I can see the connection.
It was just kind of crazy and wild and funny and, and everyone was giddy from all the action and making jokes and laughing. We had a good group of extras from that little town called Tapanui and they were just so psyched. Such a sweet group, opened their arms to us and they were the extras and they were, they had the best time shooting all day in some kind of tough conditions ’cause it was a muddy set. It was raining a lot and it was cold and, um, but they were just so warm and, uh, that was a fun scene to do ’cause everyone was just having a great time.
At the end of our time together, Wes Bentley graciously took group photos with us. It was definitely an interview and a day to remember!
Pete’s Dragon is in theaters now. Have you seen Pete’s Dragon with your family yet?
Like PETE’S DRAGON on Facebook
Follow PETE’S DRAGON on Twitter
Follow PETE’S DRAGON on Instagram
Visit Disney Animation on Tumblr
Visit the official PETE’S DRAGON website here
I was invited to attend an all expense paid trip to LA to attend the premiere of Pete’s Dragon and be a part of the #PetesDragonEvent. All thoughts and opinions are my own.