Director Michael Bay is set to begin testing actors to play the young male and female leads in Transformers 4 under star Mark Wahlberg.
The Paramount movie is one of four studio projects that are coincidentally coming together at the same time. As a result, agents and managers are salavating at the prospect that some of Hollywood's next big stars are about to be cast.
In addition to Transformers 4, Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, Lionsgate’s Divergent and DreamWorks’ Need for Speed are conducting chemistry reads or about to begin testing actors. Need for Speed and Divergent offer the chance to co-star a movie that could be the next Hunger Games, while Transformers 4 and Spider-Man 2 offer high-profile supporting roles in guaranteed blockbusters that could prove to be career launchpads.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Transformers 4 has a story that centers on Wahlberg's character and his daughter. In addition, the daughter’s boyfriend, a race car driver, is the third lead in the film.
Testing for the daughter and boyfriend role is set to occur this week. Isabelle Cornish, the sister of Australian actress Abbie Cornish (Limitless), and Nicola Peltz, who appeared in M. Night Shyamalan’s Paramount movie The Last Airbender and who has a part in A&E’s Bates Motel, are among those vying for the role.
There are five young men testing: Luke Grimes, who appeared in Brothers & Sisters and is in Taken 2; Landon Liboiron, who co-starred in Fox's Terra Nova series and will be seen in the upcoming Netflix series Hemlock Grove; Australian actor Brenton Thwaites who starred in Blue Lagoon: The Awakening; relative newcomer Jack Reynor; and Weeds actor Hunter Parrish.
Sources say Paramount is signing actors to strict three-picture deals, but no one is balking because the chance to be the next Shia LaBeouf is seen as a huge opportunity.
Spider-Man 2 is looking for its Harry Osborn, the college-aged kid who befriends Peter Parker but ultimately becomes Spider-Man’s deadliest enemy. James Franco played the part in the Sam Raimi trilogy and by bringing gravitas to what could have easily been a second-banana role, Franco parlayed the movies into a significant film career.
The Osborn part, which originally called for a bigger, athletic actor, is being reconfigured and is now targeting a more “dark and edgy" actor, according to two insiders. Names bandied about include Brady Corbet (Melancholia), Dane Dehaan (Chronicle) and Alden Ehrenreich (the upcoming Beautiful Creatures), although there could be other names in the mixed because the character is evolving.
Divergent, which Lionsgate hopes will carry the torch as a new Hunger Games or Twilight-style franchise, is narrowing down its list for its male lead and director Neil Burger is beginning to read some actors to play the young man who trains and falls for the heroine, being played by Shailene Woodley.
Thwaites and Reynor are also said to be in the mix for that role as well.
DreamWorks' Speed, meanwhile, which already has cast Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Imogen Poots as leads, is now looking for young male actors to fill out the part of other racers.
The upcoming castings are being closely watched by agents and execs because they could signal Hollywood's next attempt to create stars. Insiders lament that there are few actors coming up in the 20 to 30 age bracket that appear to be the heirs of Channing Tatum, Franco or Tom Hardy, who themselves are still trying to find the success minted by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.