Annabelle: In “Constantine,” you worked with Keanu Reeves.  In “I, Robot,” you worked with Will Smith.  What was it like working with Bill Paxton, especially with him directing?

  Bill is awesome.  He was my Harry Vardon.  He’s the consummate gentleman – a Texan gentleman.  I learned a lot about humility from him. He’s very shy, always nervous, never good enough, a family man who honors his parents and himself.  He has integrity, he’s trustworthy.  And you need trust because [acting] is such a vulnerable job.  Bill makes you feel comfortable. It’s okay if you make a mistake, because you can do it again.  That’s not the case with every director.

Annabelle: Bill has a reputation as a bit of a prankster.  Did he play any jokes on you during the filming?

  Tons.  Josh (Flitter, who plays Francis Ouimet’s outspoken, 10-year-old caddie) wanted to see me with cake in my face and my hair for his birthday.  I was eating lunch and Bill applied it to my face.  Not even a crash – kind of like an application, very slow, with his fingers.  But Josh sure appreciated it.

Annabelle: What did you do during your spare time on the shoot?

  Well, once me and Max Kasch, who plays Freddy Wallis in the film, decided we had nothing to do in Montreal.  Here we were, two Americans in Canada with no friends.  So we decided to jump on a freight train to Doraville, about 250 miles away.  It was a really rustic kind of adventure, but when we got there, we realized how stupid it was.  There’s nothing to do in Doraville, and we had to shoot in 5 hours.  We had to spend $400 to get back in a cab.  We would also break into these ocean liners on the wharf and hang out, play cards. 

Annabelle: Ocean liners?

  It was either that or going to clubs, but we’re not into that. 

Annabelle: But you’re really into music.

  I like music, but it’s hard to enjoy when it’s that loud.  I like to sit in my bed and listen with head phones.  I don’t like sitting in a club.  There’s so much temptation [in clubs] that it’s dangerous. I have a girlfriend, a woman I’m in love with.  But you take any 19 year old and put him in a situation like that, and it’s prone for problems. You have to rub against the grain. There’s just too much temptation.

Annabelle: I understand that you got your start at the age of 11 as a stand-up comic, after looking up agents in the phone book and going in for an audition.  What prompted that? 

  It came from the desire to better my life.  I didn’t want to be a stand-up actor.  None of that was my goal.  It was all a financial decision until I met Jon Voight [during the filming of “Holes”].  He took me under his wing and started teaching me.

Annabelle:  Francis Ouimet was intent on getting his father’s blessing.  The film makes people think a lot about role models.  Who was your role model growing up?

  Role model … hmmmm.  I was really into Steven Seagal.

Annabelle:  Wow.  Steven Seagal as a role model.  That’s definitely the first time I’ve heard that.

Shia: (
laughing) Well, maybe he wasn’t my role model, but he was my favorite actor.  My role model?  I never had one.  My drive came from poverty.  I didn’t live in some nice neighborhood.  The only reason I got into this business was to get a new backpack.