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Mann At Work
Mann At Work

Mann At Work

Actor Thomas Mann doesn’t hold back. By Sarah St. Lifer. Photographed by Lauren Ward

Thomas Mann may be a relative newcomer in Hollywood, but the actor is a pro at taking direction. When Beautiful Creatures director Richard LaGravenese instructed the actor to “violently make out” with his costar Emmy Rossum, during a particularly heated scene in the film, he didn’t hold back. “We were going at it for 20 or 30 seconds, and suddenly the director shouted ‘Cut!’” Mann recalls. “So I pull back and Emmy’s lipstick is no longer on her lips. I turned to the crew and everyone started cracking up because I literally had lipstick all over my cheeks, nose, and chin.”

If you’re gonna go for, then really go for it—that could well be Mann’s mantra. It took less than three years for Mann to go from smalltime TV actor (on an episode of Disney’s iCarly) to top-billed star (in last summer’s raucous party film Project X). And now the 21-year old is appearing in two of the biggest movies of the season: the mystical love story Beautiful Creatures, based on the best-selling young adult novel, and the action-revenge flick Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

In Beautiful Creatures, Mann plays Link, the loyal best friend to the film’s male lead, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich). Though Link is a very “naïve” character with “a very small point of view,” Mann was still able to identify with him. “It’s such an intense story with so many layers and out-of-this-world sequences, and he’s the one who remains the most grounded the entire time,” says Mann, who grew up in Dallas.

For Mann, one of the highlights of filming Beautiful Creatures was working with Emma Thompson. “She plays my mom and is the funniest, smartest, most confident woman you’ll ever meet,” he gushes. “Multiple times on set she would give me direction, and I would just look to the director and he would shrug and say, ‘Yeah, let’s try that!’ She has so much energy, and that is the best acting class you could ask for—getting to work with people of that caliber. There is nothing like it, I swear!” Mann admits that he was nervous about acting alongside Thompson at first, but he quickly learned not to be starstruck: “You have to go in there and treat these famous people as your coworkers, not celebrities. You’ll just make a fool of yourself if you even try.”

In Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Mann plays a teenager obsessed with the titular duo (played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton), who are celebrities in their own right, lauded for their witch-killing skills. It’s a gory and dark take on the old fairytale, and it’s a far cry from the lighthearted work that gave Mann his start. “I keep saying I need to do a project that isn’t so creepy,” he says with a laugh, “but the scripts were just too good!”

Mann has a few more big projects in the pipeline, but is hesitant to talk about them because “nothing’s set in stone.” He’s also careful to not let his newfound stardom go to his head. Whenever he feels overwhelmed by the Hollywood life, he books a ticket home to Texas to put things into perspective. “It’s funny, you have a conversation in L.A. and you’re constantly trying to one-up the other person, and there’s always the hustle and bustle of city life,” he says. “In Dallas, everyone is taking his or her time. It’s a nice contrast, actually, and I am happy to have them both in my life.”