He has a pivotal role in one of the year’s blockbuster films, spent a week in the arms of a Hollywood starlet and walked four red carpets in less than a month.
Not bad for a 5-year-old.
Myers Park Traditional School kindergartener Billy Wagenseller was only 3 1/2 when he filmed his role as the immortal child Vasili in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2.” Now, he and his family are still wrapping their heads around having been part of one of the highest-grossing film series of all time.
“Our friends think we’re riding around in limos and making millions, but it’s not that glamorous,” said Billy’s dad, Bill Wagenseller. Real life, he noted, consists of making sure bedtimes are kept and there’s milk with meals.
Together with his parents and 3-year old brother, Austin, Billy traveled to Los Angeles to walk the Twilight “Black Carpet” event during the Nov. 12 premiere, attend other auditions and meet with eight different talent agencies.
Billy also signed autographs and walked the red carpet at local “Twilight” screenings, including one at EpiCenter Theaters on Nov. 20. So far, Billy said his favorite part of the star experience has been traveling by plane. “The boring part,” he said, “was signing all the autographs. It hurt my arms.”
Bill Wagenseller said they didn’t understand the “Twilight” phenomenon before Billy’s casting: “When (Billy’s mom, Missy) said we booked ‘Twilight’, I said ‘Great, what’s ‘Twilight’?”
‘He likes the camera’
Billy has appeared in print ads for companies such as HearthSong, an online and catalog toy retailer; Belk and Wrangler since he was 18 months old.
“We could tell when he was at a very young age that he likes the camera, he’s very comfortable and very social,” said Missy Wagenseller, who worked with Family Dollar and Cato’s advertising departments for more than a decade.
She said she approached Directions USA, a booking agency out of Greensboro, to represent Billy.
“At first they turned us down because he wasn’t 4,” she said. “But once we sent his photos, two weeks later he got his first job with HearthSong.”
Directions USA talent agent Adrienne Tolbert said she immediately thought of Billy when the “Twilight” casting notice came out almost two years ago.
“(Producers) were looking for an obviously beautiful child. The vampire babies are supposed to be so adorable, pale and young, but (be able to) stand being on set a good bit of time,” Tolbert said.
Billy hit all the requirements.
After submitting Billy’s audition tape, a few weeks went by and they forgot all about it, Missy Wagenseller said. Then in December 2010 they got a call from director Bill Condon, asking them to be in Baton Rouge, La., the following morning. “Bill Condon and (producer) Wyck Godfrey sat down with me and made sure” she was comfortable with the movie’s content, she said. “They were very caring because they have kids of their own.”
A vampire toddler
During the week they spent filming in Louisiana, Missy said Billy’s sleep schedule changed entirely – he had to be on set from 5 p.m. to midnight. As Vasili, Billy spent most of his brief but integral scene being held by actress Dakota Fanning, who plays a cruel vampire named Jane.
Missy Wagenseller said before filming, Billy spent time with Fanning in her trailer, getting comfortable with her in and out of makeup, which included hand-painted, blood-red contact lenses. “We’d say, ‘This is Dakota, pretty and normal, and this what she looks like when she’s dressed up for Halloween.’ ”
Movie execs wanted Billy – who played a 12th-century Russian vampire toddler – to have a natural look. They didn’t use much makeup, other than the fake blood smeared around his mouth. Billy also didn’t have to wear the contacts due to how young he was, his mother said.
In the film, Vasili is killed on account of his unpredictability as an immortal child. Billy said he was only a little frightened by the scene. “I was scared I’d get thrown in the fire,” he said. “(Instead ) they threw a doll that was the same size as me.”
Covered his eyes
Missy Wagenseller said when they attended the movie’s L.A. premiere, they hadn’t planned to let Billy watch. But after seeing executives with their kids in the theater – some were 6 and 7, she said – they brought Billy into the viewing after all.
“We covered his eyes during the scary parts,” said his father.
As for what’s next, Billy said he’d like to be in more movies or on television. “My favorite movie is ‘Transformers,’ ” he said.
His father said they’re not ruling out any possibilities for the future, especially since Billy is “on hold” for a possible part in an upcoming NBC show called “Do No Harm.”
They also plan to spend part of the summer in New York City doing more print work and submitting video auditions for other roles.
“We’re (also) considering theater, because when you’re on the stage, you’re forced to act,” said Bill Wagenseller. “If it happens, great. But we don’t ‘need’ this.”
Billy’s mom said the family plans to keep life as real as possible.
“You really have to have a stable family, be humble and grounded,” she said. “And remember the things that matter in life are family.”
Trenda: 704-358-5089 Twitter: @htrenda
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