Victoria teen Kieran Large shows off acting, soccer chops

Kieran Large was grinning ear-to-ear, and who could blame him? His high school soccer team had just won the Colonist Cup.

As impressive as he was at Centennial Stadium Tuesday night when his St. Michaels University School Blue Jags took the senior boys soccer crown with a 3-2 win over the Glenlyon Norfolk Gryphons, Large hasn’t just been making his mark on the soccer pitch.

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The Grade 11 student is on a roll before the cameras, as well. He’s in two movies slated for release next year, both filmed in Victoria — writer-director John Stockwell’s Kid Cannabis and Greg Francis’s gritty crime thriller Poker Night.

While soccer and filmmaking seem worlds apart, Large says there are similarities in that both are collaborative efforts.

“They have a similar allure but acting is much more exciting, in the moment,” said Large, 16. “I just love playing soccer, but it’s more a constant thing. It’s the big games like the Colonist Cup final that bring out the excitement the way acting does.”

The honours student made his movie debut at age eight in Chasing Ghosts, a 2007 crime thriller produced by his cousin, actor-screenwriter Corey Large, and starring Michael Madsen, Gary Busey, Michael Rooker and Shannyn Sossamon.

He appeared in flashbacks as the younger version of Corey’s character, the rookie partner of Madsen’s grizzled veteran cop.

He says he appreciates having had the opportunity to land a small role as a teenaged drug-runner, when his Victoria-born cousin fulfilled a pledge to come home to shoot Kid Cannabis here last year.

“That was a learning experience all around,” Kieran said, recalling his hot August days working on his home turf with actors such as Kenny Wormald (Footloose), and Stockwell (Into the Blue, Turistas) on this project inspired by Mark Binelli’s 2005 Rolling Stone piece about Idaho teenagers who made a fortune smuggling pot from B.C.

“It was great being immediately immersed into that whole world,” recalled Kieran, whose action includes being filmed running through the Prospect Lake wilderness — masquerading as the Idaho border — on drug-smuggling missions.

The star athlete’s hair is shorter now, but his blond, Justin Bieber-esque locks back then prompted on-set ribbing.

“He’s way better looking than Bieber,” joked Corey, recalling how Stockwell took a keen interest in his young cousin. The director asked if he’d be interested in a small role after spotting him walking around his family’s property on Prospect Lake.

The easygoing filmmaker, a former model and actor (Christine, Top Gun) himself, even offered to take Kieran to New York, recalled Corey.

“John asked me to let my hair grow out as long as it could so I could play this long-haired chill guy,” said Kieran.

He landed a darker role when Corey brought Breaking Bad star Giancarlo Esposito, Ron Perlman, Ron Eldard and Titus Welliver to town to star opposite hometown boy Beau Mirchoff in his $3.5-million thriller Poker Night last fall.

While his work in Kid Cannabis was largely improvisational, Kieran got to strut his acting chops in Poker Night, in which a resourceful kidnapped cop (Mirchoff) uses advice gleaned from older detectives to outwit a sadistic killer (Michael Eklund).

Kieran played a traumatized teenage murder suspect who inhabits the memory of Esposito’s character, an intense detective.

“The toughest part was being this scared kid before he has a mental breakdown,” Kieran recalled. “I found out it’s not that difficult when you get to let go. It’s the controlled, subtle parts that are quite difficult.”

He said he watched clips from Se7en and read about Hannibal Lecter’s Silence of the Lambs character for research.

Corey, who produced and co-stars, admitted Francis initially had reservations about casting Kieran before being impressed.

“He didn’t like the appearance of nepotism,” Corey recalled.

“He said, ‘You know how hard it is to break into this business.’ ”

Kieran impressed Francis with his discipline, work ethic and advice he acquired from Mirchoff and Esposito, however.

He also credits production designer and actor Chad Krowchuk (Man of Steel) with getting him ready for prime time.

“It takes a lot of guts to be thrown into something like this,” Corey added.

“It’s terrifying being thrown into something opposite [Esposito] Gus from Breaking Bad.”

While working with Esposito was initially daunting, it soon became “just awesome,” Kieran recalled.

“He was a very intimidating figure when I was doing my scene,” he said, recalling a shoot at a Saanich rancher posing as a home in Memphis, Tenn. “He was nice and gentle and pretty funny off-camera.

“You’d get that booming laugh in the makeup trailer.”

Will Kieran follow in the footsteps of other soccer players-turned-actors like his producer cousin’s pal Vinnie Jones (Snatch)?

“I’d like to pursue the topsy-turvy business of acting but I want to play soccer at university first,” he said.

Kid Cannabis is slated for release April 18 in the U.S. Poker Night, just completed, was screened for buyers in L.A. on Thursday.

RUSHES: If you’re snap-happy and love Island View Beach, Victoria’s film commissioner wants to hear from you. “We’re close to landing a good TV series but I really need that picture,” said Kathleen Gilbert, referring to hard-to-find shots of the waterfront’s sandy cliffs at low tide, preferably from Beachcombers RV park, she needs to give location scouts.

If you have one, email or call 250-386-3976.

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