Max Thieriot is arranging the balls on a pool table inside a billiards hall above a nail salon in a Koreatown strip mall. We’re the only ones in the joint, and the Korean gentleman who has us marked down for an hour decides to turn up the volume as a Foo Fighters song comes on the radio. Thieriot’s making sure that stripes and solids alternate but his mind is off at the racetrack.
“I race the Baja. There’s three Baja races; the Baja 500, the Baja 1000… It’s pretty full on. There’s a lot of people who spend a lot of money and there are lots of big teams with big sponsors. I drive my dad’s racecar,” says Thieriot as he breaks, sinking a stripe. One after the other, stripes drop into the pockets. We’re here to talk about the actor’s upcoming film releases, but he’d rather talk about cars. “I bought an old Chevelle and sat in the garage everyday and built the motor. I had a buddy who used to build hot rods, so whenever I got stuck, I would just call him,” says Thieriot.
My solids dominate the table, and Thieriot is measuring the distance from the eightball with the cue. Perhaps I’m not as good at pool as I thought I was, high on ketamine, in Berlin.
“Should I re-rack them?” he asks, as he finishes me off.
Thieriot is back in Los Angeles after attending the Palm Springs Film Festival where his film, Foreverland, in which he plays a boy with cystic fibrosis on a trip to Mexico, is showing. And he’s wiping the table with me. His hand-eye coordination is masterful.
“When I was really young, I wanted to play baseball,” Thieriot says. “I had one really good year so I moved up with the really big kids. I was eleven playing with 14 year olds. Then a kid got hit in the face, he broke his jaw- he broke his nose, he broke his cheekbone, and shattered like, everything, and it was really terrible. I came up to bat next and I got hit in the arm. After that I just couldn’t hit the ball.”
Thieriot’s resilience has increased considerably since he was 11. His star turn in Disconnect (currently in post-production) has Thieriot in the role of a webcam stripper opposite Andrea Riseborough, a part that takes significant guts for a young actor to pull off. Says Thieriot, “It’s one of those roles where I was like, I have to go all out on this because if I half-ass it, it’s going to look cheesy and stupid. My character falls in love with her and she [Riseborough’s character] falls in love with him, but he’s a minor and she’s in her late-20s, so it gets crazy.”
And that’s not the only role that sees Thieriot romantically entangled. In The House at the End of the Street, due this fall, Thieriot plays the brother of a girl who kills their parents, who falls for the girl next door, played by Jennifer Lawrence.
Thieriot as a lover isn’t too much of a stretch given his recent engagement to his girlfriend of seven years. He proposed on a two-week vacation in the Caribbean, where they first met on holiday with their respective families. “I think she expected it was coming. Then, she ended up thinking it wasn’t going to happen because I waited a whole week [on the vacation] before I asked.” When her friend let it slip to Thieriot that his girlfriend had lost hope, he knew when he finally got down on his knee, it was going to be a surprise.
Thieriot kindly spots me a two-shot lead in our next game, but still I find myself with nowhere to strike without hitting the eightball. “I set you up poorly,” Thieriot says cheekily. His blonde hair, toned torso, Wrangler jeans, navy Billabong tee, and baby stubble, which he refers to as a “beard,” makes him look as if he’s the sweet-faced boy on the surfboard next to you. “I have surfboards scattered all over. I have four boards here [in Los Angeles], because it’s pretty warm; the waves are gentle, nice, and friendly. I’ve got three boards up north [in Sonoma County, where he lives], and three boards in Mexico.”
He does talk about acting. But even then, he ties a sports metaphor to his profession: You’re on a team with a goal in mind to reach the finish line. Maybe he hasn’t strayed too far from his childhood dreams of hitting a home run over the fences of Candlestick Park after all, and with that he feather shots the eightball into the cup with a gentle touch.