'Hillbilly Elegy' Star Owen Asztalos Looks Back at Himself as 2-Year-Old Playing Elvis Presley
“I danced to Elvis like nobody's business,” 15-year-old Owen Asztalos told Inside Edition Digital for its "Then/Now" throwback series.
Owen Asztalos’ “claim to fame” came long before he could be seen in HBO Max's "The Flight Attendant" or Netflix's "Hillbilly Elegy." In fact, Asztalos' first touch of the limelight came at the ripe old age of 2.
Dressed up in costume, Asztalos could be seen pretending to play guitar while imitating the King of Rock and Roll himself, Elvis Presley. Asztalos’ leg was shaking and he kept in rhythm with the music as he showed video footage to Inside Edition Digital of himself starting out in the entertainment industry as a toddler. This particular home video performance was taped in the parking lot of a car show.
“I danced to Elvis like nobody's business,” the 15-year-old told Inside Edition Digital for its "Then/Now" throwback series.
“We had these old '68 comeback special VHS cassettes, so he knew every song,” said his mom, Amy Asztalos. She said she knew early on her son was destined for the spotlight. “He told us when he was 3, he said, ‘I’m going to be on TV because I can act better than those kids.’”
Now, the 15-year-old can currently be seen in “The Flight Attendant” on HBO Max, playing the older brother of Kaley Cuoco's character Cassie in the show's flashbacks. He’s also starring in “Hillbilly Elegy” on Netflix alongside Glenn Close and Amy Adams. Asztalos plays a young JD Vance. The movie is based on Vance's memoir of the same name, which centers on Vance as he examines his family’s history of drug addiction, abuse and alcoholism.
Some of the scenes are intense and violent, especially for Asztalos, who was 13 when the movie was filmed. Amy knew the scenes her son had read for during the audition process, but didn’t know the extent of the script like her husband did. She was on set during the second two months of filming, so she didn’t get to see most of what was shot until it came out on Netflix.
“It was hard to watch,” admitted Amy. “But Amy and Glenn were so great. Amy has said in interviews, too, that she just absolutely hated putting her hands on Owen, but he takes it like a champ.”
Asztalos has repeatedly relived those graphic scenes since he and his family have watched “Hillbilly Elegy” multiple times throughout the pandemic. The movie is one of the first things to pop up every time he turns on Netflix to look for something to watch while he’s been home with his parents. Asztalos hails from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, the same town Taylor Swift grew up in. “She's a huge inspiration of mine. Local legends -- that's what it's all about,” he said.
With the pandemic came hybrid schooling, which afforded Asztalos the chance to work on multiple projects. He's also made self care a priority.
First, he lost 35 pounds. “I started quarantine off developing some not-so-good habits and [thought] this might be a better opportunity to develop some good habits rather than some bad ones," he said.
Asztalos has also been making music and playing the guitar. He’s coming out with a single and then planning a 5-song EP for spring 2021, a milestone that feels to be somewhat of a full-circle moment from his days pretending to strum along with Presley's songs at 2 years old.
One of the reasons he’s able to achieve so much at such a young age? His commitment to progress, he said. "If you're going to do something, you're not going to step in and out of it when it's most convenient for you," he said in advice to fellow young people. "Do your best and go 110% all the time.”
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