Altoona resident Troy Benton has caught the acting bug. It's no wonder since the 20-year-old acting novice landed in two major productions out this year - "Oz the Great and Powerful" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
The "Oz" movie, set before the classic tale "The Wizard of Oz" begins, stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz and and is directed by Sam Raimi. It opens nationwide today.
"The Wolf of Wall Street," stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill and is directed by Martin Scorsese. It is expected to hit theaters Nov. 15, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Troy Benton (far right) pals around on the set with friends (from left) Adam Ramono, Mike Witous, and Jahmani Swanson.
Benton, who restores classic cars for a living, is a little person and plays two different Munchkins in the "Oz" movie.
In the opening scene of the Scorsese film, DiCaprio and actor Ethan Suplee toss Benton - who is wearing a velcro suit - at a target.
DiCaprio was "one of the nicest actors I've met so far," Benton said.
As for feeling exploited for the film's tossing of a little person, Benton said it was a movie and he didn't really think too hard about it.
Benton, who graduated from Altoona Area High School in 2010 and attended the Collision, Repair and Refinishing Technology program at Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center, shot the "Oz" film in October and November of 2011 in Detroit, Mich.
Filming for his part in "The Wolf of Wall Street" took place in New York City over four days in 2013.
A casting crew for the "Oz" movie came to the 2011 Little People of America National Conference in Anaheim, Calif., looking for athletic dwarves, Benton said.
Benton plays on The Statesmen, a little people professional sports team, with Zach Roloff of TLC's "Little People Big World" and Martin Klebba, an actor, who has appeared in several films, including the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, and will appear in the "Oz" movie and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Klebba recommended Benton for the role in "The Wolf of Wall Street," Benton said.
Benton plays several sports, including soccer, basketball and volleyball, for the Little People organization, and plays on the indoor soccer league at the Summit Tennis and Athletic Club in Altoona.
In "Oz the Great and Powerful," Benton does his own stunts and filled in for another actor when needed.
Benton said he knew a lot of the other little people cast in the film, which made it easier and more comfortable.
Every day, he received new prosthetic eyebrows and cheeks. Makeup for the film took an hour and a half, he said.
The movie was shot inside a huge studio with "unbelievable" sets the size of football fields, he said. Hundreds of live trees were used in the production.
"It was quite intimidating being there and seeing how big the sets were," he said. "The production changed my perspective on moviemaking. I give them a total different respect."
He praised the talents of the set designers and makeup department.
One of Benton's characters in the "Oz" film has a handlebar moustache and the other wore a Pirate hat and a blond moustache.
In the Pirate garb, Benton emerges from hiding to salute Franco as he is heading down a darkened alley. In another scene, Benton is seen sliding down a pole.
Benton is aware scenes he is in could end up on the cutting room floor, but he is optimistic.
His parents, Larry and Patty Benton, both said it was a "great experience" for their son.
Patty was nervous about sending her 18-year-old off to Detroit for two months, though.
Family members plan to see "Oz" today. Benton - the youngest of four children with sisters, Amanda and Kasey, and brother, Neil - also planned to attend with friends opening night, he said.
The new "Oz" film has a pair of big ruby slippers to fill, but Benton is confident it will succeed and then some, predicting it will best the original.
He enjoyed his experiences in the movie business so much he is considering getting an agent. He'd like to branch out, move to a big city and make a career of it, he said.
"It's hard work, but it's totally worth it," he said."Whatever opportunity I'd have would be great."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.