It's not all too often that one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year stars an actor barely out of his teens, especially when that film doesn't include the words Twilight or Hunger Games in its title. Yet on Friday, Sundance winner Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will hit theaters, starring relative newcomer Thomas Mann as the titular "me." And while it may be an indie film, stakes are high; it won raves at festivals, is based on a beloved betseller, and features a star-studded supporting cast (Connie Britton, Nick Offerman...). So it's a bit of a surprise that the studio decided to cast 23-year-old Mann in the lead role — but having seen his heartbreaking performance in the movie, it couldn't have been a better choice.
As Greg, a good-hearted, awkward high school senior who freely admits he doesn't fit into any particular clique, Mann hits all the right notes, whether it's his adorably hesitant befriending of a sick classmate (the "Dying Girl" of the film's title) or his paralyzing fear of connecting to someone on a deeper level. There's little question that after the film's release, the actor will, deservedly, have his pick of options for future projects. So before he totally blows up, here are seven things to know about Me and Earl star Thomas Mann:
1. Me And Earl Isn't His First High School Movie
Mann has a handful of high school-set movies in his past, most memorably 2012's Project X. In the comedy, the actor starred as a teenager who, along with his friends, throws a massive party that quickly gets out of control. Although the movie received mixed reviews, its stars have gone on to huge things; in addition to Mann, Project X featured Miles Teller and Pitch Perfect's Alexis Knapp.
2. He Had To Work For His Breakthrough Role
Getting the part, however, wasn't easy. The Project X producers only wanted to cast actors without any prior acting experience, and Mann had previously appeared in the film It's Kind of a Funny Story (above). He had to audition seven times before they were convinced he was "natural" enough.
3. He Started Out On Nickelodeon
Mann's first acting credit came back in 2009, when he appeared in an episode of iCarly. A year later, he'd star alongside another Nick alum, Emma Roberts, in It's Kind of a Funny Story.
4. He Might Star In Another Coming-Of-Age Adaptation
In 2012, it was announced that Mann would play the lead in the film adaptation of King Dork, an acclaimed YA novel by Frank Portman. Unfortunately, there've been few updates ever since, and it's not looking likely that King Dork will make it to the screen anytime soon, at least with Mann as the 14-year-old protagonist.
5. He Has Another Big Movie Out Now
Mann has a supporting part in Barely Lethal, a teen action comedy that was released May 29. He plays Roger, a kind-hearted nerd who crushes on Hailee Steinfeld's secret assassin.
6. And A Drama About To Be Released
Along with Ezra Miller and Olivia Thirbly, Mann stars in The Stanford Prison Experiment, a thriller about the infamous psychology experiment conducted in 1971. The film premiered to good reviews at Sundance, and is set for a July 17 release.
7. His Schedule's Only Getting Busier
According to Mann's IMDB, the actor has seven upcoming projects, many of which sound fantastic. There's Brain on Fire, the adaptation of Susannah Cahalan's gripping memoir; Blood Father, a thriller starring Mel Gibson; and Outliving Emily, a film made of vignettes also featuring Alexis Bledel, Andre Braugher, and Kal Penn. It looks like the future will be filled with Thomas Mann — and as Me and Earl fans know, that couldn't be better news.
Images: Warner Bros.; Focus Features; Nickelodeon; Fox Searchlight Pictures; A24 Films; IFC Films; Getty Images