'Hannah Montana' Star Moises Arias Grows Up With 'Kings of Summer,' 'Ender's Game' (Video)

8:39 AM PST 06/07/2013 by Sophie Schillaci

The actor tells THR how Will Smith convinced him to sign on for the Sundance darling (and came to show his support at the premiere) and how he hopes to be on the verge of a career breakthrough.

Miley Cyrus isn’t the only star that’s evolved since her days on Disney’s Hannah Montana. Co-star Moises Arias, whom viewers will remember as the smooth talking Rico, appears to be on the verge of a career breakthrough with back-to-back roles in three very different projects.

Arias stole the show at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, appearing in the well-received coming of age story Toy’s House, which would later be renamed Kings of Summer (the new title, Arias says, has “an epic-ness” to it). The role -- though quirky – marks an R-rated departure for Arias, who achieved childhood notoriety through a series of voice over and kid-friendly oddball parts.

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Chris Galletta’s screenplay, which would be directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, made its way to Arias as the actor was wrapping up filming on the high profile, highly anticipated Ender’s Game. With the YA adaptation due out Nov. 1 of this year, Arias hopes that audiences will get a glimpse into his range of acting chops.

“Biaggio [in Kings of Summer] and Bonzo [in Ender’s Game] will be completely in contrast, just two different people, and if they both play well, I think it’ll be amazing for me,” Arias tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting that the two projects have proven to be uniquely challenging in their own ways. “I think these two characters coming out this year are something that will either put me everywhere, or send me off into something bigger and better.”

Meanwhile, Arias continues to put his vocal skills to good use in the forthcoming sequel to Illumination and Universal’s hit animated comedy Despicable Me.

Kings of Summer caught the eye of critics in Park City this year, as well as the eye of a certain A-lister. Will Smith, father of Arias’ best friend Jaden Smith, joined the 19-year-old on his first trip to the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and even stepped out at his premiere. (In the film, one joke referencing Smith’s Fresh Prince days was received to hearty laughs at the Library Theatre screening.)

“It was fantastic because I’ve always looked up to him and have asked about characters and all that,” Arias says of the elder Smith. “He helped me on the decision to go with Kings of Summer.”

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“It’s a very interesting mentorship,” he adds. “Ultimately, he inspired me to really take a look at the projects I’m going through and seeing them in a different light, seeing what I could bring to the project and what one would do with the other. One could be more money-based and could bring more fame, and one could be more artistic and could maybe blow up. I think that Kings of Summer is something that I made a great choice with.”

And Smith isn’t the only veteran actor from whom Arias is learning. In the film, the three young stars (Arias, Nick Robinson and Gabriel Basso) act opposite Parks and Recreation funnyman Nick Offerman.

“He’s a person that I look up to very much,” Arias says of his co-star. “So down to Earth -- [he] memorized everybody’s name on set. I mean, it’s difficult for me to learn the lines. He had that down, with everybody’s name and their background.”

On-screen, Arias admires Offerman’s “amazing” deadpan.

In Ender’s Game, Arias acts as the antagonist to Asa Butterfield’s hero. Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld and Viola Davis also star in the Gavin Hood film.

“That was probably one of the most memorable experiences for me,” he says of the project, on which he wrapped filming more than a year ago. “I do believe that I’m going to be very different from what people were predicting, but I think it’s going to be a different flavor to what Bonzo is. I’m just happy that I got the opportunity.”

The Kings of Summer opened in New York and Los Angeles on May 31, receiving a wide release on June 7. For more from Arias, watch the video above.

Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci

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