‘Captain Fantastic’ Scene Stealer Takes the Lead in ‘Eli’

Young Charlie Shotwell will star in Ciaran Foy's upcoming psychological horror.

Charlie Shotwell Captain Fantastic

Young Charlie Shotwell will star in Ciaran Foy’s upcoming psychological horror.

Last awards season saw a whole raft of young actors break out as audiences adored and critics raved about the likes of Lucas Hedges, Saniyya Sidney, Sunny Pawar, Ashton Sanders, and Sanders’s co-star Alex Hibbert. Another of these up-and-coming stars is Charlie Shotwell, the 9 year old who shot to fame after portraying the adorably cheeky Nai, the youngest of Viggo Mortensen’s brood in Captain Fantastic.

As Deadline reports, that scene-stealing performance is translating into bigger, more diverse job offers. Ridley Scott already snapped him up to play J. Paul Getty III in his upcoming thriller All the Money in the World, and now Shotwell has just secured his first lead, in the upcoming psychological horror film Eli.

The plot, from the film’s IMDb page, reads: “A boy receiving treatment for his auto-immune disorder discovers that the house he’s living isn’t as safe as he thought.”

It’s hard to predict much about Shotwell’s character based on this scant information, but from what we know about the young actor, it’s likely he’ll pull off whatever’s asked of him. In Captain Fantastic he shines amidst the movie’s ensemble, displaying a knack for timing beyond his age and an easy chemistry with the rest of his cast-mates (a natural ability of his also on show in Man Down). Shotwell’s performance bolsters Captain Fantastic‘s credentials, and ultimately helped earn it the SAG nomination it picked up for best ensemble.

Captain Fantastic established Shotwell as one of the most in-demand child actors in Hollywood at the moment: aside from Scott’s J. Paul Getty movie, he has also been cast in The Nightingale, an upcoming Australian thriller from Babadook director Jennifer Kent, and he featured on big screens last month as part of the Captain Fantastic-esque The Glass Castle.

While Eli marks the first foray into horror for Shotwell, his talent makes him an excellent, assured choice, while his cherubic appearance will draw all the empathy required to get Eli’s audiences on board with the film’s premise.

Interestingly enough, despite his young age, it seems Shotwell is something of a budding horror fan. Here he is playing “Every 27 Years” with great panache for his Captain Fantastic co-star and IT alumni Nicholas Hamilton. If he’s a fan of IT, this young actor probably won’t be having any trouble with nightmares when production begins on Eli.

Sinister 2 helmer Ciaran Foy will direct Eli, which marks the first production from Paramount Pictures’ new division Paramount Players (incidentally, a just announced live-action Dora the Explorer movie is also on the roster for Paramount Players). FSR’s resident film critic Rob Hunter was less than impressed with Sinister 2 but thought its lackluster nature owes more to a poor script than Foy, who proves himself a director “competent…in crafting the visual style and capturing the action” of the story.

Still, Sinister 2 didn’t exactly wow, so it probably isn’t the best advertisement for Foy’s talents. Another of his directing credits, the indie horror hit Citadel, is a far better example of the potential he brings to Eli. Written by Foy, and based on his own agoraphobic experiences, the Irish director’s feature debut is an “atmospheric,” multi-themed film that stokes decidedly urban anxieties amidst some “legitimately scary” set-pieces.

With the help of some strong writers, Foy should do similarly well on this project. Eli (which is set for a January 4, 2019 release) is based on a script penned by David Chirchirillo (the upcoming Bad Match and Cheap Thrills). Writing partners Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing (The Autopsy of Jane Doe) have been recruited to rewrite elements of Chirchirillo’s script, which was earning itself a fair bit of attention in its un-revised form back in 2015. That year, it performed the remarkable feat of placing on both the Black List and the Blood List, a similar annual list dedicated to championing top horror scripts.

Earning approval amongst its own genre peers is one thing, but managing to achieve similar praise in non-genre specific surveys like the Black List is another. Its Blood List selection certainly boosts its horror credentials, but the Black List’s thumbs-up suggests Eli has the power to appeal to more than just niche audiences.

Freelance writer based in the UK. According to Lil B, I'm "a true positive spirit - Lil B"