'Dirty Girl' star got start with dorm-room audition tape
Walking red carpets, dropping extravagant sums on shopping sprees, dodging paparazzi — this, many of us imagine, is the life of an actor. But Jeremy Dozier, who stars on the big screen in the just-released “Dirty Girl,” knows a far different reality. When he’s not going out on auditions, the 25-year-old spends most of his days working at Universal Studios, showing ticket holders to their seats on the Terminator ride.
“When ‘Dirty Girl’ wrapped, it was kind of like back to reality — ‘Oh, I need to pay bills now,’” Dozier recalled on a recent afternoon at an Echo Park diner. “So I got a day job. It’s a fun job. I’m a people person. And it’s so much better than working in an office.”
Growing up in a small town outside Houston, Dozier dreamed of being an actor. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, first majoring in government because his family made him feel he was “supposed to choose something practical to do with [his] life.” But he ended up studying theater too, even picking up a local agent who would send him out for parts in productions that came to town.
It was that agent who first told Dozier about “Dirty Girl.” The film, released by the Weinstein Co. on Friday, centers on two friends in Oklahoma who are struggling to be accepted at their high school. Dozier has the role of Clarke, a closeted gay teen whose father is itching to send him to military school. He befriends the school’s most promiscuous girl, Danielle — played by Juno Temple — and the two set out on a road trip to California in the hopes of finding a better life.
In Los Angeles, the filmmakers had auditioned about 400 young men for the role of Clarke but hadn’t found what they were looking for, so they put out a nationwide casting call. At the time (late 2007), Dozier was a senior in college — so at 3 a.m., between studying for exams, he filmed an audition tape in his dorm room.
“I ripped the sheets off the bed and posted them on the wall to make it look more professional,” he said, scoffing at his naivete. “I took all the lamps in the room to light me properly. And then I sent it off to the casting director and didn’t really think twice about it.”
Sure, he was green, but Abe Sylvia — who wrote and directed the $3.5-million movie — found that charming.
“I think that sometimes the actors in Los Angeles — they teach them to play into their type, and actors who have a little heft lean into that character too much and become stilted,” said the first-time director. “When Jeremy said the lines, there was something so heartfelt and sincere in his intent.”
A few months later, Dozier was flown out to L.A. to audition, marking his first trip to the city.
“I remember flying in and seeing the Hollywood sign and just freaking out,” he said with a smile.
Sylvia liked Dozier, but financing on the project had yet to come through. Dozier decided to move to California anyway. He and his parents drove from Texas, his mattress strapped to the top of the car, and he found an apartment in Van Nuys. He got various odd jobs — working at the Sherman Oaks ArcLight movie theater or as Santa’s helper at a mall in Woodland Hills one Christmas.
Finally — almost a year and half later in 2009 — Sylvia called him back in for a chemistry read with Temple. Within a few months, Dozier was on his first set.
“That first day,” he recounted excitedly, “actually getting onto set and having my own trailer. I called my mom and I was like, ‘It has a microwave! And a fridge!’ I felt pressure to not be the weak link. I just wanted to keep up.”
Even in promoting the film, Dozier admitted he feels like the new kid.
“The other day, they were telling me I had to do a round-table, and I was like, ‘What is that?’” he said, referring to an interview with a group of journalists. “Plus, I don’t have any style. So people are expecting me to look really put together and great. I just go and shop and take pictures and text them to my mom or my manager to see what they think.”
Sylvia is impressed with the novice’s ability to juggle responsibilities. “He’s like, at a press junket, and the next day he’s cleaning 3-D glasses at Universal,” the filmmaker said with a laugh.
“Dirty Girl,” meanwhile, had a dismal start at the box office this past weekend, collecting $17,500 from nine theaters. Still, Dozier is hopeful the movie will help his career. He’s already shot two other independent films, but neither has secured theatrical distribution.
“I have a lot of friends who moved out here and were like, ‘I’m giving it a year.’ And I never thought that was long enough,” he said. “They say it takes 10 years to become a star. So why put a time stamp on it? I try to ask myself: ‘Do I enjoy this? Am I making progress?’ And that’s how I’m evaluating things.”
— Amy Kaufman
Photo: Actors Juno Temple and Jeremy Dozier attend a special screening of "Dirty Girl" hosted by the Cinema Society at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on Oct. 3 in New York. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press.