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Local teen leaves lasting impression in 'The Descendants'

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com

Nick Krause is a thief, and his grandparents are about to find out.

The Georgetown High School graduate plays Sid, a stony foul-mouthed teen indifferent toward authority and oblivious of political correctness, in Alexander Payne's latest film "The Descendants."

The 19-year-old actor, who sat next to his grandparents before the Texas premiere of the film at the Paramount Theatre in October, steals pretty much every scene in which he appears. No small feat considering the victim is usually George Clooney.

In "The Descendants," Clooney's Matt King struggles to hold his family together. His wife, whom he has recently discovered had been having an affair, lies in an irreversible coma and his oldest teenage daughter, the rebellious Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), insists on the company of her best friend, Sid, to help her cope during her time of grief and anger.

Insensitive to the fraught dynamics of the moment, Sid consistently usurps King's higher status by acting casual when the mood is tense, shambling into emotional scenes with the adorable obliviousness of an oversized puppy.

The audience, and eventually King, can't help but like the kid. Despite his lack of social graces, Sid offers an uncorrupted honesty, and his naiveté is belied by some surprising wisdom.

Though he has limited screen time, Krause leaves a lasting impact each time he opens his mouth. So amusing and unexpected is he, that even when he lingers silently on the edges of the frame, Krause intrigues with the possibility that he might speak.

"It was a really fun role to do, not only because Sid has a bunch of hilarious lines but because we're really not the same guy," Krause says. "It was really fun to explore another psyche and make something out of it."

Unlike his character, Krause, who took a mathematical concepts course at Southwestern University at age of 10, says he actually thinks before he speaks. It's probably a good thing, then, that his original portrayal of Sid came before the young actor even had time to rub the sleep from his eyes.

With the help of his sister, actress Kate Krause ("Friday Night Lights"), Nick recorded his audition tape before running off to school at 5:30 a.m. The grogginess helped Krause attain a certain dazed and comical tone that defines Sid's character.

"It was a very interesting video that we sent to the casting directors," Krause says. "It was hilarious in a totally different way than we intended it to be, but it worked out well in the end."

The actor who got his start in feature films with the locally shot 2005 family comedy "How to Eat Fried Worms," landed the role of Sid after auditioning for Payne in New York City and soon found himself working with one of the industry's biggest stars in Clooney.

The 14-hour days meant plenty of downtime on set, allowing Krause a chance to get to see the notorious prankster Clooney both at work and play. The "Oceans Eleven" star would sneak into tight groups on set during shooting breaks and use an application on his phone to make the sounds of flatulence. Krause said the charming Clooney knew exactly when to tap into his inner child and when to get down to business.

"George Clooney is George Clooney for a reason," Krause says. "Not only did he make it so fun for all of us to be on set and so laid-back in the presence of him and Alexander, he also has this professionalism that you see nowhere else. He'd be cracking jokes with extras or with us, but the second that camera turned on he'd be right back as Matt King doing the perfect take."

Krause moved to Los Angeles a couple of months ago to pursue a career in the industry, and jokes that he already has gotten a taste for the fickleness of the business after being replaced in a recent TV pilot by an underwear model. As "The Descendants" makes an inevitable Oscar push in coming months, Krause will undoubtedly begin to see more offers for film roles.

As for his grandparents, they couldn't have been happier following the October screening at the Austin Film Festival.

"They loved the film," Krause says. "They love good movies and 'The Descendants' is one of those. The language aside, it's a pretty classy flick."

modam@statesman.com; 912-5986