Actor Reese Hartwig. Photo Credit: Richard Wright.

Actor Reese Hartwig. Photo Credit: Richard Wright.

At only 16 years old, Reese Hartwig is already doing big things on the big screen. And by big things, we mean helping a tiny, highly intelligent alien return home after being stranded on earth. This is the premise for Relativity’s Earth to Echo (directed by Dave Green), the latest family-friendly sci-fi summer film to hit theaters. What can be accurately described as a mix between Wall-E, Chronicle and Super 8, the film follows four school-age friends who — after responding to a series of bizarre signals on their phones — come in contact with a cute little extraterrestrial they decide to name Echo.

Hartwig portrays Munch, the sensitive, shy, smart techie of the group, who plays a big part in helping keep Echo a secret while trying to get their new friend back to his home planet. Shot in the ever-popular “found footage” low-budget style, you can bet (judging from the trailer) that the group runs into a bit of trouble while trying to complete the mission.

Originally from Arizona, Hartwig and his family moved to California when he was 8. It was in Los Angeles where he and his older brother took a liking to acting, after their dad, a talent agent, took them to the set of a Fast & Furious film. “We were like, well, we kind of want to try this,” the upbeat Hartwig told GALO. “We’re in California, so we might as well give it a shot. It’s working out so far.”

Hartwig also co-stars alongside Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner in Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, based on Judith Viorst’s 1970s children’s book of the same name, which is scheduled to be released in October. In the film, which revolves around the titular character’s unbelievably terrible day, Hartwig plays Elliot, a contributor to Alexander’s seemingly never-ending saga of misfortunes. Check out what Hartwig had to say about the differences between the characters of Munch and Elliot, which role he prefers, why Earth to Echo could be on par with Super 8, and much more.

GALO: Earth to Echo seems like an original sci-fi film that people of all ages could enjoy. Why should people be excited to see this film?

Reese Hartwig: People will be excited about this film because this movie has something that a lot of movies really don’t have anymore. It’s kind of like that friendship, loyalty feel. It has heart, which is kinda cool. And also, all the awesome alien stuff, like spaceships being made. I think there’s a lot of different stuff that people will enjoy.

GALO: You portray Munch, which is an awesome name by the way. He’s described as the smart, sensitive member of the trio investigating the mysterious text messages. What can you tell me about Munch and how he fits into the story?

RH: Munch is very shy and he’s very cautious. He’s ready for everything. He helps out the group a lot by having all of this tech stuff and tools. He also keeps the group together because he’s very innocent and pretty funny. He’s a little bit like Echo, in the way that they’re just innocent and trying to get the job done. He’s obviously very shy and not going to be jumping in front of anything. But actually, you know what? He is, because those are his best friends and that’s all he knows. I think Munch is definitely a resourceful one and he’s also a really good friend.

GALO: What first attracted you to the role of Munch?

RH: It was actually just another auction. It was originally called Untitled Wolf Project. It was random. They made up the story so [the plot] wouldn’t get released, or something like that. I was originally going for Hersch, which was Munch. When I first read it, it was about wolves, so I was like, “oh, this is kinda cool.” But as soon as I actually got the real script, I was like, “this is sweet.” Sci-fi is one of my favorite types of movie [genres]. The Matrix, Alien with Sigourney Weaver. So when I heard about that, I was like, “oh yeah, this is awesome.” I’ve been acting for about six years now. When I heard that I was in a movie that was going to be in theaters, I was like, “I’m all in, whatever you want me to do.”

GALO: The plot sort of seems reminiscent of J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, which turned out to be a summer hit. Do you see Earth to Echo becoming another beloved sci-fi summer film?

RH: That’s what we hope for! That’s what we want. I think if we can get people just to see it, if we can just get it in the door — I think they’ll like it. I think they’ll tell their friends, and it’ll be really good. I have a good feeling about it. I’ve watched it about five times now, and not just because I’m in it. It’s one of those movies where you really have any expectations for it. But when you see it, you’re like, “wow, that was a really good movie. I really liked that.” When people compare it to Super 8, it’s an honor. We hope that we can live up to what they were able to do and be in that area. If we do, that would be great. I think we can.

GALO: Another high-profile family film you’ll appear in is Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

RH: That’s a great title, huh?

GALO: It takes a while to recite. You play the role of Elliot, who’s responsible for making the titular character’s day so terrible. Was this your first time ever portraying a “villain” in a movie?

RH: It is! It was great that I got to play a character that was not very similar to Munch and others that I’ve played. So this was my first time where I was on the other side.

GALO: Did you enjoy portraying Elliot or Munch better? Or did you enjoy them both the same?

RH: Well, playing Elliot was obviously a lot of fun because the guy who plays Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) was really nice. He’s a really good actor. But yeah, that was really fun to play, something different. I did enjoy playing Munch too, because I think Munch was a bit more of a challenge. Elliot is a bully, who is kind of funny. Munch is a little bit more to himself. He was more of a challenge to play. I think I like both in their own aspects, but if I had to pick one, I’d say Munch is my favorite.

GALO: In Alexander, you worked alongside some big names, including Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner. That had to be really exciting. What was the most memorable moment you had on set?

RH: It was actually really cool how the scene that I was in…we are in a VW bug, and Alexander is carpooling with us. So, it was interesting how they would shoot it. One day, we were driving on the street, and they were filming it with the camera on the outside. The second day, we were in a studio, and they actually had projectors on the windows with rolling by scenery. So that was really interesting to work around, and it was something that you’d never know, which was fun. Obviously, Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell are like the coolest people in the world. It was really fun meeting them. I would say that was just a dream come true.

GALO: You’re still very, very young. What are some types of roles, be it TV or film, you would hope to score in the future?

RH: I would love to do both because I’d like to try out everything. I would like to do film the most, and I do like doing funny, comedy type stuff. But I’d also like to try something a little bit more serious, too.

GALO: Are you working on any upcoming projects?

RH: I’m also the voice of Jonny Quest in a Warner Bros. movie that’s coming out. I’m going to do some more voiceover for it in November. That’s all I’ve got going on so far.

Earth to Echo” hits theaters on July 2.  The film is rated PG and has a runtime of 89 minutes.

Video courtesy of Earth to Echo/Relativity Pictures.

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