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Believing his way to filmdom

Ashton Holmes left the East Coast for Los Angeles about two years ago -- and within months had landed a role in “A History of Violence,” which opened Friday.

Holmes, 23, plays Jack Stall, the teenage son of a small-town couple (Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello) whose life changes when his father becomes a national hero by fighting off a pair of drifters who show up in his diner, looking for trouble. The incident forces the mild-mannered Jack to grow up quickly, and soon he must decide whether to resort to violence himself.

“He is kind of a victim of adulthood,” Holmes said. “Violence is the vehicle that matures my character.”

He credits veteran director David Cronenberg for mentoring him during the filming, and Mortensen and costars Ed Harris and William Hurt for allowing him to “pick their brains on the craft of acting and what their process is. That really kind of enhanced my performance. I learned more during the making of the film than I ever learned about acting before.”

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Holmes decided he wanted to be an actor at age 4, when his mother took him to see a production of “Peter Pan.” “The story is, my mother leaned over and whispered in my ear before the performance, ‘Ashton, they are going to sprinkle fairy dust in this theater, and for the next two hours you are not going to get any older,’ ” he recalled.

“I believed it,” says Holmes. “From that moment on, I felt there was something magical that took place in theater.”

He started pursuing acting at 6, doing community theater in his hometown of Albany, N.Y. After high school, he got a one-year internship at the New York State Theatre Institute and appeared in the national touring company of “Rent.”

“I am so fortunate in a sense that I didn’t have to struggle with what I wanted to be,” he said. “Some of my closest friends are still struggling and not sure which avenue to go down.”

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-- Susan King


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