J.J. Abrams rests 'Super 8's' hopes on first-time actor

From Canada's CTV:

Last summer on school break, 14-year-old Joel Courtney travelled to Los Angeles to visit his older brother. The middle-school student from Moscow, Idaho had one dream to accomplish on his trip -- a goal that would push Courtney far away from his usual school classes in Latin, Logic and basketball.

He wanted to work in a commercial and leave L.A. with $100 in his pocket.

Courtney blew the lid off that aspiration when he landed the starring role in J.J. Abrams' sci-fi adventure, "Super 8."

"I know how lucky I am," Courtney, now 15, told CTV.ca from Los Angeles.

On the advice of an acting coach, Courtney went to a casting call for Abrams' top-secret venture.

Eleven callbacks later, Courtney got the part that has changed his life forever.

"J.J. took a huge risk hiring me," said Courtney. "I had no experience. I was totally unknown. But J.J. saw something in me. I'm glad that he did," he said.

That "something" that Abrams spotted was a potent blend of heart, guts and innocence -- a combination that harkens back to iconic characters like the young boy, Elliott, in Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic, "E.T."

Joel Courtney