Joe Alwyn’s First Feature Film Casting Director Recalls His ‘Sensitive’ Audition: ‘He’s a Deep’ Actor (Exclusive)

"He clearly knows what emotions to show at what time,” Avy Kaufman tells PEOPLE

<p>Dave Benett/Getty</p> Joe Alwyn

Dave Benett/Getty

Joe Alwyn

Joe Alwyn left a lasting impression on the casting director from his first feature film.

The Conversations with Friends actor, 33, was relatively unknown to the acting world when he landed his breakout role in Ang Lee's 2016 film Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. In fact, casting director Avy Kaufman tells PEOPLE that the U.K. native hadn’t “even graduated yet” when she saw something special in him.

“We had actually done a big search for this role, I brought a whole load of people to Ang [Lee] and it went on and on,” Kaufman, 70, says of casting the war drama.

<p>TriStar/Everett</p> Joe Alwyn in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk


Joe Alwyn in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Kaufman says it was Alwyn’s U.K. agent who reached out and put the young talent on her radar.

“He’d just left drama school, actually I don’t think he had even graduated yet, I think he was graduating the following week or something, and I just said, ‘Could he tape really fast? In 24 hours?’”

Alwyn’s agent got the tape in, and the rest was history.

“I just thought he was so special and so perfect for the role and I rang Ang who loved it, and it went to the studio. We flew him to New York the next day,” Kaufman tells PEOPLE.

When Alwyn arrived in America, “All he had was a backpack and the producers took him shopping at Gap for under clothes.”

He’d flown in for an audition but stayed because he got the job.

<p>Alan Chapman/Dave Benett/Getty</p> Joe Alwyn, February 2024

Alan Chapman/Dave Benett/Getty

Joe Alwyn, February 2024

“There’s something sensitive about Joe. I find him to be a deep actor. He clearly knows what emotions to show at what time,” Kaufman says. “Joe just knew how to find this very American character, in his first film.”

She praised his ability to hold “his own” amongst “all these fancy actors,” like Kristen Stewart. Vin Diesel and Chris Tucker also appeared in the film, in which Alwyn portrayed a soldier in Iraq.

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“I’m a huge fan, I have much belief in Joe. I’m a big believer. I know how tough this world is and I think Joe is the kind of actor, it will be really interesting to see how he grows in the roles the older he gets. I think he could do both comedy and drama, I really do,” she adds, continuing to rave about the actor.

When asked how she feels to have given him his shot at stardom, she replied, “As happy as one could feel.”

“I’ve been fortunate enough to do that a few times and the way that I look at it is, thank you for making me look good. We have to look at it like that. I look at it as, you gave me a gift and I gave you a gift. I like to look at it like that.”

<p>Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures</p> Emma Stone and Joe Alwyn in 'Kinds of Kindness'

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Emma Stone and Joe Alwyn in 'Kinds of Kindness'

Alwyn’s next role comes opposite Emma Stone in Kinds of Kindness. The pair previously worked together in 2018's The Favourite.

Related: Emma Stone and Joe Alwyn to Reunite with 'The Favourite' Director Yorgos Lanthimos on New Movie

The film follows “a man without choice who tries to take control of his own life; a policeman who is alarmed that his wife who was missing at sea has returned and seems a different person; and a woman determined to find a specific someone with a special ability, who is destined to become a prodigious spiritual leader," an official synopsis states.

Kinds of Kindness arrives in theaters June 21.

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