First Look: Actors put up a real fight in 'Airbender'
By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
For years, Noah Ringer went by the nickname "Avatar" because he looked so much like the lead in the Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. Now he gets to act like the character, too.
Ringer, 12, makes his feature-film debut opposite Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel in M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender, a live-action version of the show that opens July 2, 2010.
Ringer didn't need to alter much to play Aang, who uses martial arts to manipulate the weather. Like Aang, Ringer keeps his head shaved and is an expert in martial arts. "It keeps me cool when I'm doing tae kwon do," says Ringer, a Texas native with a black belt who landed the role after sending a homemade DVD of him practicing the sport. "It's so cool to get the part."
Patel, too, seems suited for the film, the first of a planned trilogy. He earned his black belt in tae kwon do before he turned to acting and discovered the television show while filming Millionaire. "I started watching it in my trailer in India," says Patel, who plays the villain Zuko, a "firebender" (he manipulates flames). "I see why the fan base is so big. It's got action but a lot of moral messages."
Though they square off on the big screen, don't expect any exhibition matches between the actors. Patel, seven years older and a foot taller, says it wouldn't be close: "Noah would knock me flat on my back. "