By Anne Thomas
Moviegoers know John “Scoot” McNairy from his roles in such high-profile projects as Argo and 12 Years a Slave. But not many know the obstacles he faced on the road to Hollywood.
The Dallas native, who attended Shelton School, returned to the campus recently to relay his experiences about being dyslexic. Shelton film students also interviewed McNairy and filmed him for a school project during the school’s 40th anniversary.
Describing himself as “highly dyslexic,” McNairy recounts that his being a visual learner drew him to films for that very reason.
“Think differently. Take a risk. Use your dyslexia as a gift,” McNairy told students. “Having dyslexia, you’ll have to work hard all of the time. If you mix that with passion, it will serve you well.”
McNairy moved from Texas to California to go to film school. He dropped out after a year and became involved with film production, including carpentry and sets. He next found work as a movie extra and did television commercials that eventually landed him roles in movies.
In 2009, his film In Search of a Midnight Kiss, which he both acted in and produced, received the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards. The award honored the best feature made for under $500,000.
McNairy was nominated for Best Actor in Monsters at the 2010 British Independent Film Awards. He shared a Screen Actors Guild Award with fellow actors from the ensemble of Ben Affleck’s Argo, voted as Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. He also had a prominent role in 12 Years a Slave, an Oscar-winner for Best Picture.
McNairy currently stars in the AMC series “Halt and Catch Fire” and has made guest appearances on many other shows. He was recently seen in Gone Girl and Our Brand Is Crisis, and he’ll soon be seen in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and War Machine.
McNairy has a brother, cousins, and a niece who have attended Shelton, so his visit was a natural homecoming.
“Our students really identify with Scoot. They know he, too, faced struggles, especially with reading, but he had courage and was always okay with trying something creative and different,” said Shelton film instructor Cliff Samuelson. “Since Scoot’s school days here, we provide many more opportunities for students interested in theater and film. It’s great for our students to see success in action in someone who has been in their footsteps, and it’s great for Scoot to see some of our talented students who will pursue a similar career.”