Alexander Richard “Alex” Pettyfer (born 10 April 1990) is an English actor and model. He appeared in school plays and on television before being cast as Alex Rider, the main character in the 2006 film version of Stormbreaker; Pettyfer was nominated for a Young Artist Award and an Empire Award for his role. He has been seen as a model in several advertising campaigns for Burberry. His next two starring roles were in the 2011 films I Am Number Four, a science fiction action adventure, and Beastly, a modernised retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Pettyfer also starred in the 2012 film Magic Mike, and played a supporting role in the 2013’s film The Butler. He appeared in the 2014 romantic drama film Endless Love.
Pettyfer was born in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, the son of Lee Ireland (born Lee Robinson), an interior decorator, and Richard Pettyfer, an actor. He has a younger half-brother, James Ireland, a junior tennis player, from his mother’s remarriage to Michael Ireland, a property developer.
Pettyfer was brought up in Slough, Berkshire, and began his career as a child fashion model at the age of seven, for Gap, after meeting Ralph Lauren in a toy store in New York. He also did advertisements for some yogurt brands. His first commercial was at age six.
As a schoolboy, he performed in plays, including in the role of Willy Wonka in a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jack in his school play “Jack and the Beanstalk” and Robin Hood in the adaptation of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Pettyfer was educated at two junior independent schools: The Mall School, a small school in Twickenham, followed by the Lambrook Haileybury school in Berkshire. He subsequently attended two other independent boarding schools: Millfield School in Street, Somerset and Shiplake College near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. After his GCSEs, he left Shiplake College to attend the independent Sylvia Young Theatre School in London.
In 2005, after a modelling career, Pettyfer made his professional acting début in the British television production of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, playing the lead character, Tom Brown; he received positive reviews for the role. In June 2005, he was cast in his most prominent role so far, that of teenage MI6 spy Alex Rider in the film Stormbreaker, based on the novel by Anthony Horowitz. He was one of 500 who auditioned for the role. Pettyfer chose to appear in the film over a role in the film Eragon, noting that he preferred Stormbreaker because it would be filmed in Britain, in the Isle of Man, while Eragon would film in Hungary; Pettyfer is afraid of flying, and he liked the looks of the cast for Stormbreaker. Stormbreaker was released on 21 July 2006 in the United Kingdom, on 6 October 2006 in the United States and on 21 September 2006 in Australia.
One review of Pettyfer’s performance described him as playing the role with an “earnest intensity”, although another noted that he “isn’t quite at ease as an actor”. Media reports specified that the film was expected to make Pettyfer a “teen idol”. Pettyfer will not reprise the role if there is another Alex Rider film because he is now too mature for the role.
He next appeared in Wild Child, a film set in California, Kent and Yorkshire part of which took place at Cobham Hall Girls’ School in Kent. He played schoolboy Freddie Kingsley and he co-starred with Emma Roberts. In 2009, he played the callous ringleader of a group of cool but cruel teenagers who are picked off one by one by the ghost of one of their former victims, in the horror-comedy, Tormented.
He starred in the film Beastly, based on the novel by Alex Flinn, alongside Mary-Kate Olsen, Vanessa Hudgens and Neil Patrick Harris. He finished filming on 13 August 2009, and the film was released on 4 March 2011. Pettyfer portrayed the main character in I Am Number Four, released in February 2011. The film co-starred Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron and Teresa Palmer, and was directed by D.J. Caruso, produced by Michael Bay and executive produced by Steven Spielberg.
He was offered the part of Jace Wayland in the upcoming portrayal of Cassandra Clare’s best selling book, City of Bones. Jamie Campbell Bower was later cast as Jace Wayland. Pettyfer had also been offered a part in an upcoming film adaption of Joseph Delaney’s The Wardstone Chronicles, and has declined the role. He was in line to star in The Paperboy, based on the Pete Dexter novel of the same name, but turned down the role (later filled by Zac Efron). In 2012 he played Adam, a 19-year-old who enters the world of male stripping in Magic Mike.
In 2013, Pettyfer had a small role as Thomas Westfall in The Butler. In 2014, He starred in the romantic drama Endless Love alongside actress Gabriella Wilde, where they play love interests. In 2016, Pettyfer played the role of Jerry Schilling in the biography film Elvis & Nixon alongside Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon.