Matthew McConaughey and director Yann Demange plucked newcomer Richie Merritt out of a high school principal's office and asked him to star in their new drama White Boy Rick.
The Dallas Buyers Club actor, who plays the father of Merrit's character in the film, admits he was shocked by the young star's acting ability after learning he had no prior experience whatsoever.
Merritt plays real-life teenager Richard Wershe Jr., who signed up to become an undercover informant for the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) in the 1980s. He was subsequently arrested for drug-trafficking and sentenced to life in prison.
"This young man has never had a job, we did a casting, we were looking for the right person for this role for two years," McConaughey told U.S. breakfast show Today on Wednesday (12Sep18). "They find him in the principal's office in a Baltimore, (Maryland) high school.
"The director kind of put him through a bootcamp and we saw that he could be honest and he could behave nicely in front of a camera."
And McConaughey reveals Richie was so new to the business he didn't even know who he was talking to when they first met.
"He didn't know who I was when I met him," he added. "I met him in the parking lot of a bowling alley a month before we started shooting and I had to pick him out. He didn't recognise me at all, so we started to work together, he's the lead in this movie, he does a wonderful job. He knew the role. He knew the life of the person he was inhabiting and he does a wonderful job."
White Boy Rick is released in America on Friday (14Sep18).