The son of two movie veterans will square off against Katniss Everdeen in the highly-anticipated Hunger Games film.
Jack Quaid, 19 – whose parents are Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid – plays Marvel, one of the tributes who competes in the annual battle to the death in this post-apocalyptic fantasy.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine anything like this,” he told PEOPLE at the movie’s premiere in L.A. Monday night. “This is so surreal to be here. It’s insane.”
And he’s well aware of the blockbuster potential for his first major movie. “We can only hope that this movie does as well as those kind of movies have,” he says of the comparison to the Twilight films. “I have total faith in it. It’s such a great piece of work.”
As for his role in The Hunger Games, “I do something horrible to someone very small and cute, and then I have my ass handed to me immediately after,” the actor told Interview magazine of his feature film debut.
Quaid has spent plenty of time on movie sets, but this time was different says the budding young star.
“I’ve been on sets my whole life,” says the sophomore at the Experimental Theatre Wing at the Tisch School of Arts at N.Y.U. “But this is the first time in front of the camera and not in a chair with Sour Patch Kids from the craft services truck.”
“It was a new sensation,” he adds. “It was weird … I really liked it.”
The Hunger Games opens March 23.
• With reporting by SCOTT HUVER