“I was studying mainly film theory in college, but during one of my classes, a teaching assistant said they were having trouble casting this one role in the play they were putting up. I went and read for it and ended up getting the part, but I had no idea at the time that it was the lead,” Swift, 24, tells PEOPLE exclusively about how he ended up in acting.
“That was a crash course but a good one. I fell in love with the people and the process, and I’ve been hooked since then,” he says.
Waking up on his first day of shooting for I.T., “I was extremely nervous,” admits Swift. “But once I got to set and talked to [the director] John [Moore] and [my co-star] Stefanie [Scott], it was clear how much fun everyone was having and how hard they were working to make something special.”
The movie (which hits select theaters Friday) was filmed in Dublin, and Swift stayed in a town called Dén Laoghaire while shooting. “I remember going for a run along the coast early one morning and all these people were coming out in bathrobes and going swimming in the ocean,” he recalls. “It put the biggest smile on my face.”
For more from Austin Swift, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Looking forward, Swift hopes to follow in the footsteps of some of Hollywood’s most well-respected actors.
“Every once in a while, these dream pairings come along … Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando, Francis Ford Coppola and Al Pacino, Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, Tarantino and Uma Thurman,” he says. “I think that kind of relationship would be pretty special.”
But most importantly, he’s also striving to stay as level-headed and unaffected as possible by Hollywood’s spotlight.
“The actors I admire most are the ones that manage to stay grounded,” he says. “There are a lot of men and women at the very top of the game who have done it while staying kind and devoted. That’s the big hope.”