Up for the part of Britney Spears
's sensitive suitor in Crossroads
, Anson Mount was ambivalent—until he talked to Robert De Niro, with whom he was shooting the upcoming film City by the Sea
. "I was like, 'It's kind of silly and commercial,'" says Mount, 29, "and De Niro said, 'So?'" Next thing he knew, De Niro was helping him rehearse by reading Spears's lines—though Mount notes, "He didn't last very long."
A stage actor who has also guest-starred on Ally McBeal
and Sex and the City
, Mount took a mildly anthropological approach to his younger costars—Spears, 20, Taryn Manning, 23, and Zoë Saldana, 23. "It was like they were speaking a different language," says Mount. "I'm over here talking Led Zeppelin, and they're talking about Nelly Furtado."
The only child of former professional golfer Nancy Smith, 55, and Playboy
sports editor Anson Mount II, who died at 60 in 1986, the White Bluff, Tenn.-bred actor bonded with the Louisiana-born Spears over their shared southern pride. "He was completely captured by my accent," says Spears. "He wanted to talk all about the South."
Mount, a bachelor who lives in a studio apartment in Manhattan, admits he yearns for his small-town fishing and hunting days. "I like the carnival," he says of celebrity, "but that 8 doesn't mean I want to be a carney."