LV sixth-grader hits big screen

Las Vegas has a new movie star on the rise. And he’s 11.

Vegas native Luke Vanek is in the sixth grade at Miller Middle School, and he co-stars in the upcoming comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” with Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin and Jim Carrey.

In the March 15 movie, Carell and Buscemi portray washed-up Vegas magicians trying to get their groove back.

In the first 15 minutes or so, Luke plays a young Buscemi. You can see Luke in the trailer:

Luke started auditioning for roles when he was 8, and he immediately landed TV ads in the 2010 Super Bowl (for Volkswagen and, then commercials for, Oreos, Capri Sun, Wells Fargo, Nature’s Way, Fiat, Progressive and Kmart.

The secret to Luke’s success: He’s not fussy.

“If they give you a redirect, don’t say it the exact same way,” he says. “And if you don’t understand what that means, just ask.”

The actor he is most akin to is Jim Parsons, who plays nerdy Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory,” he says.

“I like nerds,” Luke says in a perfect nerd monotone. “But I don’t like how some people portray nerds. Like, all they think they have to do is get 3-D glasses, then wrap tape around them, and then, boom, you’re a nerd.

“A good nerd has to be kind of awkward and into a bunch of ‘Star Wars’ movies or ‘Star Trek.’u2009”

I asked his mom, Laurie Stapleton, whether Luke was named after Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars.” She chuckled a “no” but added in a nerd-esque manner: “Luke, I am your mother.”

Then I asked Luke’s mom about Luke’s father/her husband, and she answered in nerd fashion: “Kirk, like Captain James T., and the last name is Vanek.”

This is one successful family. The mom is a retired general surgeon who works with med students at Touro University. The dad owns an insurance brokerage.

Luke’s oldest sister, Alyse, 16, is a soccer and track athlete at Foothill High School. His other sister, Jessica, 13, is a jazz and theater vocalist at Miller.

And Luke, who plays alto sax, is up for more roles in TV shows, movies and commercials. His mom says they turn down scripts because of language and content.

“He’ll read it himself and just say, ‘No, this is just not for me.’ So he’s got a real level head on his shoulders,” Stapleton says.

I told her people will be happy to know she is not like Lindsay Lohan’s mom.

“Ugh. Ugh,” Stapleton says. “He’s got one life to live, one direction to go and one reputation to uphold. One job is not worth jeopardizing that when you’ve had such good fortune, and everything you’ve done is just awesome.”

What’s his acting goal?

“It would be fun if I was a big star.”

May the force be with you, Luke.


Carell, Carrey and Wilde were in town (to promote “Burt Wonderstone” presumably).

■ @JimCarrey: “Vegas has everything except a hotel window you can open. Not gonna lie, being forced to breath super dry central air freaks me out a bit. ;^”

■ @oliviawilde: “My room number has 8 digits. #vegas. #lost. #wherethe(expletive)is


Mickey Rourke and UFC honcho Dana White had drinks Saturday at club Haze, a night after Rourke partied with Corey Feldman at XS. … Tom Felton (Draco from “Harry Potter”) ate at Tao Asian bistro with a friend (chicken satay, sushi) then partied at club Tao, where ladies swarmed him for photos.

Doug Elfman’s column appears Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at He blogs at

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