Lions and Teen Life Remember when Haley
Joel Osment was that cute kid from The
Sixth Sense and A.I.? Well, get ready
for teenage Haley. In Secondhand Lions,
his first post-puberty film, Osment plays
a teenager sent to live with his uncles
for the summer.
eccentric old men (Robert Duvall and Michael
Caine, interviews coming soon), have some
pretty crazy schemes, and even crazier
stories about their past. Through these
tales and adventures, the boy becomes
it hard going from that cute kid image
to adolescent roles?
transition itself isn't so difficult but
finding the right path through this period
is probably the hardest part. It's just
the choice is the most important thing
because I'm going to be an adult actor
pretty soon, so I've got to be choosing
the right roles now so that by the time
I get to that age, there will be wide
options available. I've got to keep my
do you determine the right role?
story has got to be great, as this story
was, and the script has really got to
come alive and also, the character has
to be right. The character has to be the
right age, has to be original for me as
well as an original character in itself.
So the criteria is all from the story.
and the character Walter are both at the
it ended up symbolizing that, so it didn't
end up being a problem. The voice was
something that we worked on and just the
whole physicality is really what we worked
on primarily. The thing we worked on the
most was how he would look before he met
the uncles. Because the rest of that film
was going to be reactionary towards what
the uncles taught him. He has to react
to these two old men. It's sort of not
so much in his hands anymore once he goes
to the uncles because they're changing
him. And the only control you would have
over Walter is who he was before he walked
on stage I guess. We'd have to begin with
a character and he would change as the
film went on.
does the title mean to you?
represents all the characters on that
farm. The farm is a place where you have
a herd of mutt dogs and you have a lion
that's been cast off from the zoo. You
have a pig that barely escaped going to
the bacon factory and you have this kid
who's this pathetic castoff with no convictions
and no desires and everything. He's just
sort of this weak person, and these two
old men who feel like they have outlived
their time. It's all these people who
separately have sort of fallen out of
who they should be, and together these
three main characters, they teach each
other that they still matter. Walter lets
these two old men know that they still
have something to live for and they in
turn teach him how to be a man. They teach
him how to count as a person and how to
live life the right way.
you have strange relatives?
Yeah, I mean, there was a lot of places
from which I could draw research for what
he goes through in this film, and everybody
has their eccentric relatives that you
spend the summer with sometimes and I
have a fairly large family, so just that
feeling I think I could draw on for this
film. And then on the role model part,
of course I have my parents who youre
supposed to look up to. Thats the
sad part about Walter is that he doesnt
have that first step. He doesnt
have role models that he can aspire to
until he goes to meet the uncles. So,
I guess it was working backwards from
my knowledge of knowing what its
like to have a solid role model and then
reversing that to be Walter at the beginning
of the story.
you nervous about working with a real
Everybody was really nervous about the
lion going crazy and the lion attacking
people, and they had big spiked fences
around during the shooting and guys with
dart guns ready to take the lion out should
it attack anybody, and it never gave us
any problems. It was more well behaved
than the pig. There were three lions.
And so they did some lion makeup to make
them look similar, and they worked very
effectively together. They were each trained
to do a separate thing. One followed commands,
one hit their marks. It was pretty amazing.
your view on acting changed since you
Every time I do a project, you learn new
things and I think you appreciate acting
more every time. I just really have understood
more about the details behind it. While
working with Michael and Robert, I really
understood the intricacies behind what
they were doing I guess a little bit more
than had I done it a couple years ago.
And thats a credit to the films
Ive done before because I learned
how to observe in the films before and
now Im absorbing information whenever
I can. And on top of the acting part,
the technical part of filmmaking, I really
watched carefully this time. Jack Green,
the cinematographer, allowed me to really
watch how they were shooting this movie
and I just really got really involved
in watching how they were executing the
film which has always been really interesting
your friends treat you differently because
youre an actor?
I think they got it from the start. All
I had to do was be myself and it was up
to them to get what it was all about and
they did. They understood that it wasnt
about the acting so much, it was just
about how we related at school and everything.
Acting is not a factor on campus. Its
not something that Im doing there.
Its not a part of my life there,
so they just treat me like the person
you watch normal teen movies like Jackdonkey
or Rob Schneider?
Luckily, a lot of my friends, were
big into films and a wide range of films.
A lot of my really close friends have
really good film tastes. Weve been
watching all the classics and really good
quality films. I saw a lot of independent
films last year. We hit the Laemmle [art
house theater] as much as possible seeing
the documentaries and everything. Luckily,
I met a lot of kids who have really advanced
tastes in filmmaking. I went to go see
Together with a really good friend of
mine a couple weeks ago. Were trying
to see it all, I guess, so yeah. Even
though its obvious that some of
those cheaper entertainment films get
a lot of audiences, I guess, simply because
its easy to be entertained by that.
And being 15, you can be entertained by
something like that.
I did not see Jackdonkey. Its harder
for me because its just obvious
how cheap that humor can be and how its
making it harder for good films to be
successful. Its harder for important
and deep films to get recognition because
theyre sort of being crowded out
by cheap [ones].
you worried about competition for Secondhand
It doesnt worry me. Im confident
with the quality of the film. And back
to those other films, I dont have
a problem seeing those films. I just regret
that theyre taking attention away
from other films. Its an unfair
environment out there because were
exploiting teenage thrills and everything
too much I guess. I don't think were
following up as well as the generation
before us with the films that we enjoy.
I think the 70s probably has beat
us out so far with the type of films that
the kids back then were enjoying hopefully.
But I think there is hope though. I think
there is a group of people out there.
If the right films are out there, I think
we will find that the hope is not lost.
you taking another break now?
Until another script comes along, yeah.
Thats what happened with Secondhand
Lions. We waited for the right script
to be available and this had perfect timing.