Interview with Haley Joel Osment : Part 1
Chia . Researched by Fair
have been a fan of Haley Joel Osment since 2002, ever since I saw his astounding
performance as mecha David Swinton in Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
Since then, I have had the privilege to run not one, but 4 Tribute sites dedicated
to this young actor, www.comeawayohumanchild.net for A.I. , www.haleyjoelosment.info
, www.secondhandlions.net and now www.homeofthegiants.com . Never in my wildest
dreams did I ever imagine that I would one day have the chance to interview Haley,
but on the 17th of July 2007 at 12 noon L.A. time, Haley not only granted me an
exclusive interview with him about Home of the Giants, he devoted a whole hour
and a half discussing with me not only Home of the Giants, but his past film experiences,
his passions in life, and his thoughts for the future. It was not just an interview,
it was a conversation, and it left me respecting this young man so much more.
As you savour the transcript of the interview, you will understand why. Every
effort was put in to accurately capture each word said by Haley, every nuance,
and I am happy to tell you that this transcript was approved by Haley and SymPics
International, Inc with NO EDITS at all. This is Haley truly unscripted, unedited,
indepth, and best of all, real. No spin has been put on anything that Haley said,
what you read is straight from Haley's lips, and I dare say that there has never
been a more indepth interview with Haley every published before this. I am indebted
to Haley Joel Osment for his generosity of time and sharing, Home of the Giants
director Rusty Gorman for making this interview possible, Meredith Fine of Coast
to Coast Talent Group, SymPics International, Inc for all the hard work put in,
and Fair, for all the support and incredible research work done. The transcript
of this interview is being released in 3 parts over 7 days starting 9th September
2007. This transcript is © 2007 by www.homeofthegiants.com
you have been very busy the past few months, how was your experience at the Zlin
Film Festival in Czech Republic?
: It was terrific. I had never been to the Czech Republic before. I had spent
some time in other countries in Eastern Europe like Poland and briefly in Slovakia,
but I had never been to the Czech side of the border, so going to the city of
Prague which was just fantastic was a very memorable experience. The festival
itself, which was in Zlin, about three hours east of Prague, was just terrific.
It's a part of the world and a part of that country that I don't think a lot of
people will have the chance to visit, except for something like this. Its history,
and its culture, is just extraordinary.
just been to Zlin, and you also attended the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy not
too long ago, what is it that you find so compelling about film festivals for
Haley : I think
especially today it's become even more important for us to introduce children
into the world of films, because we are going to be depending on them to define
that part of our culture in the future. I think that the reason I've gone to Giffoni
and to Zlin is been because I really care about giving these kids the chance to
have the right introduction into film and seeing how these festivals are run,
personally being there myself, their potential really excites me, because you
meet a lot of young kids there, in parts of the world that I may not have had
the chance to go to otherwise. That really encourages me about the future of film,
I think, especially in foreign countries. You know, more and more, film is not
just a Hollywood thing, we're seeing excellent output from all continents and
it's really exciting.
you are very right about that. I come from Singapore myself, and truly, your films
are really far reaching, as far flung as Netherlands, China, UK and Australia,
you have fans everywhere, and it's amazing that your films cross cultures and
cross borders. Is this trend of your supporting festivals like these something
you want to continue in the future?
: Definitely, and I hope to be taking films like Home of the Giants to places
such as these in the future. I've primarily done most of my publicity for films
in the United States, but more and more, I think it's important to give fans who
have supported this film from all over the world, to show them how much we appreciate
them supporting these films. We talked about the Tribute sites to A.I. and everything,
and we really depend on fans like you guys to make the films what they are, and
so I think it's always been a big passion of mine to give every location equal
opportunity in supporting the film.
very heartening for us to hear, especially for us fans outside the USA. You are
also very well known for having a compassionate heart, and the number of causes
and charities you continue to support is something your fans admire and respect
about you the most. During these cynical times, and despite your busy careers
both scholastically and professionally, you seem to be going against the grain
by giving back even more.... what does it mean to you to set that kind of example?
: Well, I think it's something that I really credit my parents for instilling
me with, a sense of gratefulness for the opportunities I've had, and sort of a
mission to give back because of those opportunities. I really have been very pleased
with a lot of these charities that I've had interaction with in the past couple
of years, and on top of that, I really want to increase my interaction with these
charities and with others. I've had long relationships with the Motion Picture
and Television Fund in California, and just recently, the Blind Childrens Center
in Hollywood and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which
I got involved with last year. All these are excellent charities which I really
want to redouble my efforts with, because the older I get and the more experience
I have in this world, the more I see the importance of working with these charities.
You described very accurately that we live in cynical and selfish times, and it's
unfortunate because we are faced with greater challenges, I think, than any time
previously in history, from all fronts, so I really see that perhaps an answer
to these problems we are facing, is people getting involved with charity and just
generally looking outside themselves to do some good.
The website can help, and we are going to add links to these various charities
that you've just mentioned, and if we can help create a little awareness for these
charities through the Tribute sites, that would be great.
: I really appreciate that.
just our way of giving back to you, because we see you giving so much, and it's
something we really respect about you.
the time since you first spoke, "Big would be an understatement"
that was a long time ago, Haley
: Yeah! [laughs]
scope of your career has been very broad and diverse. From TV sitcoms, to an exceptional
bit of voice work on "The Little Prince" audio CD, to your heartrending
performance in "A.I. Artificial Intelligence", to the wildly popular
"Kingdom Hearts" video game series. How important is it for you as an
actor to be able to adapt your skill to such a wide range of media and projects?
: Oh I think that anybody in any profession these days will tell you that
diversification is important when you are talking about any sort of business,
basically, but with the actor, the advantage is that the diversity isn't important
with regards to money or anything, it's more of an artistic diversification. For
me, being involved with video media and television and voiceover and all that,
for me, the best part about that is my growth as an actor and just being able
to be part of all those different worlds. The production environment for all those
different media is very different, it's challenging in different ways for the
actor, and for me, that's a key part of being the best artist that I can be.
we "connect the dots" to your career, it seems like you have been very
deliberate in not limiting yourself, and along with everything mentioned previously,
you have also done voice work for the "anime" series, IGPX. With Hollywood
slowly evolving in order to keep up with the "media on demand" public,
just how conscious are you of trying to keep ahead of the curve so that you remain
experienced and open to future projects from any source?
: Well, one thing that I am confident about is that quality products are never
going to go out of style. We do have to work very hard in the entertainment industry
to keep ahead of the curve, and to stay relevant and to live up to people's expectation
with the speed and complexity of technology and entertainment today. But I look
forward to the future in that sense, with all the challenges that come at us,
with different technology that's being produced today, but also the opportunity
for sharing in the arts and entertainment is just tremendous. In being part of
these different projects, for me, that's hopefully the first step in exploring
as many opportunities in this entertainment industry that I possibly can.
is obvious from your choice of projects that you seek to be a well rounded actor,
as I am sure that makes for a more satisfying career. Do you feel that exploring
such a wide range of projects serves your talent best, because of the fluidity
of experience gained from such varied performances?
: I do think so. For example, in working with voiceover, it really allows
you to become very attuned to your voice, just how you express your character
using only one part of yourself. On film and television, you have the advantage
of being able to use all of yourself to communicate something, because people
can see you as well as hear you. But when you are dealing with animation or any
sort of voiceover, it's very much a challenge to give people the same experience
using only your voice, so I think that's definitely helped with everything, just
having that little focus on the voice.
first part of your career seemed to be geared toward comedy, as you got to showcase
your great sense of comedic timing in various TV sitcoms, and your bittersweet
performance in a magical film like "Bogus". What has remained with you,
or what do you draw upon the most, from those early experiences?
: You mentioned some very important things already, with the sense of timing,
and I think, working in television, on sitcoms and everything, at an early age
really aided me in getting a handle on comic timing and everything involved with
that. It's said frequently, and I would agree with that myself, that comedy is
much harder to pull off than drama [laughs]. So, being a part of those environments,
you know, everything from my earliest sitcom Thunder Alley, to a show like Murphy
Brown, with people who are really veterans, you know, just really impressive people
in that sense, I was very privileged to be a part of that, because it played into
everything that I have done, and not just comedy, just the sense of timing and
the sense of playing off of others in that environment, it was advantageous to
any actor to have.
The more well
known part of your career is focused more toward dramatic roles, with the kind
of intensity and depth usually reserved for adult actors. "The Sixth Sense"
seemed to set the current standard for young actors today, and "A.I. Artificial
Intelligence" provided the opportunity to be a part of something very deep
and meaningful that involved two legendary directors. How will such high expectations
and wondrous experiences help to motivate you in your future performances?
: Well, for me, those films in that part of my career effectively raised my
standards for the stuff that I wanted to be a part of, and the performances that
I wanted to give. Working on stories by M Night Shyamalan and Steven Spielberg
was really a transformative period for me. I had been lucky enough to have had
some years of experience before those films, but for me, those characters approached
a level of complexity that I hadn't really experienced before, entirely. After
doing those films, for me, I just felt my overall level of experience being improved
in ways that I had never really thought possible. Working with directors of their
talent, in such close proximity to one another was really a marvelous couple of
years, and I look forward to using what I had learned in those films on roles
that I have done recently and in the future.
difficult as it might be to believe, it has been eight years since "The Sixth
Sense" and all that went with it. That film seems to be the natural dividing
line between the early and later parts of your career, and marked your emergence
as a dramatic actor. With so many memories directly associated with that film,
how do you feel about the experience today, as opposed to when you were right
in the middle of it back then?
: You know, I think experiences that were that positive, and so much fun,
and full of so many great artistic opportunities for me, I think that I remember
them almost clearer than most other parts of my life, because there are so many
emotional imprints I think from that period that sort of bring me back very easily.
Even though it was eight years ago since we shot that film, I still have some
very clear and fond memories of working on it, and other people I was lucky enough
to work with on those projects. So for me, the emotional imprints of films like
those are very important for working on future projects, because you sort of have
a landmark for yourself of getting to certain levels of not just intensity, but
of reality and believability, I guess, within a character, remembering how certain
things felt on that film, and on films that came after it, for me is something
I always keep in mind to challenge myself on future projects.
film that came immediately after that was "Pay It Forward", and what
does it mean to you knowing that the film is being used in schools and churches
as a means to inspire, and that inspiration has allowed the actual pay it forward
movement to continue in many different ways around the world?
: It is very inspiring to continually hear about the positive things that
film has helped to create. I think Pay It Forward might be a film that I hear
almost the most vignettes about from people in public. When I speak to people
at events or just out in public sometimes, that's a film I hear almost constantly,
because I think it's something that really touched people who saw that film, and
this is the reason for me wanting to do that film, because I thought that it was
important for people to see. Film is a unique marriage of art and entertainment,
and that film had a compelling story that's artistic merit would inspire people
to take stock of themselves and their own lives, and whatever good that film has
done was very rewarding for me to have done it for.|
film that I think was very important to you, but was not treated very well, was
"Edges of the Lord".
It was finally
released on DVD a couple of years ago, after sitting on the shelf for close to
five years; did that at least give you some closure knowing that the film is available
for those that choose to seek it out?
: It does
you know, at least it did get out on DVD. It was sad for those
of us who were part of the production, because I think it was a story that definitely
deserved a theatrical release. You know, that's just the way things work sometimes.
The entertainment industry is very complicated in terms of distribution, and the
business side of it. Sometimes for various reasons, projects just don't get the
chance that they deserve. So it was disappointing in that sense, but just having
been a part of that story, and working in that environment and with those actors
who were part of that story was reason enough for me to do it, even if it didn't
go to places that I had hoped. The experience itself was really life-changing,
because I went to a remote part of Poland at the age of 12 years old for about
four months, with very few people who spoke English, I guess, and by the end of
that project, I felt that I had matured in many ways that I hadn't dreamed of
before, just being a part of that challenging environment. It definitely started
my interest and passion in working in locales like that, and I really hope to
work in the future in locations that may not be considered so common.
collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg resulted in the amazing
"A.I. Artificial Intelligence", and you were Mr. Spielberg's first and
last choice for the lead role of "David". The depth of the film continues
to inspire worthwhile discussion, the fans literally discussed the film nonstop
for three whole years, and till today, I still receive lots of comments about
the film, and lots of questions about it. One basic universal truth about the
film is that your performance was equal to the genius of those two iconic directors.
What does it mean to you to have been so closely involved with those two legends
Haley : It was a dream
come true, really, and as I have gotten older, and my interest in filmmaking has
developed, I would say one of my primary goals right now is writing and directing
my own material, it only enhances how grateful I am to have worked on that project,
because it really was a once in a lifetime union of those two filmmakers' concepts,
with Kubrick and Spielberg. As I have gotten older, I think the filmmaking vision
that I would aspire to go by would probably be most closely aligned with those
two directors', out of all the films I've seen. I really appreciate your valuing
my performance that much, because it was humbling to have been a part of that
story. From the first time I read the script, it was just such an enormous concept
to be a part of. As an actor, the only thing you can do in that situation is just
focus on the reality of the character. It would be easy to be carried away by
that enormity of the context in which that performance belongs, but just by focusing
on that one individual character's interactions with the other characters in the
story, I think, its what allowed me to do the best that I could in that situation.
Steven's a wonderful director because he has so much responsibility and control
over so many parts of the films that he works on, but in his handling of each
individual facet of the film, he is so down to earth and rational. He works with
a consistent group of crew members, I think because he runs a program that just
makes sense, more than most people in this field. His experience and his inherent
talent have just allowed him to create a filmmaking atmosphere that is more streamlined
and creatively fertile than most people in the field. To be 12 years old and to
be on that set was just a terrific honor and it's inspired me to hopefully bring
my experience in this field to a point where I can use it in some form of filmmaking
in the future.
We certainly look
forward to that. I think it's a given that many people regarded your performance
in "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" as worthy of an Oscar. Not just worthy
of an Oscar nomination, but worthy of the Oscar for that year. Of course, being
a child actor, unfortunately, sometimes you get overlooked for such things, but
many of us believed that the Oscar was yours that year. I hope that means something
to you, that people still think of that and still regard the performance that
you did so highly.
Haley : Thank
you. That is very kind of you.
interesting that you mentioned Steven Spielberg working consistently with a group
of cast and crew, because he has this consistent way of working. Does he still
keep in touch with you? I believe he does
: He does. Outside of the work environment, that's one of the most impressive
things about Steven, that he does really keep in contact. My family receives holiday
greetings from him every year, and I've spoken with him numerous times over the
years since we worked on A.I. He's very much a family man, and very much a humanist.
He does films because he is very sensitive to the human condition, and that shows
itself in how much he cares about the people that he works with, and how much
he looks after and keeps in touch with the people that he's had experiences with.
I think he's one of the most important people that we have in the entertainment
industry, and it's because he crosses so many different mediums, and so many different
sides of filmmaking. He's just a truly inspiring figure.
look forward to the day that you get to work with him again.
: [laughs] I do too. I hope so! [laughs]
believe that day will come. "Secondhand Lions" provided the opportunity
to work with two legendary actors, as well as the chance to revisit some of the
lighter moments from your early career, and reminded us of just how "complete"
you are as an actor. Being mainly known as a dramatic actor since the success
of "The Sixth Sense", how important was it for you to show that you
are also quite capable of handling lighter, less serious material?
: It was important for me as a performer and for me, I thought it was also
important that films with wider appeal to different age groups had a chance in
theatres. I think as we go on these days, there are great family films that get
out there, but overall, I think there's a less of a focus on films that are entertaining
for people of all ages, and Secondhand Lions, reading that script from writer
and director Tim McCanlies, I saw an opportunity to do something that would give
families a chance to go out and see something together in the theatre, as well
as an opportunity for me to work with two of my favorite actors, ever! [laughs]
That was worth the experience all by itself.
A.I. came out, there was some discussion about people being surprised at how much
it was not a kids' film, because people saw Spielberg's name and incorrectly assumed
that it would be a film to take all the kids to, and A.I. was not a kid's film.
It dealt with some very serious and intense themes. The fact that it was released
in the year 2001, which I think can be historically judged as a vast turning point
for our country and for the entire world, I think A.I. made a lot of people uncomfortable
about how transcendent it was and how much it dealt with themes that I think even
in the few years since it's come out have already started to become apparent.
So I think that for me, balancing that sort of film with a film that is timeless,
the story of carrying on tradition and family values, for me it was something
that took on a simpler side than A.I. A.I. was a visionary film by two visionary
directors, and this film was a film that was a little closer to home, I think.
choice of films has been very specific, and one of the notable markers of your
career is that you do not accept just any old script that comes along. Given how
"image" conscious Hollywood is, how do you balance the trade-off of
not remaining in the media spotlight and more public recognition that comes with
a new film, to staying true to your art as an actor by agreeing only to those
projects that resonate with you the most, but perhaps inhibit the ease of acceptance
by the media and public?
Right. You know, times are changing. Just the exposure that can be garnered by
individuals these days is something that I don't think I could have imagined even
five or six years ago, just the constant surveillance of certain celebrities,
and the certain speed at which the business propels itself along these days. For
me, my focus has always been working on projects because of the merit of the story,
because of the artistic quality of the project. For me that means not taking every
script that comes along. Sometimes you have to wait for the right one to come
along. Between Secondhand Lions in 2003 and Home of the Giants, my father and
I read a lot of scripts that came our way, and it took until Home of the Giants
to find a project that was true to itself, a film that was the right follow up.
At this age, it's important to have the proper trajectory of those roles, you
know, not to repeat roles that are too similar, or to choose roles just for the
sake of working.
I did focus a lot these
past couple of years on school. I finished High School last year, and I'm about
to go back to my sophomore year at NYU, so that was something that kept me even
busier than when I was working on films [laughs]. But I think it's better to choose
the right path of films, whatever pays, than to just work on everything, and I
think it's truly going to pay off looking back at the films I've done over the
past couple of years, and the ones I'm slated to do soon. By choosing the right
trajectory of advancement in the age of the characters, and the types of stories
that I'm doing. I've been very happy with how things have gone, and that's it.
What you just said has lot to do with my next question, because being a well-celebrated
young actor does not preclude you from the daunting task every kid actor must
face, that being the transition from child actor to adult actor. Each of the roles
you accepted in the past have all pointed in the direction of your making that
transition, as each new character progressed in age right along with you. With
such a deliberate mapping to help chart your course, can you please comment on
how you feel the transition is going, how difficult it has been for you, and how
do you see your career now that you are starting to emerge on the other side?
: What I'm most excited about is the potential of the future. I really credit
my father in having steered the correct course for me and my career since I was
a kid, who didn't have the world view to foresee how things should go in coming
years. Now that I've sort of come of age, I really want to carry on what my father
taught me when I was younger, just choosing projects because of their artistic
merit. My father comes from a theatre background, and that was the performance
style he instilled in me as I grew older, not in the technical sense of theatre
acting, but just the honesty and the singularity of the connection between an
actor and his audience. That sort of experience is what I've sought out in films,
and that has really been the reason for choosing the films I've done. Now that
I've had the experiences that I've had, I really feel a great sense of potential
in seeking out new horizons, in writing, and direction, and perhaps even working
in theatre. I'm currently studying experimental theatre in college, and that for
me is gaining crucial experience in working with other actors at this age, to
hopefully get me to a point where I'm capable of controlling my own projects in
the future. And along the way, I will continue with my first love, which is acting.
I have, probably, it's looking like two projects that are going to happen between
the end of this year and the beginning of 2008, and for me every step of the way
has been a positive one.
like that you gave tribute to your father that way, because woven throughout the
rich tapestry of your career, really is the grounding thread of influence your
family has had on your success as an actor. Your father has worn multiple hats
as manager, acting coach, chaperone; you mentioned that as you go on your own
now, what he has taught you is going to stay with you. But how do you think that
the relationship that he has had with you all this time as a child actor, how
is that going to evolve now that you are able to stand on your own?
: Well the real key part of it is that I was mentored by my father not as
a child actor, but as an actor, a developing actor at any age. An excellent product
of learning that way since I was young is that I never intend to get to a point
where I feel like I've learned everything I need to know. I hope to be acting
at a very advanced old age [laughs], and even at that point, even if I am acting
when I'm 90, I hope to never have this sense that I've learned everything there
is to know. As the years go by, the arts really react off what is going on in
the world at large, and we see new complicated themes emerging around us every
day, and that's something we artists are responsible for dealing with, and processing.
I think we're an important part of society that way. We explore and deal with
a lot of the themes that society is confronted with.
something I must mention is that even over the artistic knowledge that I've learned
from my father, both of my parents focused on education. That has been the priority
for me since I was a young kid. That is why we designed the pacing, and the schedule
of my career in a way to give me the maximum possible time in a normal schooling
environment. I went to a public school until the 6th Grade, and went to a regular
High School in my neighborhood from 7th Grade to my senior year of High School.
Being a part of the world is important for an actor, getting real life experience,
and the education that every kid needs to get. Now going to college and continuing
and focusing my education on the Arts is a strategy that I think is really going
to pay off, because education is the greatest wealth that you can have. As I continue
to get older, and during college and beyond, I think that these things are really
going to pay off, because it's definitely given me a lot of courage and ambition
to do the best that I can, and exercise my greatest potential artistically.
you continue the collaborative process that you and your father share when coming
to a consensus about a potential script, or doing the character analysis and preparation
required for a new role? It's been a wonderful collaborative process that has
proven to be so successful in the past. Do you see it continuing now that you
are an adult?
Haley : Well,
like all parts of my career, it's growing and changing and evolving. My father
and I have a different, more developed relationship now than we did 5 years ago,
10 years ago, or 15 years ago, which is almost how long I've been in the business
now [laughs]. He has really taught me to be very self reliant in this business,
he's given me a lot of confidence to trust my instincts in acting and in the business
side of things. Also, he will probably be the person I can trust most in this
business, forever, he's my father, and that sort of family bond is something that
can't be replicated. Even though our relationship may not be exactly the same
as when I was 5, 10 , or 15 years old, that trust and that bond will always continue
to be stronger, that's why I've worked so closely with him. Now, we see that process
happening with my sister too, whose working in television. My dad has worked for
years in theatre, he studied it in college and he has an incredible talent for
sharing his knowledge of acting. He and my mom produced these 2 kids who have
a deep love of the Arts, and it's been incredible to have carried on that tradition
Part 2 of our 3 part interview with Haley Joel Osment, Haley shares with us his
experiences on the Home of the Giants set, and find out why he called being on
the set of Home of the Giants "one giant anecdote" ...