Babel

 

 

Pan's Labyrinth  

 

Children of Men

 

United 93  

 

Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning
- by George Monbiot

 

Laughter in the Dark
-
by Vladimir Nabokov

 

Lolita
-
by Vladimir Nabokov

 

House of Leaves
-
by Mark Z. Danielewski

 

 

 

.. and still Haley's favorite band....


Radiohead

 

 


Exclusive Interview with Haley Joel Osment : Part 1

Interviewed by Daniel Chia . Researched by Fair and Daniel Chia

I 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

 

Haley, you have been very busy the past few months, how was your experience at the Zlin Film Festival in Czech Republic?

Haley : 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.

 

Having 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 young people?

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.

 

I think 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?

Haley : 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.

 

That's 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?

Haley : 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.

Absolutely. 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.

Haley : I really appreciate that.

It's just our way of giving back to you, because we see you giving so much, and it's something we really respect about you.

In the time since you first spoke, "Big would be an understatement"… that was a long time ago, Haley….

Haley : Yeah! [laughs]

 

… the 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?

Haley : 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.

 

If 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?

Haley : 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.

 

It 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?

Haley : 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.

 

The 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?

Haley : 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?

Haley : 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.

 

As 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?

Haley : 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.

 

The 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?

Haley : 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.

 

One film that I think was very important to you, but was not treated very well, was "Edges of the Lord".

Haley : Right…

 

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?

Haley : 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.

 

The 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 of film?

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.

 

It's 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…

Haley : 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.

 

I look forward to the day that you get to work with him again.

Haley : [laughs] I do too. I hope so! [laughs]

 

I 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?

Haley : 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.

When 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.

 

Your 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?

Haley : 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.

 

Absolutely. 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?

Haley : 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.

 

I really 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?

Haley : 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.

Also 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.

 

Will 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 for them.

Discuss this interview

In 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" ...

 

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