Directors that are good with child actors

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brad Eisenhauer, Jan 24, 2003.

  1. Brad Eisenhauer

    Brad Eisenhauer Stunt Coordinator

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    I was watching Unbreakable just the other evening and noted the very solid performance turned in by Spencer Treat Clark in that film. It occurred to me that Shyamalan got at least solid performances out of young actors in Signs and of course The Sixth Sense, in which Haley Joel Osment gave a spectacular performance, as well. At the other end of the spectrum you have Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker.

    I don't want to start yet another Lucas-bashing thread, but how much of this is attributable to the directors' skill, or lack thereof, in working with young actors? With the exception of Spencer Treat Clark's performance in Gladiator, I haven't seen any other work from the actors listed above, so I can't judge anything based on their natural talent.

    I can imagine that getting a performance out of a child-actor would be a different task than getting a performance out of an adult. So, does Shyamalan have a knack for doing so, or just for finding good child-actors? Or possibly both? Do any other directors come to mind as being particularly good with child-actors?
     
  2. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    I don't think that Jake Lloyd was THAT bad as he's made out to be by many people. I'd say that much if not all of the lack of a performance comes from Lucas (Liam Neeson seemed to also be lacking a performance in the film) who I don't think actually directs any actors, at least not any more.

    Adam
     
  3. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    I think Speilberg is a great director with children. Back to the ET days all the way to the present. He seems to be very good at getting a strong performance out of his child actors.

    I think you definately have to be a good 'actor' director to work with children and to get a performance out of them. Since they are so young, so inexperienced, you need to drive their performance. You simply can't leave it up to them to figure out everything that their character is going through, or the gravity of the situation. They are just happy to land on the the right "X" on the floor when the director says action.

    Now I would love to be on the set of a Michael Bay picture staring a kid as he directs. That should make for some interesting behind the scenes stuff. [​IMG] "F**k no kid. I told you to stay behind the f**king line so you don't get your f**king arm blown off by the f**king squibs. Now say your f**king line as if a B2 bomber is buzzing you god damn head....ACTION." [​IMG]
     
  4. Michael Hall

    Michael Hall Stunt Coordinator

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  5. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Spielberg is pretty much the defacto standard on directors working with kids. I really think there is no one else who comes close (except maybe Shyamalan, who is constantly compared to Spielberg).

    Even in Goonies, where Dick Donner directed, some of the best performances from the kids were days when Spielberg was on set.

    -Vince
     
  6. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    There's Chris Colombus, too. Sure, he's responsible for inflicting Home Alone upon us, but he did pretty darn good work in the Harry Potter movies.
     
  7. chung_sotheby

    chung_sotheby Supporting Actor

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    I would count in Lasse Hallstrom, with Cider House, My Life as a Dog, and some smaller child parts in Gilbert Grape and Chocolat.
    Maybe the best ever acting by a group of young actors was in Stand by Me, directed by Rob Reiner. The movie still hits an emotional chord for me because River Phoenix died before his time, as did the charater he played in the film
    Also, not sure if he counts, but John Hughes did a hell of a job of directing kids/young adults in all those 80's flicks
    Also, Fellini had a knack of directing children, even though they never had really huge parts. But certain parts of 8 1/2 still utterly amaze me, especially when Guido has the flashbacks to his childhood.
     
  8. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    The name that came immedietly to me is Robert Mulligan and To Kill a Mockingbird, Summer of '42 (little bit older kids) and my favorite The Man in the Moon with a 14 year old Reese Witherspoon. He obviously was successful with them all.
     
  9. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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  10. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  11. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Both Osment and Spencer Treat Clark have shown their talent to be equally as good in their other work. However, the performances of the two kids in Signs are exellent as well so if Night isn't responsible for the great child acting, he far from hampers it. Just a great all around talent, IMO.

    And while Chris Columbus' direction is rather uninspired overall he's one of the best director of children there is. I've never see a bad performance by a kid in any of the films he's directed.
     

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