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The Kid Grows Up

  • by Joan Brasher Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 20 Feb
The Kid Grows Up

Puberty is never easy, even when you're a movie star. Just ask Haley Joel Osment, who was the little tike who famously coined the phrase "I see dead people" in The Sixth Sense. Now 15, he's shedding that role as quickly as the costumes he literally outgrew while shooting Secondhand Lions, recently released on video. Osment, who plays the role of Walter, was dubbed "Squeaky" by fellow cast members when his pre-adolescent voice unexpectedly jumped octaves, requiring additional takes.

We talked to Osment shortly before the film released in theaters last year. He looked every bit the polished teenage Hollywood star—and his voice, incidentally, has settled into a lovely alto.

What did you learn from working with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine?Osment: They are really generous actors. They demonstrated how important it was to give a lot of your energy to the other actors in the scene. They are very warm, very caring, and treated everyone equally on the set. That made a big impression on me.Describe Walter's relationship with his mother.Osment: I don't think Walter truly understands his disappointment with his mother until he realizes how good life can be, and what kind of person he can be. He is dependent on his mother at the beginning of the film. He doesn't know anything but her. It takes a shocking experience of being abandoned to show him there are things outside his mother. The theme of the movie is about people who haven't found their place and have been cast off. It shows that everyone does have their place.In the scene where Walter finally hugs Hub and he says, "You're good boy," Mr. Duvall said he ad-libbed that line. Was that an emotional scene for you?Osment: Yeah, that scene was really emotionally charged, and that was one of the most memorable things that happened in that scene, because we were just playing off each other so much. Both of them are reaching an emotional climax through the relationship they have slowly built up, and when they finally open up to each other all that comes pouring out and that line was the result.What does Walter learn in this movie?Osment: You have to put faith in the good things in life—honor, and virtue, all those good principles. You have to see past power and physical prowess and really concentrate on the lasting good things in life and put your faith in them, even when they are not always supported by the world.I understand you are a good student and love to read. What are you reading right now?Osment: Historical novels mostly, because I'm going to be concentrating on history later on in high school and hopefully in college too. I finished the Abraham Lincoln biography, and I was reading some Steven Ambrose earlier this year, so I'm trying to get into that before I start taking the classes.Did you just wake up and realize you were a born actor?Osment: I don't think it's something you are born with completely. I think acting is a skill you have to learn, and I credit my dad, who taught me to act. I think my parents noticed early on that I enjoyed imagining when I was a kid. My dad especially realized that acting could be fun for me. I think acting is something that fosters the manner in which you can be in touch with your emotions, because it makes you experience things you normally would not.What do you do in your free time?Osment: I'm usually running with the cross-country team at my school. That's been a big commitment for me. I play the guitar, I enjoy reading a lot, and just hanging out with friends. I have friends who really understand that I'm just another kid like them. They're not weirded out by the movies.Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.