Every once in a while, a wee prodigy comes onto the silver screen, and our collective jaw drops. Some manage (or are managed) to make it beyond their breakout roles, like Christian Bale (Empire of the Sun), Drew Barrymore (E.T), Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire), and Anna Paquin (The Piano). Not to mention a few megastars who had their break a little bit older. But most don’t stick through beyond their teens. It’s too much, too soon. Lucky for Room’s Jacob Tremblay, his co-star Brie Larson (who plays his mother) is getting more media exposure at the moment. She absolutely cleaned up this awards season, including the Best Actress Oscar.
But Jacob, besides nabbing a few awards himself, has been on Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan – dressing and sounding like a tiny adult. That’s quite a start, I’d say. He might catch up with the big names.
Rising young stars often suffer the pressure of a film’s success depending on them, which can prove too much even for film industry veterans. A box office bomb can be devastating for anyone; but lack of family support and affirmation can have even more dire consequences. Hopefully he’s getting the limits and the love he needs from his parents.
Breakout performance in Room
At times, I think Tremblay’s performance actually upstaged Larson’s in Room, a Canadian-Irish feature directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank). Room comes from a novel by Emma Donoghue, “triggered” by news reports on the Fritzl case in Austria. In it, Joy “Ma” Newsome (Larson) and son Jack (Tremblay) are imprisoned in a shed for several years by a madman. Gradually we learn about the alternate world she created to keep them alive, and how they got there. Gradually the tenderness and strength of their relationship unfolds, along with the horror they live in.
The shoot was quite psychologically demanding: Larson told The Telegraph that the despair became real within their 100 ft² (9.3 mtr²) enclosure. The two co-stars grew very close, and there really was a period of adjustment to interacting with the other actors “out in the world.” The protagonists were quite convincing amid the range of complex emotions they had to portray. Could the characters ever be normal again – and what kinds of emotional residue could such a film leave in its actors? What about in a child actor? (Sorry, no spoilers from me; if you haven’t seen it yet, I’d like you to discover the movie like I did.)
No doubt this kid has an incredible innate talent.
At age 9, and since his 2015 breakout role in the Oscar-nominated indie drama, Jacob Tremblay has acted in 8 productions. One is a horror movie, another a psychological thriller.
Two of his sisters, Emma and Erica, are child actors, too.
For kids, it’s an especially jagged ride up Mount Lee. Says The Atlantic: “At their worst, parents can foist fame on their children in pursuit of achievement by proxy. But… even well-meaning parents, along with the media, often fail to treat the young stars like children first and celebrities second. Meanwhile, many stars amass accolades while they’re adorable pre-teens and then suffer a jarring loss of celebrity once they reach their more awkward teen years.”
There are many odds and variables to overcome, besides the feat of standing out among millions of hopefuls while actually doing an amazing job, no less. But that’s certainly an indication of a potential that could be channeled into a great, long career. If the Tremblay family manages to strike a healthy balance, and Jacob keeps his acting chops and a level head, there’s no telling how far he can go.
Larson could give him some useful tips, as she seems to have handled her career wisely since she herself started as a kid. In fact, the two main acting Oscar winners this year started out pretty young – she and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Catch Jacob and Larson in Room on the big screen, right here in Leipzig. It’s on at 9 tonight (18/05), at Schaubühne Lindenfels. In English with German subtitles.