Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Talking with Actor Zachary Gordon, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid Movie"

Today, Purple Pencil Adventures talks with 12-year-old actor Zachary Gordon, who plays the title role in the movie, based on Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The movie opens March 19th.
What made you decide to go into acting?
It was a complete accident how I got into acting. A friend of mine asked me in September 2005, if I would like to go to one of his acting classes before school started. I asked my mom and dad if I could and they said, "Sure, if you want to." So I went to this one acting class for 45 minutes. ... Basically the class was about 15 kids acting crazy and jumping all over the place, but the teacher managed to video about 60 seconds of each kid doing some lines. That was it.

In November, my mom and dad got a call from the acting teacher (that she remembered me) asking if it would be okay for her to send a head-shot picture of me to the casting director at Universal for an upcoming movie. Of course we didn't know that she had already sent pictures of every other kid she knew. My mom and dad asked me if I was interested in doing that, and I said, "sure." So they took out the camera and starting shooting pictures of my head in the backyard. We sent some pictures to the teacher, and she submitted the one she liked the best and guess what? I got the part. I started working on my first movie in 2006, and I have been acting ever since.

Do you keep a diary … um, journal? Why or why not?
I didn't really think about it until I read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Well, at one time I tried to keep a journal, but I get very busy at times and there isn't always time to remember to write in my journal. Once I started skipping too many days or forgetting to write in my journal, I basically didn't continue. It actually is a great idea. If you write things down that happen to you, it makes it easier for you to recall them or remember them later on, especially if you want to write something about them, like a story, script, etc, or even a book about a diary? As [my character] Greg Heffley says: "I figure later on when I'm rich and famous, I'll have better things to do than answer people's stupid questions all day long. So this book is gonna come in handy."

What was it like to turn a popular book character into a real person?
It was exciting and scary at the same time. The role of Greg Heffley is one of the most challenging characters to play, especially for a kid. This is because there is actually no character guide to follow. The only information for describing Greg's character you get is from reading his own thoughts and side comments in the books because Greg is the narrator and writer of his own journal. It was important for me to turn Greg from a cartoon to a real live person who the audience can connect with and even identify with, in some ways. There are parts of Greg in all of us.

Everyone had their own ideas about Greg: from the director to the producers to the author, and they weren't the same ideas. Greg is complex. He is a likeable "jerk" ... years ahead of his age, shrewd, always trying to figure out how to get ahead and "fit in". It was very important to all of us that in taking Greg from printed character to real life that we stay true to the book, but I needed to add the emotional connection. You wouldn't get that connection if the movie had been animated instead. Live action really brings the whole story to "life."

If you read the author's accounting of the movie, you will find out that 20th Century Fox and the author looked for more than a year to find someone to play Greg Heffley. Starting in March of 2008, they auditioned all the Hollywood kid-actors and then started open calls and had videos sent to them from all over the world. I was told that more than 25,000 kids auditioned for the role of Greg Heffley. I wasn't able to audition at first, as I was working on another movie. Finally my agent set up my audition in February 2009. I was called by the director Thor Freudenthal at the end of May last year and told I got the part. The author, Jeff Kinney, also called and told me that I "nailed the part" of Greg.

What was your favorite part of doing this movie? The greatest challenge?

Oh, it was long days of shooting, we started in August and finished the 3rd week of October. It was unusual, but I was in each and every day of shooting. I didn't have time off like the other actors did. There are so many fun parts in this movie.

I loved the Halloween scenes. We shot most of the scenes after midnight. We did a lot of running and at one point I get dumped with about 20 gallons of water. The water was warm, but the outside temperature was about 45 degrees and at 1:00 am, it was very challenging to shoot and that scene we got in one take. It was crazy, but fun, and the scenes came out great.

Practicing for the wrestling scenes was also fun, but challenging, for me because I get banged around on the mat a lot for the most part and had to learn to fall properly.

What are some of your favorite books/authors?

I like the Harry Potter Books, the Persey Jackson Books, I enjoyed Eragon and others.

How do you balance acting with school and other activities?
It is hard as you have to be schooled on the set everyday before or after shooting. When I am back at school, I have to be somewhat invisible and blend in. It is easier when I am doing voice-over, TV shows, or local filming because I am not gone but a few days at a time. But when I go overseas, or film a longer time, it is a tough juggling act.

I like to be a kid, so once I am done acting, I am done acting and get together with my friends, play basketball, and other sports.

What’s next?

I love acting and movie making. I am currently on a publicity tour for 3 weeks for Fox and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Movie, which opens at theaters this Friday, March 19th. The tour is very exciting. I also just finished doing Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, and am working on In Search of Santa Paws, where I reprise my role from Santa Buddies playing "Puppy Paws." I am contracted for sequels for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, as the movie is successful. I have another movie and a pilot on hold until I get back from the publicity tour. We will just see what happens.....

Any advice for young creative people?
Follow your dreams! ... Do what you are passionate about, whatever journey that takes you on.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice interview. This kid sounds beyond his years which is why Fox choose him to play the star (Greg Heffley)

    Saw the trailers but not the movie yet, but you look good in the trailers, so I am assuming you will look better in the movie. Can't wait to see the movie. Great actors, great story...