24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Child stars

Meet 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark's' young star, Bailee Madison

August 29, 2011 | 11:49 am

Perched on a couch with her legs tucked under her, 11-year-old Bailee Madison was excitedly recounting her time filming the new movie “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” when her mother leaned over a banister in their Toluca Woods home and shouted: “Can I interrupt?”

“Bai,” began Patricia Riley, halting her daughter's interview, “I think you should tell her about Alex's Lemonade. Because it's really cool how your little friends are helping with your charity.”

Bailee paused, seeming momentarily frustrated by the suggestion. But within seconds, a smile was back on her face and she started extolling the virtues of a charity focused on childhood cancer for which she is a national spokesperson.

“Something my mom and I have always said to each other is: ‘We’re not here for interviews. We’re not here to get your picture taken,’ ” the soon-to-be sixth-grader said. “ ‘We’re here to make a difference, and this is our opportunity to.’ ”

These days, though, Bailee is in fact sitting for plenty of interviews and photo shoots, and seems to have a preternatural poise that many industry veterans would envy. Then again, she’s already got more than a decade of experience in front of cameras — she appeared in her first commercial at only 2 weeks old and had a recurring role on Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.”

On the big screen, she’s worked alongside some of the biggest celebrities in show business — Adam Sandler in “Just Go With It,” Natalie Portman in “Brothers” and now Katie Holmes in “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” a horror film that opened Friday.

Endlessly perky, distractingly adorable, incredibly well-behaved and devoutly Christian, Bailee fields questions with an adult aplomb. Ask her whose career she hopes to emulate, and she responds:

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How much was 'Super 8' influenced by 1980s films? J.J. Abrams and the stars weigh in [Video]

June 12, 2011 | 12:47 pm

As audiences turn out to see "Super 8" this weekend, the movie has attracted not just younger audiences but adults nostalgic for the popular 1980s films the J.J. Abrams project evokes.

Indeed, such movies -- including producer Steven Spielberg's "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," Rob Reiner's "Stand By Me" and Richard Donner's "The Goonies" -- were of such importance to Abrams that the studio had the young stars of "Super 8" watch them before production began on the film.

"Paramount had us watch those movies because so many of the references J.J. made were to those movies," explained one of the film's kid stars, 14-year-old Ryan Lee, at the movie's premiere in Westwood Wednesday evening.  "And after we would watch those movies, we’d be like, ‘Ohhh, that makes sense now.’"

As 15-year-old Joel Courtney, who has the largest role of any teen in the film, came to understand it:  "‘E.T.’ kind of brings a little bit of sci-fi to it. ‘Goonies’ brings that group of kids to it. And ‘Jaws’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ brings that terror to it."

But when asked what Abrams wanted his child stars to take away from the '80s movies, the filmmaker had a different point of view.

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Justin Bieber at the 'Never Say Never' premiere: 'I want to act' [Video]

February 9, 2011 |  7:00 am

You could hear the shrieking from blocks away.

Thousands of girls, decked out in glittery tops and toting camera phones, made the pilgrimage to L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles on Monday night in hopes of spotting their pint-sized teen idol: Justin Bieber.

Hours before the premiere of "Never Say Never," the new documentary that follows the pop star on his recent concert tour, the hordes were already waiting outside the Nokia Theatre. Many didn't even have tickets. Some said they wanted to catch a glimpse of the singer with the infamous hairdo; others simply seemed to be enjoying the idea of indulging in Bieber Fever alongside fellow "Beliebers."

This Justin Bieber movie premiere was not -- could not -- be like any other movie premiere.

The carpet was purple, not red, in honor of the teen icon's favorite color. Bleachers were erected so more fans could get a glimpse of the action. Tween-friendly music from artists including Miley Cyrus, Willow Smith and, of course, Bieber himself blasted over the stereo system. And a team of cameramen was dispatched to follow Bieber's every move, so that fans at home could watch him throughout the night via Livestream. 

The event was a family affair for many of the celebrities in Hollywood -- "Glee's" Jane Lynch brought her children to the movie, as did rapper Diddy and Bieber's mentor Usher. It was also populated by a slew of kid actors, all dressed like they were heading to prom.

Bieber was constantly surrounded by a mass of humanity, all shoving their way into his line of vision. But he never lost his cool, smiling nonchalantly and keeping an even pace as he made his way down the carpet, where he was barraged with a slew of questions about his rumored girlfriend, Disney star Selena Gomez. [More from Bieber below, after our video interview.]

Bieber told us he's interested in acting in a feature.

"I'm gonna start doing more movies -- start getting more scripts and start finding some things that I really wanna do," the 16-year-old said.

And what would that be, exactly? Manager Scooter Braun elaborated, saying the singer had been itching to team up with Will Ferrell.

"He knows every line from every Will Ferrell skit on 'SNL' and every movie. In fact, he did a whole interview once just quoting Will Ferrell," Braun said.

It's no surprise that Bieber wants to take on a character outside of himself. In "Never Say Never," audiences quickly learn that Bieber would rather do just about anything than talk about or examine himself. (We witnessed this first-hand last spring when we spent the day with the teen, who seemed less than interested in sitting down for an in-depth interview: "Justin Bieber & Co.") 

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Child actors, young and all grown up

August 21, 2010 | 12:59 pm

ThomasOn the large billboards plastered all over town promoting this weekend's release of "The Switch," A-listers Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman are touted as the film's main attraction.

But according to many critics, the real star of the romantic comedy is Thomas Robinson, an 8-year-old Valley Village resident who plays Jennifer Aniston's precocious and endearingly neurotic son.

In her review of the film this week, Times critic Betsy Sharkey praised the actor's "excellent job" in the movie, calling him "talented and adorably soulful."

After spending a night observing Thomas during his first big Hollywood movie premiere earlier this week, we can vouch for that. Thomas -- who was only 6 when he filmed "The Switch" -- is about as un-Hollywood as it gets. Too shy to speak to reporters on the red carpet, he timidly posed for pictures and attended the premiere's swanky after-party, where he sat with his family for about an hour before asking his mom if they could go home. (Check out this photo diary of his big night.) What struck us most about him is how much he truly seemed to embody the character he plays in the movie: honest and even a little sad.

Bateman echoed that sentiment: "I don't want to take anything away from his acting talent, but he was similar to that part in his sweetness and kindness and his accessibility," the actor told us in an interview earlier this year.

Of course, Thomas is only one of the young actors who has popped up on the big screen this summer, when it seems there have been a wave of strikingly naturalistic and evocative performances from kids in films like "Ramona and Beezus" and "Flipped."

But just how do casting directors track down the perfect child actor, who is not only cute and talented, but capable of handling the pressure? That's one of the questions we explore in our Sunday Calendar story, in which casting directors, filmmakers and former child stars weigh in on the challenges of working in Hollywood as a youngster. Douglas Aibel, the casting director who found Thomas for "The Switch," said he could sense early on that the young boy was overwhelmed by the audition process.

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R.I.P., Gary Coleman

May 28, 2010 |  1:09 pm

He was never a big movie star, but in addition to his signature role as Arnold on TV's "Diff'rent Strokes," he did make a couple of features, including "Jimmy the Kid" and "On the Right Track," as well as TV movies such as "The Kid with the Broken Halo" and, as die-hard San Diego Padres fans will recall, "The Kid from Left Field." And of course he helped shape the tastes of any film and pop-culture fan who grew up in the 1980s. Clips and a walk down memory lane below.

-- Steven Zeitchik


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