I’ve never really had a desire to direct anything – way too much work and responsibility. But if I ever do end up directing something, I really hope there are no kids in it, because I can’t imagine anything more difficult than casting children. Every time the right kid is matched with the right role, I think an angel gets its wings (conversely, every time a precocious show-biz brat turns in a mannered, snarky TV performance, a puppy dies).
Then, once you do get your cast together, you have to put up with shorter work days, hormones, zits, lost teeth, and everything else that goes along with being a kid, tween, or teen. And the most vexing thing of all: they grow. Jeff Kinney touched on this when I had the opportunity to attend a roundtable interview with him after seeing a sneak peek of the latest movie made from his incredibly popular book series. When asked if the kids in the book would get older, he responded:
That’s the thing that I really decided with the last book is that the characters are ageless. In the books, I never mention how old they are. I realized that I haven’t created literary characters, I have created cartoon characters. Just like Charlie Brown has a first day of school every year, that’s how they should stay in the books.
In the movie, of course, we have the unfortunate reality of the kids getting older. That’s really a different world.
I also got to interview Zachary Gordon, who plays Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley (on the right in the picture above), as well as Robert Capron (Greg’s best friend Rowley, on the left) and Devon Bostick, who plays Greg’s older brother and chief tormentor, Rodrick. Jeff Kinney had been involved in the casting of the first movie. Finding the right kids was a very long process, according to Mr. Kinney:
Greg in particular was very difficult to find because we had to find a kid who could be a bit of a jerk but was also likeable, and that was hard to do. I think that Zach Gordon was up for the task.
Rowley was easy. We found Robert and he was in.
However, when I spoke with Robert it became clear that even though the grown-ups knew pretty quick that Robert was perfect for Rowley, they didn’t tell him that.
It was about nine months, the audition process. During that time, I actually slept with the books under my pillows for good luck. It was really long, and I didn’t expect it to be that long. I auditioned for the movie in New York, and there were 50 kids at the audition. I remember thinking, “I am never going to get this.”
For Zach things were even hairier.
When I went in the room, there were eight high school kids in there going out for Greg. And I said, “Are you sure I’m supposed to be here, mom?” I went in the audition and I had these huge baggy pants on, this huge jacket and a long T-shirt and long hair. Originally, they said that I didn’t look like Greg, but I could deliver the lines like Greg.
I went through all these screen tests. Then I did something called boot camp, where they dress you up like the character, and then they cut your hair and do your make-up. It was crazy, because I had never had my hair that short before. I got to go to this hair stylist and everything, but they still weren’t that sure.
It was about four long months after that, then I was out of the process, then I was back in. It was down to four kids with Robert, and I did two screen tests with him. And then, they knew that we were the perfect best friends.
Zach is thirteen and Robert is twelve, so I was wondering how Devon (Rodrick) handled himself on set. Since he’s nineteen now, I asked him if he feels like one of the kids, or more like an adult, and he said definitely like one of the kids. But he added that the two main adult cast members – Rachel Harris and Steve Zahn – also acted like kids on the set.
I’ll just come right out and say that Devon is a complete cutie (hey, he’s an adult! I can say it!). With no shortage of confidence or swagger, he told us how he picked up the drums in three days while preparing for Rodrick’s band scenes. His career is at a different stage than Zach and Robert’s. Devon has been acting for nine years, and has been a little bit surprised by the direction it’s going in:
I did this artsy Canadian film, which was directed by Atom Egoyan, called Adoration. We went to Cannes for that and it was a super-serious film. From that point, I thought I would be going into serious films. But, it’s funny what comes your way, because then I did Saw VI after that, then, a zombie movie, George Romero’s Survival of the Dead. I did that one after Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
But even without Saw VI on his resume, it would be difficult for Devon to take himself too seriously with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid group. There was one time in particular on this last shoot when Mr. Kinney made sure of that. He called Devon, saying that he was from “New Hotness” magazine, and that Devon had made their list of the top 100 hotties – at number 98.
I’d rather not be on the list at that point. I wanted to be polite, so I kept the interview going until Jeff came in on his cell phone, asking if they could take a picture for the magazine.
It’s clear seeing the three boys together that they all get along, and had a great time making the movies together. From Zach peeing on Devon (it was fake, of course), to Zach going face first into a cake, to Devon getting to live out his rock-star fantasies with his character’s band, to Robert hamming it up in…well, just about any scene he’s in, they’re a delight to watch on screen and really fun to talk to in person.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules opened yesterday. My nine-year-old son Jake says that you should see it because it’s “full of hilarity.”
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 1. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.