TheWrap’s ”How I Did It“ series profiles director Mike Mills and child actor Woody Norman, who plays the wily nephew of Phoenix’s character
The director, as often is the case, pulled the game from something he observed. “I was at [musician] Aaron Dessner’s house, who did the score with [his brother] Bryce,” Mills explained in the video. “Aaron’s daughter Ingrid, who was 10 at the time, does this ‘Orphan Game’ exactly as it is in the movie. I thought it was a great way to talk about how kids aren’t just cute and sweet and charming and funny – they’re also playing with very deep, dark, intense, real ideas and thoughts too.”
Norman, you’ll notice, is a British actor, which is never evident from his flawless American accent in the film. In addition, he certainly seemed to get that his character is occasionally (often, even) quite a handful. “Not many films go into how mums can be so annoyed with their children,” he said, referring to his mother in the movie, played by onetime child actor Gaby Hoffman (“Transparent”). “That’s what made the film like a documentary almost.”
But Norman’s “sweet and charming” side is also on vibrant display, as he begins to talk about his own mother and the sacrifices she’s made for him. Just a few words into speaking of his mother and Norman is reduced to floods of happy tears. “Without her, none of us could have been as comfortable,” he said, getting a hug from Mills. “She really made it possible. And I’m so grateful that she’s so good with me. Can I actually just go to my mum and have a hug?”
For more, check out the entire “How I Did It” video with Mike Mills and Woody Norman (above), and also hear what line of dialogue Norman cleverly improvised during the “Orphan Game” scene in the film.
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