A rare profile of the artist as a young tot

12 Feb

Brooklyn baby is hungry. It’s 7:00 A.M., he’s been up for an hour, and he hasn’t eaten a thing. “I’m freakish about breakfast,” he says, by which, thank God, he doesn’t mean he wants an extra diet cookie. “You’re not going to eat, like, fruit or something, are you?” he asks, with real concern. “Because I’m gonna eat.” He orders the eggs Benedict without looking at the menu.

The place he chose to breakfast-up for this day of casting meetings – he’s got four of them, in response to his performance in the breakout The Station Agent – is a 5th Avenue diner with a view of the still-empty streets of Park Slope, which is where we sit. It’s a typical morning in Brooklyn, and he’s got no good reason to tuck into the booth where we sit. The toddler is in an enviable point in his career: The attention that comes with being an ascendant actor – the paparazzi, the romantic linkages to stars and starlets, the ANOREXIC? headlines because he orders his hollandaise on the side, which, for the record, he does not – is still a few months out. For now, he’s just trying to enjoy a moment that never lasts long enough.

Baby has been working steadily since he was discovered walking, nine month ago. Remarkably, he completed work on the short film Teething Biscuit when he was only 7 months old. It has been a whirlwind ride ever since. “It was an accident, that film. Some weird guy calling himself ‘papa’ didn’t even ask, he just started shooting video,” he says, with the barest trace of a Brooklyn drawl. “I should probably have asked why he wanted to do that. Or who he was. And maybe for some more biscuit.” It led to him landing an agent, his mother. “Oh, he’s camera ready,” she says with a trace of a smile. She beams proudly, impressed by her young son’s sophistication. “He’s still friends with some of the kids from Tots on the Move. He knows the difference between his real friends and the hangers-on. I would never allow him to pursue this path if I thought it would go to his head.”

But it almost certainly will. The Station Agent is a hard, unflinching look at a boy sitting on lawn furniture, eating a cracker. When he puts his plate down, and turns to drink some water, you never wonder if he’s acting – he just is really thirsty. He handles his character with a balance of urbane aplomb and and boyish charm, and he never loses his grip. It’s the kind of place-specific performance Matt Damon would spend a year living in an Appalachian train-side shack to get just right.

The eggs, of which he has eaten only the toast, and only the bits of the bread that have not touched egg, sauce or ham, are yesterday’s news, and he is headed to his first meeting. “These meetings are all the same. A little crawling, a little playing with trains, some fish crackers, and then you’re whisked off before you can really sink your teeth in the role. They want you to be all cheer and share, but sometimes I just can’t even think of the words. It horrifies my publicist, but what can you do?” His mother hastens to add, “yeah, he naps at like 11.”

[sorry about all this, really. I was on a kick of Documented Instances of Public Eating – DIPEs, and ended up here. Don’t click through unless you want to like Esquire a lot less, and Jennifer Lawrence somewhat less.]


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