Miles Bakshi was just 10 when he began performing the voice of the suspicious 7-year-old brother in the DreamWorks animated comedy "The Boss Baby."
But animation is a long process, and Bakshi's voice started to change. "By the end it got pretty tough," confessed Miles, now 14 and a lanky 6-foot-1. "I had to get my voice very soft, but when I got that perfect tone it was great."
Animation has always been part of Miles' life. His grandfather is influential maverick animator/director Ralph Bakshi of "Fritz the Cat," "Heavy Traffic" and "Wizards" fame. Miles' mother, Gina Shay, was a producer on the 2016 DreamWorks hit "Trolls" and got her start as a production assistant on Bakshi's 1992 film, "Cool World."
Because Miles has practically grown up at DreamWorks, he was in the right place at the right time when director Tom McGrath (the "Madagascar" films and "Megamind") was developing "Boss Baby." He asked Miles to voice the character Tim for the temp or scratch track.
"They needed to see if the character worked," said Miles, a sweet, soft-spoken eighth-grader with a quiet sense of humor. "For three years, I didn't know if I got the part or not. Then they finally told me I was going to be in the movie. That was really cool."
McGrath, who also got his start with Ralph Bakshi as an animator on "Cool World" and considers him one of his more important mentors, recalled that Miles nailed the part on the first read.
"When you do scratch voices you still do the casting process and listen to 30 to 40 kids," said McGrath. "No one sounded as authentic as Miles did. A lot of child actors are great, but they are over-articulate for their age. . Miles was just natural and charming. He had a little slur to his voice at the time and it was very endearing."
Miles could identify with Tim — remembering the arrival of his younger sister, Nina, when he was 2 years old. He pulled a photo album from the shelf in his small bedroom in his family's mid-century modern Studio City home to share a picture of him looking at a newborn with panic in his eyes.
"That's me and my sister," he said with a smile. "I was like 'What is happening?' It was like an alien invasion."
The two are now extremely close, and Nina also worked on "The Boss Baby."
"It's kind of weird," Miles said. "There's a part in the movie where she's my daughter."
Working with the grandson of his mentor was special to McGrath. "Ralph gave me my first job," he said. "I kind of wanted to give Miles his first job. Probably in 20 years I'll be asking Miles for a job."
Miles and his grandfather have a deep bond. And Miles relishes visiting him at his home in New Mexico. The senior Bakshi joked he nearly fell out of the car last summer when Miles told him he wanted to enter the family business.
"It all came as a great shock," recalled Bakshi, 78. "We don't talk much at all about animation. I have a personal studio and he would hang around a lot, but he would never ask too many questions. He kept looking. I was very touched."
In Miles' bedroom there's an adorable drawing from his grandfather of a very strong baby heralding his grandson's birth. Another features an outlandish character saying, "Hey, Ma. Guess what? We all need voices." Ralph drew it to celebrate Miles getting the role in "Boss Baby."
Miles also pointed to an offbeat sculpture on the wall. "I picked that out for my birthday," Miles said. "It's a few nails and wood and it's really cool. When I visit, [my grandfather] actually takes me to the junkyard. He just said pick anything out and then we'll make something. It's awesome."
Shay said it was important for her to let her son play Tim. "I want to support him being an artist," she said, adding that she wants her children to maintain the kindness and compassion they possess now.
"I never pictured bringing up my children in Hollywood," said Shay, who is divorced from Miles' father. "If things start to change, I'm ready to pull a 'Captain Fantastic' and move to the forest and home school them. Anybody who knows me knows I'm not kidding."
Though Miles talked about recently being accepted to a high school and how focused he is on his education, his mother revealed how he got in.
"He's super humble," said Shay. "He made a film, a little animated film. I said, 'Give yourself one day to write it, shoot it and edit it and make sure you have a story.' So he did a little Claymation movie. He was done by the end of the day. It was pretty cool [for him] to be able to do that."