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What kid actors say about starring in their movies

Jude Hill holds up a wooden sword and a trash can lid shield as he play battles in a scene from "Belfast."
Jude Hill stars as “Buddy” in director Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast.”
(Rob Youngson / Focus Features)

When your big film rests on small shoulders, the casting process is critical: How to find a child who can bear the weight of a dramatic feature while still seeming like … well, a child? The good news is that several films this Oscar season have threaded that needle with some truly talented up-and-comers. Here’s a quick introduction to four of the biggest talents in small packages we’ve come across.

Sydney Kowalske, 8
Jessie, “Blue Bayou”
(Now on Amazon Prime)

On her heartrending crying scene at film’s end: “I thought about what it would be like if this happened to me, and [director-writer-star] Justin [Chon] made it very easy for me. It was the hardest scene for me because I wanted to get it right because this is something that happens to people and it’s important.”

Writing realistic kids for the movies is hard enough. Working with them on set takes patience and adaptability.

Jude Hill, 11
Buddy, “Belfast”
(In theaters and on demand)

On having fun during filming: “There’s a scene where the entire family plays basketball and cricket, and that was so much fun — it wasn’t really acting. But the most fun thing was during one of the riots. A bomb went off and it was scary, but I loved that scene. I had to play scared, but to be honest I didn’t even have to act in that scene.”

Lucian-River Chauhan, 12
Jay, “Encounter”
(Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms)

On understanding the big-picture issues like mental illness in the film: “It’s really important to tell these stories. I don’t believe I’ve seen people with mental illness, but personally I’ve had challenges at school where people bullied me because of how I looked. I think many people who watch this film can relate to those emotions.”

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Woody Norman, 12
Jesse, “C’mon, C’mon”
(Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms)

On playing a character who’s not much like you: “Being Jesse was the most challenging, because he’s very, very different to me as a person. He’s introverted and I’m quite extroverted. He’s quite quiet and I’m a loud person — especially once you get to know me, I’m quite loud.”


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