Q&A: Jacob Tremblay, who plays the boy in ‘Room,’ tells the director how it should have ended

Jacob Tremblay, the young star of "Room," says acting in the film involved lots of improv.

Jacob Tremblay, the young star of “Room,” says acting in the film involved lots of improv.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Jacob Tremblay looks awfully small to carry nearly an entire film on his skinny shoulders, but he proved up to the task in the critically lauded “Room.” He was so credible as the spirited Jack, a 5-year-old who heroically escapes the 10-by-10-foot garden shed where he and his mother are held captive, that he brought the crew to tears.

Tremblay, now 9, is already a seasoned pro, having started his career on a Gerber TV commercial. He has three feature films on his résumé, most notably as the little boy Blue in “The Smurfs 2.” And he has three more in production, including starring roles in “The Book of Henry” from “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow, and “Burn Your Maps” from “Big Hero 6" writer Jordan Roberts.

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Perched on the edge of a sofa in a Four Seasons Hotel room in Beverly Hills recently, he chatted with “Room” director Lenny Abrahamson and The Envelope, gushing about “Star Wars” and his next Halloween costume one minute and casually musing about the challenges of shooting “Room” the next.

What was it like for you to play in “Room”? I heard you guys made crafts and hung out in there.


Jacob: We did! It was mostly playing and lots of improv. And we got to work in Toronto. So it was a pretty fun one.

Abrahamson: Did it ever feel really small and crowded when we were all in there?

Jacob: Yeah. It was kind of like chaos, right? And then it was like, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be so good when we get out.” But then, remember? When we got out? It’s worse. It’s like, Whyyyy?!

Abrahamson: What was it that was hard when we got out?

Jacob: It was walking in the snow when I just had socks.

Abrahamson: We thought, great, it’ll be incredible [to get out of the room]. We’ll shoot wide shots. We can run around. We won’t be all crushing on top of each other. And then we went out, it was freezing cold. We had to have transport to get around the snow and to deal with passersby and pedestrians. We all thought, “Hmm. It’d be quite nice to be back in that cozy little room.”

Jacob: Yeah, but then when we’re finally in the house [in the film’s Act II], that’s just perfect. [Stops. Looks at digital phone recorder.]

I’m recording this, by the way. That’s why it’s making that funny wiggly red line when we talk.

Jacob: Oh yeah! [Makes sounds to watch red line jump.]

Cool, huh?

Jacob: Yeah. Now let’s get back to working.

You’re a real professional. So what was the most fun part of the movie?

Jacob: The most fun part of this movie was getting to work with you [points to Abrahamson] and getting to work with [child actor] Jack [Fulton] and Brie [Larson].

Abrahamson: What would you say the story of our film is? What’s the story of this little boy Jack?

Jacob: It’s a boy and a girl trapped in a room together. They don’t see the world until they get out of the room and they’re confused.

Abrahamson: Jake got really good at improvisation, not knowing about the outside world. Do you remember how much time we spent talking about what Jack knew and what he didn’t know?

Jacob: He didn’t know about other people. He didn’t know about mountains. He didn’t know about cities. He didn’t know about “Star Wars.”

Abrahamson: Which is a big problem. Do you think he was happy without all that stuff?

Jacob: He was a happy boy. Because he jumped around a lot. But the only thing he didn’t like was not having [birthday] candles. But then, on his sixth birthday, he’ll get candles. He’d be so happy! You should have made that a scene at the end where he finally sees these candles. That’d be so cool.

Abrahamson: You’re right. That was an opportunity missed.