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‘Extremely Loud’: 3 questions with Sandra Bullock

We had a chance to meet with Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock and newcomer Thomas Horn to talk about their new movie ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’. The film is based on the book with the same title that deals with the loss of a father during 9/11. We get to see it all through a child’s eyes and his search for closure. With Bullock’s witty personality and this prodigy actor it was a delightful interview. (SBC): How did you both get involved in this project? Which to you Sandra might be more personal.

Sandra Bullock (SB): It was a no brainer [getting involved] in the sense that I always wanted to work with Stephen, especially after I saw the reader, I was just completely blown away. I didn’t necessarily want to work at that time that I was approached but once Stephen came to my home we talked about the character and what she was or wasn’t, because in the book I loved how she was basically regarded just as a mother, she wasn’t given a life and I love that because it’s shown though the child’s point of view and often as children we don’t appreciate our parents the way we should. The way the story was told through the eyes of Oskar and Thomas subsequently, allowed me and so many people to grieve the event I don’t think as adults we allow people to grieve and I think it’s so important…People need to talk about it, there’ll never be closure I think for me and I think for so many people. I was there, I saw it, I saw the second plane, I saw people, people helping people and that to me is what resonates about the city of New York; that I saw within a second the entire city come together and help each other in a way they hadn’t the day before. I have so many memories, so many emotions of it, some quite still don’t register, I think because your mind doesn’t let you register why someone would do that. So, in a good way I hope that vibrancy that happened doesn’t ever leave me because it made me aware of so many things I wasn’t aware of before. I think that’s what this story is: the allowance to talk about the events that have happened in your life, that you should be able to grieve.

Thomas Horn (TH): There was no typical casting process in my case. About 2 years ago I was watching an episode of ‘Jeopardy’ and an ad aired during the commercial break offering tests for ‘kids jeopardy’ and my family thought: “you know what, Thomas knows some trivia, maybe he’d do ok there.” So I took the online test and they called me back a few months later for a quick audition in Los Angeles and a few months after that I was surprised to find out I had been invited for a taping. That episode aired in July 2010 and from what I heard someone high up in the production of the new movie saw me and thought I’d be good to audition along with many many other kids for the role, so they sent me the material to make a tape. I know nothing about film or the entertainment industry at all, I was a total newcomer but I thought: “you know, what do I have to loose by sending this tape? I might as well try it.” So I did…and for two months I didn’t hear a thing. I thought, “Ok, they didn’t like me. That’s fine.” So I went on with my life but after that they called me up and asked if I wanted to come to an audition in New York. I was surprised; I didn’t think I’d get that far. So they paid for our plane ticket. We made a 5/6 day audition with other kids; it was really nerve-racking…it was a bit stressful. I went home after that and a month later Stephen called me up personally to tell me I got the role.

SBC: What was your experience like in NYC?

SB: My father was a voice teacher here, we’d go back and forth to D.C. and my mother sang opera here so we were always on the trains coming to NY. My first memory of it, my mom took me to see “all that Jazz” on Broadway and at that moment I knew I wanted to be a dancer…. [Then I grew up]. We had a tiny studio apartment with a kitchen in the closet. There’s always something for everybody [here], you never feel out of place in NYC that’s a fact.

TH: Before this movie I hadn’t been to NY, at least not within my conscious memory but when I arrived here I was struck by how fascinating it was. I really didn’t expect to love it so much, but I really grew to like it over the course of rehearsal and production. I got to see every part of it, from lower Manhattan where I lived; we did a lot of scenes in Midtown and Uptown. We did a lot of scenes in Brooklyn, especially in the neighborhood of Bushwick, which I found very interesting. It had lots of very interesting like Hispanic foods and culture and interesting little streets that you would never think of there being a nice row of town houses with green trees behind a factory. I also thought the Rockaways were pretty quirky and wereinteresting and we did a lot of filming there. It’s hard [to choose a favorite part] it all fits together so well, there’s a neighborhood for everyone…and I love that.

SBC: Sandra, what do you think is one of the strong points of the movie?

SB: [It allows] men to grieve in so many different generations. I don’t think we allow that in life of in film and I think again it goes back to what I think the story is about which is honoring people’s grief and allowing them to say it because is something that is part of who we are as human beings, even animals get it but we don’t. We get it in such a profound vocal articulate level, we are given that gift yet it’s completely [unused] especially for men and I think it’s so unfair. We women are expected to drop and grieve but I loved what [the movie] showed, the two generations in pain and how they showed that and how they healed each other by listening and talking…I think it’s such a beautiful part of the story. (Here she refers to the performance between TH and Max Von Sydow.)

SBC: Thomas, do you want to keep acting?

TH: I think I had a really great experience, in fact I’ve heard most experiences aren’t like this, which I can definitely understand because I’m working with the best from the best here and I can expect that. What I’m going at is that I want a career that has multiple disciplines and many options in it and that means probably having multiple skills and I want to continue with my studies and go to a good college and learn something practical like computer science or hydrology or something like that. I think anyone’s life would be better if they could do multiple things because you have options to [explore] if one thing goes dry and you have opportunities in many areas; but I think definitely if I get another opportunity in the entertainment industry that has a good script just like this one and a good director and other great actors that I’ll like to work with then I’d seriously consider that.

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