What's Up: The joys of acting out

Toronto Star
LIFE, Tuesday, April 22, 2003, p. C04
The joys of acting out What’s Up
Perks aplenty if you score good gig Life on set forces maturity on actors

Amy Carmichael
Canadian Press

Instant maturity.

That’s what acting inspired in 17-year-old Daniel Clark, who stars in
Degrassi: The Next Generation.

“One minute you’re on set and you have to know where to stand and where
not to stand, you have to have your lines memorized,” says Clark.

“Then you’re rushing to the on-set classroom to write a test.

“And you also have to be yourself, that kid they hired you to be. You have
to play and be spontaneous.

“And do it all without getting worked up.”

On the set of the movie Shanghai Knights, 16-year-old Simon Baker has
unlimited access to an ice cream truck and got to watch his martial arts
idol Jackie Chan do stunts all day long. It beat sitting in his Langley,
B.C., high school classroom.

That’s the upside. The downside?

“There usually aren’t many other people my age to hang out with on set,
and I don’t see my family or friends for weeks at a time,” says Baker.

“I think it probably made me grow up a little too fast. I find I make
friends with adults like my tutors and it’s kind of hard to get back into
normal life and school when I go home.”

It’s a tough balance to achieve, says Baker from the set of his current
project in Santa Fe. But the payoffs are worth it for him.

He’s not the only young guy with stars in his eyes.

ACTRA, the union representing professional performers in Canadian film and
television and radio, has about 2,400 actors under 18, and another 1,100
under 12 auditioning for roles. All have at least one professional credit.

Baker is also working on director Ron Howard’s The Missing, starring Tommy
Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett. Howard is a former child actor playing
everything from Opie to Richie.

“Ron Howard, he’s done what I want to do. So it’s amazing to be able to
work with him and learn so much about movies at such a young age.

“After I finish high school I want to take courses at the Vancouver Film
School and get on the other side of the camera as well,” says Baker.

Nothing compares to the fantasy-land fun that unfolds on movie sets, Baker
says.

While filming Spooky House with Ben Kingsley, who plays a magician, Baker
got to play endlessly in a giant castle, climbing through its maze of trap
doors.

And then there’s the fame. Being able to watch a movie and see yourself is
really cool, he says, but it’s even more cool when people start to
recognize you.

“I did a movie about native Americans called Smoke Signals,” says Baker,
who is a member of the Squamish Nation.

“I played a geek who gets beat up, a role I really didn’t want to play at
first.

“Because who wants to be the geek? I didn’t expect much out of it but I
swear, every time I’ve been to a powwow since then, everyone knows me from
the movie.”

Clark says he’s been getting noticed when he’s hanging out with his
friends at malls in Toronto, especially since he was nominated for a
Gemini award in the hottest star category.

“It’s cool,” he says, “but I’m no different or no better from the guy in
the change room next to me trying on jeans.”

He says he has remained friends with everyone from his high school and
most people are cool with his success.

“But there are those people who aren’t going to give you a chance and,
just because they’re jealous or whatever, assume you’re cocky and treat
you badly.”

Category: Science and Technology
Uniform subject(s): Cinema
Edition: Ontario
Length: Medium, 512 words

Copyright ) 2003 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.

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