Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Extremely Loud' Star, 14, Shines amid Hollywood's Elite

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Extremely Loud' Star, 14, Shines amid Hollywood's Elite

Article excerpt

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Thomas Horn looked alarmed. The 14-year-old star of the new film "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" had just finished a news interview at an Oakland coffeehouse when his mother suggested he run down the street and pick up the dry cleaning while they were in the neighborhood.

"Oh! Do you think they'll recognize me?" he asked his mom. No, he wasn't worried that he might be easily identified for his impending Hollywood fame, but whether the cleaners would give him the Horn family's clothes without a claim ticket. She assured him it would be fine, and he sped off.

Dry cleaning or not, there is little doubt Thomas will become familiar to millions very soon. They'll come to know him on screen - - the film opens nationwide Friday -- as the brainy though often abrasive Oskar Schell, a troubled boy haunted by the loss of his father in the 9/11 attacks. And they'll learn about Thomas off- screen as a novice actor who beat out more than 3,000 boys for the role, who doesn't just hold his own alongside Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock but truly carries the film. He's in every scene, delivering a tremendous amount of complex, rapid-fire dialogue, moving narration and simmering emotions.

All this from a young man whose only previous acting experience was as a grasshopper in a fifth-grade play.

"I may leave that off my resume," Thomas kidded with a slight grimace amid the afternoon bustle in Caffe Trieste on Piedmont Avenue, squeezing in an interview between school and martial arts class (he's a brown belt)

Thomas was discovered two years ago thanks to his successful stint on "Jeopardy!" Kids' Week when he won $31,800 and a family trip to Alaska. His obvious intelligence and poise caught the eye of Scott Rudin, producer of "Extremely Loud," who felt Thomas might be perfect for director Stephen Daldry's adaptation of the best- selling novel by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Shortly after his TV appearance, Thomas was asked to audition via video; then he flew to New York for a tryout. And though the ninth- grader admits he'd never been terribly interested in pop culture, he and his parents decided this was a rare opportunity.

"I thought, 'What do I have to lose?'" he said. "Not everyone gets a chance like this. Surely this must be happening for a reason."

Since the movie opened in limited release in December, Thomas has been interviewed by major newspapers, appeared on national morning shows and attended New York and Hollywood premieres of the film. And Thomas won the best young actor award at the 17th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards in Los Angeles on Thursday.

He's already been the subject of multiple movie reviews. Some have called him the greatest young talent of our time, while others have clearly been annoyed by his on-screen character -- a reaction that might just speak to his spot-on performance. …

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