Film: Bright Sparks and Robot LAW; Haley Joel Osment, Child Star of AI, Reveals His Scarily Adult Take on Life. by DAMON WISE

The Mirror (London, England), September 21, 2001 | Go to article overview

Film: Bright Sparks and Robot LAW; Haley Joel Osment, Child Star of AI, Reveals His Scarily Adult Take on Life. by DAMON WISE


Byline: DAMON WISE

He says he's an ordinary 13-year-old, who plays football and computer games with his friends. He even loves doing his homework. Yet, sitting on a hotel terrace with his back to a sun-dappled stretch of Venice waterway, Haley Joel Osment is anything but a normal kid. For starters, he is an Oscar-nominated actor and he has just pocketed a reported pounds 1.5m for his role in Steven Spielberg's AI: Artificial Intelligence, alongside Jude Law. There's also something disconcerting about Hollywood's latest protege.

"I have a great group of friends at school," Haley beams. "I've known them since I was two - so long that if one of us became President of the United States I don't think it would change anything. We don't ignore the movie thing. They just really get it, enjoy it and then we move on. We're just normal 13-year-olds."

Recently the Venice Film Festival welcomed a team of movie brats who weren't much older, bringing with them stories of tantrums, walkouts and showing suspicious signs of drug use. But Osment is polite and clean-cut, and his answers are far more eloquent than those from actors up to three times his age. And that's the scary part.

He rose to fame in The Sixth Sense as the boy who sees dead people. It established Osment as a child star unlike any other, showing a maturity way beyond his years. So it wasn't surprising that he should come to the attention of Spielberg. Movie genius Stanley Kubrick had recently died, leaving Spielberg a mass of script ideas that formed the core of his unfinished epic AI: Artificial Intelligence. Spielberg wanted Osment to play David, a child robot designed to have emotions who is abandoned by his adoptive human mother and left to search for the Blue Fairy that holds the key to his happiness. He is accompanied on his quest by a jaunty sex machine called Gigolo Joe, played by Law, who has been framed for a vicious murder.

"I first met Jude at the Oscars," recalls Osment. "He came over to my seat and whispered, 'So we're gonna play robots, huh?' You immediately recognise what a great guy Jude is. He's just someone you want to go outside and throw a football with, which we couldn't do because our make-up would melt. He's really funny. It wasn't hard to break the ice because there was no ice."

AI is one of Spielberg's darkest fantasies yet, but Osment can't yet compare it with the director's two visions of a real-life hell.

"I did not see Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List," he says. "I'm waiting 'til I get older. It's my parents' decision, mainly. …

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