Tre Peart just became one of the youngest producers in Hollywood, the teen’s name appearing in the credits of the new Robert De Niro-starring family film The War with Grandpa. The comedy sees De Niro facing off against his grandson [Oakes Fegley] in a series of hijinks after moving in with his daughter [Uma Thurman]’s family, and taking over the youngster’s room.
After Peart read Robert Smith’s novel, he pitched the idea of a movie to his parents, Marvin Peart, CEO of Brookdale Studios/Chief Business Officer and Founding Partner of 101 Studios, and Rosa Peart, Co-Founder of Marro Media Company—The Peart family working together to bring The War with Grandpa to the big screen after a years-long process. For his part, Tre Peart took an active role in the filmmaking process, looking over script revisions, assisting in the casting process, and participating on set.
In a Zoom call with Awards Daily‘s Shadan Larki, Tre Peart, joined by his parents Marvin and Rosa (who also served as producers on The War with Grandpa) discussed bringing a favorite book to the big screen and how he convinced a Hollywood legend to come along for the ride.
Read a complete transcript of the interview below:
Awards Daily: So Tre, I think the story goes that you read the book, liked it, and you pitched it to your parents. Is that right?
Tre Peart: Yeah. So, it was in third grade. I was eight years old, and my mom had a rule that I was only allowed to watch the movie if I had read the book first.
Once I finished reading the book, The War with Grandpa, I was so excited because I loved the book so much, and I love movies even more.
I was scouring the internet, trying to find the movie, and the best I found was just book trailers. I was so heartbroken to not find anything regarding a movie. I was thinking to myself, ‘Where can I find this thing?’ And then the idea popped into my head to tell my parents because they’re in the movie business.
I decided to tell my mom about the book and I told her that I thought this would be a great movie. She read the book and ended up really enjoying it. She told me that this could actually become a movie and that we should talk to my dad about it because he’s also a movie producer. We decided to pitch it. My mom and I came together. We told him that this is a great movie that the three of us can watch together. I told them that Robert De Niro would be a good actor for [the grandpa] because I’d always heard my dad and my mom talking about him, how great of an actor he was.
And I was never old enough to actually see the movies that he was in, so you know, I really wanted to see a Robert De Niro movie. That’s the story as to how Robert De Niro was thought of. My dad agreed, we optioned the book and started the casting process, which included creating a little video. I was nine years old when I created this video. And I was telling Mr. DeNiro that the movie would be one big play date.
We’d be able to make a movie, have fun, eat food together, laugh, you know, just things that a nine-year-old would say [laughs]. Then all of a sudden Robert De Niro was in the movie!
I was a part of the casting process, helping my parents, giving the go-ahead to any actors who I enjoyed watching their auditions. And the scriptwriting process, I was actually a part of that too.
I gave any jokes that I came up with. I don’t think any of them made it in the movie, though, but, you know, I tried. [Laughs].
And then, we started filming the movie. I was in Atlanta. It was a grand old time for me, at least. I was able to work on set as a production assistant or an assistant to the production assistant [laughs]. I had a lot of fun with that. I was rolling around on my scooter, bringing coffees to the actors. I also became really good friends with all the child actors in the movie— Oakes Fegley, T.J. McGibbon, Isaac Kragten, and Juliocesar Chavez. We called ourselves the ‘WWG’ squad.’ It was really fun—we’d always hang out together, we had a group chat, play video games, go to the hotel pool, we even saw a Shakespeare play.
AD: Marvin, let me ask you, what is your reaction as a parent when your child comes to you with a movie pitch? That’s not something that happens every day.
Marvin Peart: Well, I had to keep a straight face through it the first time because he was so cute. Rosa sat there letting him tell it and pitch it. She was like, ‘just be patient, this is going to be good.
Rosa Peart: At first, he wasn’t taking it seriously. You know, I always encourage reading in the house. If there was ever a movie, they needed to read the book first. So, Tre automatically thought that there was a movie for every book. He said, ‘This would be such a funny movie!’ And I’m like, ‘ Oh, okay, let me read it.’ It took me two hours to read and then I thought it had a lot of heart and I agreed with him.
I was like, ‘Well, let’s pitch it to your dad.’ And I showed Tre how to do a pitch.
So, when I told Marvin, he’s like, ‘Oh yeah. Okay.’ Because he has people pitching him all the time.
MP: Yeah. I was rushing. I was leaving for L.A. the next morning. I took it with me on the plane and read it and sure enough, it was a really good idea. And now I’m going to L.A. to meet with Harvey and Bob Weinstein. And I was like, ‘Hey, you know, our company wants to option this book. Why don’t you guys option it? And then they kind of took their sweet time doing it. So then Rosa and I said, ‘Well, let’s just call the publisher ourselves and we’ll option it. And why don’t we just own all the underlying rights ourselves? And when we called the publisher, it was more of a curiosity question like, ‘Well, how many books has this thing sold?’ Oh, about 1.3 million copies. And we were like, ‘What?’
RP: And no one’s optioned it?? [Laughs].
MP: My son’s a genius!
AD: I can see how proud you both are of Tre. What is it like to see this come to fruition and know that your child is behind it all?
MP: It’s fascinating to see how other people react to it. You hope that you’re raising your kids to be and do certain things and that they’re actually taking in those lessons, and for us, it was Rosa who was always like, ‘Read, read, read.’ I mean, he could be reading gum wrappers or comic books. And for something like this to come out of that process, I think it’s more of a testament to her and the great mom that she is, that these lessons really stuck. And we have a great kid.
AD: That you do! And Tre, what was it like for you to see the movie?
TP: So I first saw it, it was a very rough draft. I loved it. You know, it was a long time coming. I was thinking back then that I’d see it the next day but little did I know I’d be 15 by the time this would come out.
RP: And he’s read every revision of that script. I mean, we had two sets of writers come in and write the script. So, he’s read every version. And met with all the auditions, and we kept him involved so that he can learn the whole process, which was really good. Now he’s taking film classes in school.
AD: Tre, I was going to ask if you wanted to continue working in films; it sounds like you’re in the process of learning more. Tell me about that.
TP: Yeah, I want to learn more about it—the actual making of the movie, which I liked the most, like editing, filming, types of shots—I just learned about that the other day. I’m just starting out. So, I’m learning all this; it’s pretty fresh. I’m taking the film making course at my school and I actually just finished a movie last night, and I got very good reviews from my parents and friends.
AD: That’s wonderful! I loved the family relationships at the center of The War with Grandpa. I wanted to ask if you have an older family member or someone in your family that the film reminded you of? I called my grandma after seeing the movie.
TP: Same with me. My Abuela, whenever she’d come over, she’d always have to take my room. And I always got mad about it. I was fuming with anger. [Laughs] I didn’t have to go into the attic, but I did have to share a room with my brother.
But, of course, I love my Abuela, you know, but that experience was something that I related to. I know the pain that the character was going through.
AD: And lastly, do you have a favorite day on set or a fun Robert De Niro story?
TP: I loved the Dodgeball scene, we were at Sky Zone and the best part about it was being able to hang out on the side and play basketball, jump on a trampoline, also seeing the Dodgeball game being created, seeing all the stunts that were being made, and the challenges of making a movie in a public place. So, you know, that was an interesting experience.
And in terms of a Robert De Niro story, it was actually on the first day, I walked into my trailer and saw a letter from Mr. De Niro, telling me good luck and congratulations on my first movie. He ended it by calling me the youngest producer he’s ever worked with, so that was an awesome feeling.
AD: Well, it was nice to meet you all! Thank you so much for your time. Hopefully, I get to meet you again on the many other projects that I’m sure you’ll have coming up in the future.
The War with Grandpa hits theaters on October 9th.