Woody Norman of A24’s C’mon C’mon talks to Awards Daily about his on- and off-screen relationship with Joaquin Phoenix and why he doesn’t consider himself a child actor.
It has to be intimidating to go toe to toe with an Oscar winner. But Woody Norman, Joaquin Phoenix’s prepubescent co-star in Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon, doesn’t seem shaken at all by it. The only thing that came as a shock to him was that people were actually going to see the movie, something that the pre-teen didn’t really think about during the filming process.
“When I was filming it, it was never in my mind that it would get released to the public. So watching people see it and watching people like it is so trippy. It never crosses your mind when you’re filming.”
“Trippy” feels like a term someone might use in the ’60s, which goes to show how much of an old soul Norman is. While talking to him, he’s very smart and aware of the world, which is both refreshing and surprising from someone at such a young age. Plus, his thick British accent is a reminder that he is not his character Jesse, even if he might have a few similarities with him.
“We are alike in some ways. I think we both ask too many questions. We’re both overly creative which can sometimes be a downfall. I will make up an entire universe in my head, act like I’m in that universe, and forget what I’m actually doing.”
Norman gets so into the fantasy, that he almost goes method. When asked about how he channeled his emotions for Jesse, who goes through a lot of turmoil in the film, he says it’s all real.
“None of the emotion is fake in this film. Everyone genuinely felt what they were doing, and it was like we were never really acting; we were always kind of playing.”
You don’t expect a child actor to say something like this. You think maybe they’ll say they thought about really sad stories or ideas to get them to reach those poignant lows on camera. But Norman isn’t a typical child actor, which is actually a phrase he prefers not to use pertaining to himself.
“Me, Gaby (Hoffman, who plays his mother), and Joaquin—at some point, we were all children who acted. Gaby and Joaquin weren’t child actors; they were actors who were children. And personally, I don’t like using the word ‘child actor’ because it binds you to that. I don’t want to be called a child actor because I’m not always going to be a child actor. I don’t want to be bound to being the kid in C’mon C’mon.”
But one thing he doesn’t mind being connected to is his on-screen uncle, played by Phoenix.
“We just bonded without having to bond. We’re great mates and I still think he’s very close friends with me now. We talk and text a lot. And that’s great. I don’t text him on my phone because that would be a bit strange. [Laughs] But we message a lot and we always just talk.”
In the film, Johnny (Phoenix) is a radio journalist who interviews children about the future. So. . .what does Woody Norman as a young person think about the future?
“I think my answer to that would be like Jesse’s. Just kinda, ‘I don’t know, whatever.’ But I do think everything’s gonna get sorted. Global warming will get stopped by someone actually getting off their ass and doing it. I think all the bad stuff will get so small that it’s not really seen as a problem.”
C’mon C’mon is now playing.