How Finding a Child Actor for Room Gave Director Lenny Abrahamson ‘Night Sweats’

During the Oscar Contenders Director’s Panel at Saturday’s EW Fest, director Lenny Abrahamson discussed his struggle to fill the leading role of five-year-old Jack in his upcoming film, Room. The film is adapted from a novel by Emma Donoghue that drew plot inspiration from the Austrian Fritzl imprisonment case. Abrahamson recalled that the process of casting a young child actor for the leading role gave him “night sweats” before stumbling upon Jacob Tremblay. From the sound of it, Lenny Abrahamson expects great things from his newest leading actor:

There were times when I used to say to the various people including the author of the novel, “Don’t worry about it. Top professional people are working on this. We find genius kids all the time.” Then I’d go home and I’d have the night sweats. We saw hundreds of kids. There were plenty of extraordinary kids that you could watch forever but you absolutely knew there was no way they’d be able to handle the drama of this film. There are some films where what you want is for the kid to be able to be themselves and just occupy that space on screen but that’s not enough for this. There’s a big arc for the characters. So eventually Jake Tremblay popped up out of Vancouver. He’s this really extraordinary kid who … I worked with him for a while to see how hyperactive he was, how robust he was, and he really is extraordinary. He’s going to be a great one. He has that talent — whatever that talent is that really great actors are born with — but you’re still asking someone who’s been playing the violin for two years to do a Paganini piece, so it’s still an amazing process of working with him. It’s the most challenging and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done as a filmmaker, but yeah finding him was the single biggest stroke of luck I think in the arrival of this finished film.

How Lenny Abrahamson Got a Child Actor for Room