vulture festival 2021

Woody Norman Knows He Out-Acted Joaquin Phoenix in C’mon C’mon

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for Vulture

Mike Mills has been getting asked a lot about working with preteen actor Woody Norman in his new film, C’mon C’mon. “I had to do Q&As, like, ‘Was it hard working with a child actor?’” the writer-director said at a Vulture Festival panel about the film, alongside Norman. “I was like, ‘You have no idea how un-childlike this person is. And how childish Joaquin [Phoenix] and Gaby [Hoffman] are!’” Norman backed Mills up with an example involving Phoenix, who plays his uncle and guardian. “When we were doing the chemistry read — I don’t know if I should say this — I knew the lines, he didn’t,” Norman dished. To Phoenix’s credit, Mills added, he didn’t “even know if he’s doing the movie really” at that point. “Woody’s got all his lines memorized, and Joaquin’s kind of looking at the sides,” Mills explained. “And Joaquin just improvised the line, and Woody’s like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not the line.’ It’s like, Oh! God. Buckle up, be prepared.

Norman added that Phoenix “is so weird” — in a good way, of course; the two quickly found a rapport while filming, and Phoenix respected Norman as an actor. “I remember the first time I showed Joaquin little cuts of scenes,” Mills said. “He comes in after a scene, and goes, ‘That little fucker! He is so good. That little fuck!” And at the end of the shoot, Norman joked to Phoenix, “I’ve been carrying you this whole film!” Mills also remembered the moment: “It makes Joaquin fall over, laughing,” he said. “But I also, as a director, I knew, This is gold. They have secrets, they have their own world, their own communication, their own like thriving hive little thing for themselves.” See it for yourselves when C’mon C’mon hits theaters on November 19.

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