Child Actors and Potentially Disturbing Roles/Scenes

I’d like to know if child actors are briefed, de-briefed, or given any other psychological preparation or treatment if they’re doing a role that, on screen, would be too intense and/or disturbing for their age.

For example, in The Butterfly Effect, [minor spoiler ahead], a pre-pubescent boy and girl are made to strip naked while the girl’s father films them. No nudity is shown on the screen, and I’m sure that the young actress wore a garment (not seen on-screen) that covered up most of her skin. But be that as it may, we’re watching a scene in which sexual abuse of a child is taking place.

Now, for the actress, it’s all in a day’s work. But sexual abuse of children is, presumably, as disturbing to a 10-year-old actress as it is to a 33-year-old movie viewer. So was the actress given any sort of preparation or explanation or whatever to help her cope with this scene? Is there some sort of standard in place in the movie industry when child actors do intense or disturbing scenes?

Another example is the boy that plays Oliver’s gay friend on Oliver Beene. Obviously the boy (Taylor Something) knows how to play the lisp and the swishy mannerisms as an actor. But has he been told that his character is gay?

One more example: Daveigh Chase, the cute little girl from Lilo & Stitch, is also a vengeful and homidal demon in The Ring. Was Miss Chase told that her character kills people? Or does she just get in her makeup, say her lines, and then go back to her trailer unawares?


I noticed in Kill Bill 2 when bad things were being said to the child (eg, “I killed your mommy”), the camera was behind the child and we only saw the back of herhead, so I Presume the kid didn’t actually do those parts of the scene. I don’t know how common this is, it just stood out in Kill Bill 2.

I could only find vague confirmations of this on the web, and my DVD is loaned out somewhere, so I’d appreciate someone backing me up on this.

Stanley Kubrick kept Danny Lloyd (the child in The Shining) blissfully unaware of what the movie was about. As far as he knew, he was playing a role in a drama, and it wasn’t until years later when his mother played a laserdisc of the movie for him did he learn what sort of movie Kubrick made.

I was wondering the same thing with current episodes of Six Feet Under. The little girl who plays Maya is about 18 months old (ripe age for picking up new words), and her father Nate is quite fond of the word ‘fuck,’ but I’ve noticed that it seems to be filmed in such a way that maybe they’re just filming the “nice” parts around her, and then the parts with the bad words without her, and edit it together.
Last week’s show had another character yelling at Nate (while holding her) that he was “fucking crazy” and “fucking nuts” (several times), and I could sort of tell that the person yelling was being filmed from over his shoulder and you couldn’t see Maya in that direct shot.

Bad Santa, (the whole thing).

I was wondering about something similar, in scenes where a baby is crying. Do they wait around until the baby cries naturally then start filming, or do they poke the kid with a stick to get things rolling?

Of course this was years ago, but I remember reading about the steps taken with Jodie Foster’s performance as a 12-year-old hooker in Taxi Driver: they had her evaluated by a child psychiatrist before she was given the role, they carefully explained the intense scenes to her beforehand, and her sister was her body double in the actual sex scenes. I’ve always wondered whether Brooke Shields had anything like that kind of treatment when she did Pretty Baby just a year or two later.

If I had to guess, I’d think they are pretty careful with casting fairly mature-for-their-age kid or teen actors for such roles, and then walking them through the role with their parents in attendance at all times. As some of you have mentioned, I am sure the actor is not necessarily present during some shots, even if the character is meant to be present in the scene, depending on camera angles, actor doubles, etc.

I think it was William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, who pointed out that great steps were taken to protect Linda Blair’s psychological well-being during the shoot. Of course, I’ve forgotten what those steps were.

However, I do remember him saying that he interviewed her before the shoot to get a feel for how she would react to some of the subject matter. The subject of the scene where she masturbates with a crucifix came (heh heh) up. Friedken asked her if she knew what “masturbation” meant. Blair responded, “You mean, like, jerking off?” It was at that point that he realized that Blair would be OK.

"Not surprisingly, it was hard to find an actor for the role. Some parents weren’t comfortable with the role, and many kids who did audition “were acting stereotypically gay, and that was horrible,” Gewirtz says. “Then we met Taylor. He loves the character, and he’s endearing without necessarily falling into the stereotype.”


The remake of Lolita creeped me the hell out.

One disturbing thing was that they had to make special pants for Jeremy Irons to wear when Dominique (who was 15 at the time of the filming) sat in his lap. The pants had a pillow sewn into the “lap area”.

Serious ick-factor.

I recently watched an episode of “Roseanne” where Jackie’s baby, Andy, starts crying. While both Dan and Jackie are handling him, you can see the baby stretching towards something off-stage, probably his mother (it’s the episode where Roseanne is making a tape for her unborn baby).

It’s so rare you see an actual baby, as opposed to a bump of blanket, that I can easily imagine that the crying noise is just sound effects added later.

Re The Exorcist: That was Linda Blair’s double in the crucifix masturbation scene.

Re Taxi Driver[: I’ve seen the movie twice, but I don’t remember any “actual sex scenes” with Iris (Jodie Foster).

Child labor laws in California and New York require that a social worker be present at all times while a child actor is on the set.

I haven’t seen the movie in years, but isn’t there a scene where Bickle bursts into a room where she’s giving somebody a BJ?


Natalie Portman in The Professional. It disturbs me that she was protrayed as a lolita type character next to Jean Reno.

No, not all that rare. It happens enough that it raised a question for me.

Take, for example, The Santa Clause. When Scott is at the North Pole for the first time, and declares “What if I choose not to believe?!?” A few of the elves are shown reacting, including a baby elf, who seems on the verge of crying. I’m wondering what they did to make him so unhappy, and it makes me wonder about the ethics of shooting such a scene. I’m sure that Hollywood lawyers got it all straightened out with Hollywood shrinks, but I have no idea how.

There is also a time limit that they are allowed to work the little tykes - something like 15 minutes max every few hours or something. That’s why it worked out so well to use twins for a single role in that scariest Teevee show of all,
Full House. :stuck_out_tongue: And we’re just starting to find out how it worked out for those girls. :dubious:

According to IMDb,

So if that’s true, then her “double” was the box. (I don’t know how much to trust the trivia stuff on IMDb, so if it’s not credible, then please let me know.)

Another disturbing scene for a child actor was in The Cell, when JLo was in the killer’s mind, and he was remembering a scene where his father was abusing his mother. Or in The Good Son, when

The mom is holding the two boys at the edge of the cliff and has to drop Macaulay Culkin.

I thought of Cameron Bright when I saw this thread.

There’s been some controversy over Nicole Kidman’s new movie “Birth” where Bright plays a 10yo whom she believes is the reincarnation of her dead husband. Apparently, there’s a scene where they bathe together, and some scenes of kissing, as well. I don’t think it’s been released yet, though, so I don’t know how wierd it actually is.

I looked up a few of his other roles, and they’re all drama/thrillers. Abused kid, evil kid, death-sentence-his-head kid, it must be kind of wierd for him.

I read somewhere that Linda Blair was shoving the crucifix into a fake blood soaked sponge.

How about Kirsten Dundst in “Interview with the Vampire?” She said that because she was only 11 at the time, it was really gross to have to kiss Brad Pitt.