Child Actors and Potentially Disturbing Roles/Scenes

The Tin Drum has to be the ultimate creepy kid role. shivers

The kid who played the prince in Derek Jarman’s Edward II (which I just saw this evening – weeeeeird movie, that) had some pretty disturbing scenes, too…

Hey-what about the little boy in Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary”? Literally the scariest movie I have ever seen (and have vowed NEVER to watch or read, ever, ever again).

I’m pretty sure they get to wear their underwear.


IIRC there was actually a Shirley Temple movie where an influential movie critic, (later spy novelist) Graham Greene, was sued by her studio, when he made the not so veiled observation that a large part of her appeal was to pedophiles.

See “Sex and Shirley Temple”

I was disturbed by this too, until I found out that an automaton was used for the intense scenes.

I just checked the IMDB to verify.

I guess they’d never heard of Polly Tix in Washington:

So, to paraphrase the central question in my OP, "Is there some sort of standard in place in the movie industry when child actors do intense or disturbing scenes?

[li]Shoot the scene with the child off-set as much as possible, relying on camera angles and such to distract the viewer.[/li][li]Whenver possible, keep the child in the dark about what the movie/scene is about.[/li][li]Judicious use of body-doubles.[/li][li]Interviews and psychological testing of the child before filming.[/li][li]Hiring mature-for-their age or younger-looking but older actors.[/li][li]Keep a social worker on the set whenever the child is being filmed.[/li][/ul]

Anything else?

This seems to be the general practice with young child actors even when the scene isn’t disturbing. As mentioned above, kids aren’t legally allowed to spend much time working, and most little kids aren’t very reliable actors anyway. It’s usually easiest for everyone if as much of the movie as possible is shot without the child actors being present at all.

Going in a completely opposite direction from the sexual nature of the examples outlined above, I was really disturbed by the obese kid in Monster’s Ball, and how Halle Berry’s character berated him for his fatness and was actually slapping him around. It really makes me wonder how that kid felt at the end of each shooting day. Is there any amount of “It’s just a movie” reassurances that can take that “fake” abuse away? :frowning:

I heard that after each scene or time they acted together, Halle was very careful to spend time with the kid afterwards, tell him he was actually beautiful and perfect, she didn’t mean what she had said, etc.

Yeah, I read that Louise Fletcher absolutely loathed having to be abusive to the two little children in “Flowers in the Attic”, and always made it clear to them that they were just pretending and that afterwards they could be friends again.

Re: The Exorcist

We own the video and there’s a special chat with the actors and director and writer afterwards. I watched it yesterday and Linda Blair said that her body double did the masturbation scene.

I was at an event where Rachel Even Woods was presented an award and Ron Howard introduced her.

They had just finished working on The Missing. I never saw the film but Howard related how on the set he tried to talk to Ms. Woods frequently about the scenes that were coming up and how they would handle them and I gathered that they were of disturbing nature. He said finally she rolled her eyes like his own teenagers and said "Ok Ok it’s no big deal you know. We’re acting.’

Basically it is all handled on a case by case basis. There is no set proceedures on how to direct children, just how long they work.

Remember when there was that big deal about The Tin Drum being considered pornographic due to the child/oral sex scene? It even lead to the director of the ACLU in someplace like Mississippi being visited by the sherriff.

Anyway, the director of the movie said the child actor and the female actor weren’t even in the same room when the scene was shot. That it was carefully coordinated to keep the boy from the reality of the scene. Hmm, I’ll have to dig around and see if I can find the actual interview.

My thoughts exactly.

The movie Rabbit Proof Fence was 90% just following 3 very young Aborigonie girls across Australia. The DVD extra of the “making of” the film goes into detail about how they handled some of the tougher scenes in the film, especially a really heart-wrenching one where the three girls are forcibly taken from their mother. The one girl who had to put up one hell o fa fight looked absolutely distraught after the scene.

The thing that made this movie really tough was that the girls were all really Aborigionie and they didn’t start off as trained actors. So imagine it like a bunch of black kids from the ghetto getting picked to play slaves on Roots. There’s got to be a ton of emotion in that. Quite different than child actors who learn from a young age the difference between “acting” and “real life”.

Good flick, I recommend it.

I also wonder about kids in TV sketch comedy shows like Kids in the Hall or SNL. Every so often I see a filmed spot on SNL (such as a commercial) that makes me wonder what the kids’ parents think about the content. Same with KITH.

I don’t know if anything did or didn’t happen in Mississippi concerning The Tin Drum, but in Oklahoma City, the city forced the public library system to remove the video from circulation. One copy (it may have been the only copy, I’m not sure) was checked out at the time and the police went to that person’s house to confiscate the tape.

As for the crucifix scene in The Exorcist, it was, as far as I can tell, a combination of both Linda Blair and a body double. The way the scene is set up, you see Regan lying on her back on the bed. First, you see just the top of her body, maybe from the chest up, and you see her raise the crucifix. That’s Linda Blair that you see. Then, the next shot is of her plunging the crucifix between her bloody legs. That shot is of the body double’s legs. The body double had a sponge soaked with fake blood between her legs and that’s what she plunged the crucifix into.


Natasha: Ignorance Fighter.
On an unrelated note:
3 Torres Strait Islander children, all <16 yrs old, survived 6 days out at sea, including a 3km+ swim in Australian winter waters after their boat capsized. Their mother, father and younger sibling who were in the boat when it capsized have not been found. Story here

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see how the boy out of The Shining could’ve not known at least some of the things that were going on. But maybe they used tricky shots, to make it seem as if he was there?
What about when he gets pulled into room (insert spooky number here) by that gross dead woman? At his age, that woulda given me nightmares for weeks!

Yes, it happened in Oklahoma City. (I think the poster said Mississippi by mistake.)

This was right after the “Virtual Porn” law was passed, which also contained a clause banning any visual depiction of sexual activity, implied or otherwise, between actors who “appear” to be under 18, and the feds decided to flex their muscles by arresting three people who had recently rented that tape. Coincidentally, one of them just happened to be a high-ranking ACLU member, and the shit hit the fan.

IIRC, the people arrested sued the government, and won something like $40,000 for their troubles. The law itself was ruled unconstitutional by SCOTUS a few years later.

Of course, Blockbuster still doesn’t carry that movie. :mad:

I think that the way that movies are shot makes it appear that the scenes are very harrowing to play when in actual fact with all the cameras and people milling about onset and the short duration of the takes it is probabley pretty mundane. Imagine seeing that gross woman from the Shining sitting about, learning the scene and drinking tea before you do a five second scene with her, it’s probabley not that freaky at all. I think likening it to a sex scene is a good analogy - it looks really erotic on screen but for the actors involved it is probabley far from arousing.