Haley Joel Osmont sees more stars now than dead people

Haley Joel Osmont sees more stars now than dead people
ALL GROWN UP: Haley Joel Osment at the premiere of Entourage on Monday in Westwood, California.

Haley Joel Osment became an overnight sensation at the age of 11, after giving us the chills in M. Night Shyamalan's 1999 hit The Sixth Sense.

He played a troubled kid who could communicate with spirits, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

He swiftly followed up that breakout role with notable parts in Pay It Forward (2000), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) and Secondhand Lions (2003).

But faster than you can say "I see dead people", the US actor dropped off Hollywood's radar.

The only time Osment made headlines after that was when he was involved in a drink driving car accident in 2006. He was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Now, the 27-year-old former child star and Los Angeles native is back on the big screen with Entourage, his first major studio movie in over a decade.

In the big screen spin-off of the hit HBO TV series which opens here tomorrow, Osment plays Travis McCredle, a rich, spoilt jerk who antagonises Hollywood star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his crew (played by Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrera), especially super-agent-turned-studio executive Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven).

Gold has to secure financing from McCredle and his Texas billionaire father (Billy Bob Thornton) when Chase's directorial debut goes over the budget.

But Osment's not quite the cute sad-eyed boy you remember. Sporting messy facial fuzz, tousled long hair and a heftier figure, he's almost unrecognisable.

M caught up with him at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel recently.

WERE YOU A FAN OF THE TV SHOW?

Yeah, I was a sophomore in high school when it came out. I remember getting together with friends on Sundays to watch it.

Reading the script in 2013 just seemed kind of surreal, then even more surreal when I got the part. It was a great opportunity to play Travis, who comes in and just messes with everybody.

WHERE DID YOU GO FOR INSPIRATION FOR YOUR CHARACTER SINCE HE'S SUCH A PIECE OF WORK?

Just following the opposite of impulses. And this guy I think is a familiar character to a lot of people. I think many know of some kind of rich kid, who likes to throw money around and doesn't really have anything else going for him. And Travis is like that.

He goes to LA expecting to get all the girls and he doesn't really care about the movie so much as he cares about an opportunity to make himself look good.

MOST MEMORABLE FILMING EXPERIENCE?

We shot in this hotel and one funny story is that we had a big hot light up next to the fire sensor that set off all the sprinklers on the top floor while Jeremy (Piven) and I were doing this really intense scene. We had to sit outside in the plaza while all the firefighters came in to check it out.

DID YOU IDENTIFY WITH VINCENT CHASE'S EXPLOITS IN ANY WAY, GIVEN THAT YOU GREW UP IN HOLLYWOOD?

He's in a very different world than I was being a kid doing studio films. But it's funny now because I think by going to New York and studying acting (at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts) and not really being in Hollywood during those years, I kind of skipped that young-20s-Hollywood-party thing.

DO YOU HATE THE "CHILD STAR" LABEL?

I just don't think it's accurate. (Laughs) I just think that people usually hear the negative connotation with it when they hear it - and there were some of those - but you don't hear about people who had a good experience with it, like Jodie Foster and Ron Howard.

As a kid, those were some people I looked up to and they were not only great actors, but evolved in their craft as they got older too.

IF YOU HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU STILL BE INVOLVED IN HOLLYWOOD AS YOUNG AS YOU WERE?

I don't know. It's hard to say because one thing that wasn't around when I got involved with it was social media and the paparazzi. The invasion of privacy is much more ubiquitous now than when I was growing up.

WE'RE SURE FANS STILL COME UP TO YOU AND JOKE ABOUT THE WHOLE "I SEE DEAD PEOPLE" THING FROM THE SIXTH SENSE. IS THIS SOMETHING YOU EMBRACE OR ARE ANNOYED WITH?

People don't really come up to me about that so much any more. You know, I'm really proud of that movie. So it's sort of like Johnny "Drama" (Kevin Dillon) who has that "Viking Quest" thing in (Entourage).

It's certainly a strong association for some people, but it was a great movie for me and something that I'm really proud to be a part of - no matter what people say.

tnp@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 3, 2015.
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