Fellow UT film school alumnus and Daily Texan staffmember (though we were about 10 years apart), George Ratliff, is behind the Fox Searchlight release Joshua. The Austin opening of his acclaimed psychological thriller would not be complete without a profile in this weekend’s Austin Chronicle, given that the newspaper has been very supportive of the former local’s work over the years. If you get a chance, check out Joshua. Here is an excerpt from Marjorie Baumgarten’s interview with Ratliff:
Austin Chronicle: Tell me more about the kid, Jacob Kogan. He’s such a linchpin. If he weren’t good, he would sink the whole movie.
George Ratliff: We needed a kid who was not only a great little actor but was also a piano prodigy and, believably, a genius. That was a pretty tall order. I did have one card up my sleeve, which was that I knew the guy that created the show Wonder Showzen, a late-night MTV2 show and really twisted take on Sesame Street. I knew that those guys had worked with all the kid actors in the five boroughs of New York. And I knew that any parent who would let their kid be on Wonder Showzen would let them be in Joshua. He sent me a list with Jacob Kogan’s name at the top. We ended up auditioning around 70 kids. I was really surprised at how many of them were very talented, believable actors. But none of them was believably that smart, which for me was the most important thing about Jacob. And the reason he appears that smart is because he is that smart. One of the premises of the movie is that it’s really disconcerting to be around a kid who’s smarter than you are. That was the whole process of the shoot, too. It was disconcerting to be around Jacob, because he’s a frighteningly brilliant kid, although he’s a totally nice guy.