Interview with Haley Joel Osment (Sex Ed)

You all know him from Forrest Gump and The Sixth Sense. He was that cute little kid who “saw dead people”. Well, now he’s all grown up and he stars in the raunchy new comedy Sex Ed, a film with sharp wit and pretty decent performances especially from Osment. I spoke with the actor regarding the film and it was pretty enlightening to say the least. Here’s the interview:

I loved the film. It was really cool, really good, very funny. What drew you to the project?

You know, I read the script a number of years ago, actually. We’ve been trying to get this made for 4 years, and I went and had a meeting with Isaac, the director. And we hit it off immediately, and I knew that he was definitely someone whose vision was really strong, and it proved to be true. When we finally got the money coming out of Florida, we made it in Tampa, it was sort of a last-minute thing that we adapted the story that he had intended to be a Chicago story to Tampa and kind of a blessing in disguise. Other than Magic Mike, I don’t know too many films that showcase Tampa the way that we had, and really it really, I think, added a lot to our story.

Yeah, it was definitely a unique choice for a location, but it worked.

Yeah, yeah.

The message of Sex Ed, it’s a pretty important one. Do you think that this film will help improve the way sex ed is taught in schools?

Oh, I don’t know! You know, I think that we, all of us that made the film, feel pretty strongly that in a perfect world, you know, kids would get all the right information from their parents at home, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. In that case, we think that, you know, conditional to what parents want for their own children at public schools and everything, that the right information should be made available, you know, to the kids that are sort of left in the lurch. I think we really do a good job of demonstrating that in the movie, but the topic is so toxic in this country, I’m not sure what would lead to a positive change. There’s a number of states in this country where medically accurate sex education is practically forbidden.

It’s a very controversial topic. Did you do any sort of research for the role?

Yeah, the character is somewhat based on a real person who the writer Bill Kennedy and the director, a mutual friend of theirs, who was teaching English in Korea. It was sort of a fish-out-of-water situation, and you know, having a lot of success romantically and was really sort of devoted to his job and everything. My mom is a sixth grade teacher, and I was familiar with the struggles that teachers have and everything, but yeah, just taking little bits and pieces from things that I’ve observed and put it together into Eddie.

The film, it feels very genuine. Did you improvise at all?

There was some improvisation. Most of it was in, you know, the extended thing with me and Matt Walsh was completely improvised, and some of the stuff with Retta and Matt Walsh and I, we had some improve there and that was really fun. They’re terrific.

Are you in L.A. right now?

I’m in New York, actually. We have the premiere coming up in a couple of hours in Times Square. We’re on Video On Demand tonight everywhere but also we got a limited release in 10 cities across the country where we had a huge fan response online. It’s fun that we’re getting in theaters as well.

And you live in New York?

Yes, I do. Most of the time.

You’re known the world over for one of cinema history’s most memorable quotes. How do you feel about that?

I mean, it’s cool and it’s strange to me because when we made the movie, you know, nobody when we were shooting that scene was like, “Oh, this is going to be the line.” It sort of passed unnoticed, and so when it came out and ended up being the touchstone of the movie and everything, it was kind of a nice surprise. You know, I went to a Dodgers game a couple weeks ago, and they had, you know, the line on the big screen. It’s crazy to me how enduring it’s been.

Do people stop you in the street and want you to say it?

Not so much anymore. When it came out, yeah, certainly a lot.

So back to Sex Ed, the cast is a very funny bunch. What was it like working with them and do you have a special moment on-set that you recall?

It was a really fast shoot. I mean, we made it in 20 days. With independent films like this, there’s not a lot of leeway for mistakes, and you kind of have to hit a home run every day. It was cool that we had such a professional group. We were all staying at the crappy Ramada Inn in the parking lot of the Tampa Airport, and everyone was just, just got along really well. Practically every frame of the movie was like changing my wardrobe in front of the camera, so we were working pretty hard.

Wow. 20 days, really? That’s impressive. It feels like a Hollywood production. It seems like it would have taken longer to shoot.

Yeah, I mean, all the money went into what is in front of the camera, and we also lucked out. Our cinematographer, director, production designer, and producer all attended AFI together, so they had a lot of history working together. Just the way it’s shot, it looks like we had a lot more money than we did, which is cool.

So what was it like working with kids? They were all very talented. What was that like?

It was great, and considering the short amount of time that we had, we got really lucky. Our director and our casting director really found a great bunch of kids from, kind of all across the country. From New Orleans and kids from Florida and some kids from Los Angeles, and they were just kind of perfect for every role. I didn’t know quite what to expect not having worked with kids too often, but they did a terrific job. You know, I don’t think the movie would have worked without them.

Yeah, it has a real School of Rock type of feel to it.

Yeah, I’ve heard people say that. It’s kind of cool.

Have you yourself ever thought about being a teacher in real life?

You know, I think I would enjoy it, actually. My career path has taken me in a different direction, but yeah, I really enjoyed going to school. Having my mom be a teacher, I was always going to finish college and everything, and I just felt kind of lucky because it was something I wanted to do anyway.

Do you prefer drama to comedy or vice versa, or is it pretty much even?

I think it’s good to have a healthy mixture of both, and what’s kind of fun is that the last film I did was, I did a pretty funny movie, but it was cool because I think in order to get the comedy, we had to kind of play it straight. Sort of an outrageous circumstance, but I think it helped to have the technique to play it straight, and we got the humor out of that. It’s good to have all different techniques at the ready.

So you’re going to be in the new Entourage film, correct?

Yes, that’s correct. Yeah, that’s coming out on June 5.

Can you reveal any details about the plot or anything like that?

Not much, but I do play Billy Bob Thorton’s son. We’re new characters in the world. We kind of give Ari some trouble in his plotline, but all those guys had really high standards for it and know the expectations are very high for this movie.

I’m excited to see it myself. What was it like working with the Entourage gang?

They were so much fun, and it was cool because, you know, the chemistry that you have between the guys was really palpable, and you could see how excited they were after three years to get back to playing these characters. I think it really comes through in the film.

Well, I’m looking forward to it. So in retrospect, your career, what roles did you like playing the best?

You know, I feel lucky because I feel like I’ve just had the chance to play a really big variety of them. Ever since I was really young, that was something my dad always told me, because he was active in the theater and got a similar sort of chance to play a bunch of different characters. He was saying that one of the most fun things about it is the wide variety of people you play. In the past couple of years, it’s very different from what people know me from because it’s just by virtue of being older, you know, things become available that you couldn’t have played a long time ago and play sort of these unsavory characters and outright villains in a couple of these movies because it’s really fun. I think a lot of actors feel that playing, you know, the bad guy can sometimes be the most fun you have.

Are there any other roles in the future that you want to tackle?

Oh, sure. So many ahead of me, you know? And that’s always how I choose projects, is it something unfamiliar and new? That’s usually very exciting for me.

Years ago, you played Forrest Gump’s son. What was it like working with Mr. Tom Hanks?

You know, I actually have a pretty clear memory of that movie. I think it’s like the first time I’d been out of the state of California, and I think I learned to tie my shoes on the movie, and I remember Tom very well. He was so focused and driven on the set that he, even though I was really young, I still have a really strong memory of it in my mind.

It was over 20 years ago, wow. Similar question for A.I., what was it like working with Stephen Spielberg?

Again, that was something where I was old enough to know that I really wanted to pay attention to how he did things and how he put a movie together, and it was just so impressive. Compared to a film like Sex Ed where you have a small crew and you’re working really fast, we shot A.I., pre-production included, over a period of like a year. And he was able to calmly manage just an enormous amount of activity and we had like five different sound stages on the Warner lot. Certainly it made a big impression to see how one person can be in charge of that.

Coming back around to Sex Ed, I bet it was a lot of fun on set. Even though it was only 20 days, I’m sure you had a blast on set. Any special memories from shooting?

You know, most of it is on camera. We worked all day and only got a couple hours of sleep every night, so yeah, being around somebody like Matt Walsh and everybody, just really great personalities to have on set, and I think it’s all on the film.

Would you rather work in a city like Tampa or a big city like New York?

For living and for working, I’ve always enjoyed living in big cities. I grew up in Los Angeles. New York has become my second home, so I definitely am someone who prefers to live in an urban environment. That said, it’s an industry that gives you the opportunity to work in parts of the country that you would probably never go otherwise. Yeah, I don’t know if I would have ever gone to Tampa besides, but I’m glad that I did.

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