Jacob Tremblay hadn’t read “Wonder” when he got a call about playing the lead role in the movie based on the 2012 middle-grade bestseller. But after he got to know the character — Auggie Pullman, a 10-year-old whose face looks different from that of most kids — Jacob didn’t need convincing.
“The thing that mostly drew me to wanting to do the part of Auggie is the message. I thought it was very important,” the 11-year-old actor told KidsPost.
In the story, Auggie starts fifth grade at a private school after years of home-schooling and has to make friends — and deal with bullies.
“What better character could you be than Auggie?” Jacob said. “He’s brave, he’s confident, he’s true to himself, and he’s kind.”
It’s a good thing Jacob wanted the part, because he was director Stephen Chbosky’s first and only choice after seeing Jacob’s breakthrough performance in “Room,” a 2015 drama that earned 20 awards for him and a best-actress Academy Award for Brie Larson, who played the mother of Jacob’s character.
“There was no need for an audition. The combination of seeing him in ‘Room’ with meeting him and his parents and seeing what a lovely Canadian family they were made it clear he was the right kid,” Chbosky told KidsPost. “Jacob’s a mischievous, curious kid who’s so funny, so charming. Since we knew we wanted Auggie to always be a hero, never be a victim, Jacob was a perfect fit.”
Jacob, who is from the Canadian city of Vancouver and has been acting since he was 5, said some aspects of portraying Auggie came naturally to him. “I have lots of things in common with Auggie. We both love ‘Star Wars.’ We have awesome families, and we love our pets.”
But Jacob doesn’t have a craniofacial difference (that’s one affecting the head and face) as Auggie does. So with his family’s help, he reached out to those who do, connecting with a group of children associated with a hospital in Toronto, Canada.
“I sent them a video and asked if they could send me any letters of experiences, tips, stories, anything they wanted me to know,” he explained. “Later I got back all these letters, and I put them all in a binder. I had the binder with me all the time on set and read it over and over again between scenes.”
Jacob, who needed to wear extensive makeup for his role, particularly relied on the letters to help him prepare for emotional scenes, such as when Auggie walked into his class for the first time.
“I remembered reading this one letter about the experience of being stared at, so I read it again before the scene of walking into homeroom,” he said.
“Wonder” author R.J. Palacio, who visited the movie set for 10 days, was touched by Jacob’s dedication to representing kids affected by craniofacial differences.
“To be so young and so aware that he really wanted to do good by them I thought was very profound,” the author told KidsPost.
Jacob says whether or not you’ve read Palacio’s book, he believes audiences can relate to Auggie.
“Everyone wants to be accepted, to be treated equally and to be treated with kindness.”
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Daveed Diggs
Siblings: Two sisters. “They’re actually in the acting business, too. One’s older [Emma], and one’s younger [Erica], so I’m the middle child.” Emma is also in “Wonder.”
Pets: One dog, named after his favorite character in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” “She’s a cute puppy named Rey. . . . We got her after the movie came out.”
Favorite book: “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen. “I’m not much of a reader, but I just think that’s cool.”
Favorite movie: “Everyone knows I love ‘Star Wars,’ but after that I’d pick ‘The Karate Kid,’ but the original.”
Favorite superhero: Spider-Man. “Because he’s the youngest superhero. Of all the ‘Spider-Man’ movies, ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is my favorite.”
Rule to live by: “Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.”
Actor he would most like to work with: “I would like to work with Harrison Ford in the future — that would be really exciting — or Leonardo DiCaprio.”
Upcoming film/TV projects: A drama, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” starring Kit Harington and Jessica Chastain, in January. Also, the big-budget new version of “Predator” in June: “That one’s about aliens and stuff.”