The Ziegfeld Theatre has had a busy week, and it was overrun again last Thursday night for the world premiere of Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, the film adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, which fictionalizes a young boy’s experience post 9/11.The Observer jostled our way through hordes of photographers and cameramen to be met by the youngest member of the cast, Thomas Horn. The half-sized actor, wearing an smart but ill-fitting suit, blew away reporters with his charm, eloquence and understanding that transcended his years. Either that or his responses were relentlessly rehearsed.
Making his way down the red carpet, the young Mr. Horn spoke of his gratitude towards Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock—his co-stars—neither of whom “had any responsibility to be so kind to me”. He then outwitted one reporter who attempted to get him to describe the poster, (which features the young boys face hidden behind his hands), asking him if he was always that sad.
He replied at length about Asperger’s syndrome, a form of which his character suffers from.
The rest of the cast were also impressed by the 13 year old, many of them referencing his eloquence. He told us how he landed his role due to a winning appearance on Teen Jeopardy—after which he was contacted by the producers.
“We hope that this film will show people that the best way to overcome grief is to connect with other people,” he explained. “But I can’t personally know that because I’m lucky enough not to have been through it myself.”
Summing up the focus of the film the young actor surmised. “We’ve tried our best to portray the story in a way that could be seen as accurate. We’ve done our research on 9/11, the victims of 9/11 and also on Asperger’s syndrome.”
Max Von Sydow, who plays Horn’s grandfather, told us about what the film means to New York and the difficulties involved in taking a character away from its author. “It is a chance for us to come together. There are certain things that help in the healing process and I think this is one of them.”
He also told us of the challenges the actors (and script writers) faced in conveying the deeper themes of Mr. Foer’s novel. “We had to change [the script] once or twice throughout the process…I’m interested to see what he thinks.”
We also ran into Viola Davis, who in addition to having a role in Extremely Loud, got news of her Golden Globe nomination for best actress, for her turn in the The Help that same day. She was asleep when she heard the news. Of her new film, she said, “It reminds us of a time when we woke up to the fact that we need each other to feel and we need each other to grieve.”
During the pre-screening introductions, Mr. Hanks, seemingly in a volubale mood, made the most of his audience—throwing his hands up in the air and punctuating his contemporaries comments with witticisms of his own. As the credits rolled the cast received a tearful ovation and we too headed home with a lump in our throat.