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Tom Brook
Talks to Haley Joel Osment about AI's challenge
 real 28k

Friday, 29 June, 2001, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Natural talent of Artificial's Osment
Haley Joel Osment
Osment: A huge star since The Sixth Sense
By BBC News Online entertainment correspondent Tom Brook

Child star Haley Joel Osment, 13, has delivered another acting tour de force in Steven Spielberg's sci-fi fantasy AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Osment has already earned recognition, and an Oscar nomination, for his haunting portrayal of Cole in spooky thriller The Sixth Sense.

In AI, Osment plays David, a very human looking child robot and the first in the world programmed with the ability to love.

Osment, Spielberg and AI co-stars
Osment: In the confidence of director Spielberg

Osment says: "It was very, very interesting playing such a different type of robot, you learn a lot about yourself when you play such a unique character."

He says his main challenge was getting the balance right. He did not want to be "obnoxiously robotic".

But he also wanted to avoid letting his character become too human.

In The Sixth Sense, Osment displayed an impressive range of acting skills which he has developed further for AI.

Complexity

The young actor, who is in more scenes than any other cast member, brings authenticity to his robot role by refusing to blink throughout the picture.

His subtle, somewhat mechanical, stare is distinctly unnerving.

Osment is the glue that holds the narrative together in AI. His character David, who is central to the story, endures a painful emotional journey.

Frances O'Connor stars in Artificial Intelligence
Frances O'Connor plays Osment's screen mother

He was dumped by his human parents and is now desperate to reconnect with his adoptive mother who abandoned him because he was not a real boy.

Osment says: "A big part of the film is about that quest, looking for the mother that he had to leave, and he's searching for her."

Spielberg's picture poses some provocative questions that delve into the emotional relationship between man and machine.

Osment thinks he has some understanding of the film's complexity. To his mind the essence of AI is that it asks a basic question: "What responsibility do we have towards something that loves us?"

He also says the film raises issues about the future, and how our actions today will affect what the future will become.

Maturity

In his desperate search for his mother David encounters a range of fascinating characters. Among them is Gigolo Joe, played by Jude Law, who acts as a guide to the young boy.

Osment is predictably polite when he talks about his co-stars, almost as if he has been programmed in publicity etiquette.

Jude Law in Artificial Intelligence
Jude Law has won Osment's respect

In referring to Law he declares: "Jude was great, always had a great attitude on the set, always prepared, always had his lines down, and (was) a lot of fun to work with."

Interviewing Osment is a slightly strange experience because he has the poise of someone twice his age.

He possesses a peculiar maturity, he is like a man-child, giving you the impression there is an adult trapped inside the body of a boy.

Although he is only in his early teens he has already starred opposite Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.

Outwardly Osment appears self-confident and maintains he has no concerns that his talent will evaporate. "Losing it hasn't been a worry," he says.

Longevity

Osment thinks his short career has already provided him with some useful tools.

"The amazing experiences that I've had on sets are definitely going to be useful in becoming a better actor," he says.

Osment, who's been acting since the age of five, is quite matter of fact when asked to locate the source of his talent.

He says it comes from experience, and getting a lot of help, particularly from his father who is an actor.

AI will cement Osment's status as the child actor of choice for top Hollywood directors.

It is also a role that has brought him a reported $2m and set him on course to win a possible second Oscar nomination.

The challenge facing this young actor now is how best to deploy his skills to build a screen career into adulthood.

Many child actors do not manage the transition. But there is every indication that Osment, because he is such a technically skilled performer, will make the grade.

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