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Oscars 2000 Wednesday, 22 March, 2000, 12:24 GMT
Hollywood across the ages
Richard Farnsworth
Farnsworth: "I kind of identified with the old guy"
By BBC News Online's Entertainment correspondent Tom Brook

Two of this year's Oscar nominees are distinguished by their age.

At one end of the spectrum 79-year-old Richard Farnsworth is the oldest actor in Oscar history to be nominated in the Best Actor category.

At the other end 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment - is the youngest male to be nominated for the best supporting actor trophy.

I didn't think I would be in the business this long

Richard Farnsworth
Despite the differences in age both these actors played roles that defined their films.

Farnsworth brought pathos and authenticity to David Lynch's The Straight Story, in which he portrays the real-life Alvin Straight who travelled 260 miles, from Iowa to Wisconsin, on a lawnmower to visit his ailing brother.

Farnsworth believes it helped that he empathised with his character.

"The old gentleman was on a cane, and I was on a cane," says Farnsworth who thought, "well gosh that will fit. It fit me physically and I identified with the character, I kind of identified with the old guy".
Haley Joel Osment:
Haley Joel Osment: Frighteningly mature
Haley Joel Osment gave a spine-tingling dimension to the supernatural blockbuster The Sixth Sense as Cole Sear, a child with special powers.

Osment says it helped that he believes in ghosts: "It was a wonderful role," says the young actor who was also very taken by the story. He adds: "It had so much heart in it and the characters were so rich and they were so deep," he says.

Surprise success

The two actors entered the industry in very different eras. Farnsworth made his screen debut 62 years ago as a stunt rider in The Adventures of Marco Polo which starred Gary Cooper.

Osment's first claim to fame was just seven years ago in a Pizza Hut TV commercial. But both are pleased by all the attention that's been lavished upon them in the run up to the Oscars.


People like to get scared. They think it's fun and I think that the movie pulls it off pretty well

Haley Joel Osment
For Farnsworth it is especially gratifying to gain recognition for his acting because for decades he resisted doing any roles that required dialogue, preferring to do stunt work.

The first time he tried to deliver a line in a 1940s Roy Rogers Western he was beset by giggles. He avoided acting and continued working as a stunt man until 1976 when he had his first significant speaking role.

Farnsworth recalls: "I didn't think I would be in the business this long. I was about to retire and I got a few lines in a film that worked and I thought well if I can make it as an actor I will. So I stayed in."
David Lynch
Lynch is better known for dark, brooding movies
Lucky for him, and everyone else that he did, because in 1978 he received an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in the film Comes a Horseman which starred Jane Fonda.

Both actors also happen to be appearing in pictures that, on paper at least, don't look like sure-fire successes.

Directorial debuts

Director David Lynch is best known for bringing dark off-kilter stories to the big screen. The prospect of him making a sentimental film about an elderly man on a lawnmower doesn't at first sound quite right.

But Farnsworth liked Lynch's idea from the outset. He says: "Dave and I had a long talk about it and I was tickled to death when he said it was strictly family-oriented. No four-letter words and I think he did a great job. I'm sure glad he did it."

Also, nobody expected writer-director M Night Shyamalan's cleverly constructed The Sixth Sense to become such a huge blockbuster.

Bruce Willis and  M Night Shyamalan
Sixth Sense star Bruce Willis with director Shyamalan
But Haley Joel Osment seems to have little doubt as to why it became a runaway hit, with strong repeat business. "I just think that people like the subject matter," he says, sounding as articulate as someone twice his age.

Osment believes "people like to get scared. They think it's fun and I think that the movie pulls it off pretty well. So that's what makes people come back and see it again and again".

See also:

10 Jan 00 | Entertainment
15 Feb 00 | Entertainment
15 Feb 00 | Entertainment
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