Tween Actor Jacob Tremblay Is Shining Beyond His Youth
Jacob Tremblay hasn’t won an Oscar. Yet. He hasn’t done a lot of things: learned how to drive, attended high school, turned 11—but he’s starred in an Oscar-nominated film, acted alongside longtime Hollywood mainstays including Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, and Neil Patrick Harris, and has written stories that he plans to one day turn into screenplays. Overwhelmed? Get ready. The kid is just getting started.
As we sit poolside at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Tremblay’s dog scampering around our feet, he composes himself with polite maturity beyond his years. Tremblay is obviously already a pro at interviews—honed by his appearances on talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Ellen DeGeneres Show—and he answers questions with thoughtful, complete sentences, carefully considering how his life has changed since 2016’s Oscar-nominated Room catapulted him into overnight stardom.“My life has changed quite a bit actually,” Tremblay tells me. “I’ve been getting lots of movie offers, I’ve been traveling the world, I’ve been trying new things. It’s been a pretty great adventure.”
Tremblay first made waves at the 2016 Oscars, where his pint-sized Armani tuxedo and Darth Vader socks stole the red carpet and the internet’s collective heart. He spent most of 2016’s award season in those tiny tuxes and standing on boxes in order to reach the microphone when accepting and presenting awards. Tremblay’s first major star turn was that year in Room, the harrowing film that won Brie Larson a Best Actress Oscar. Many critics were outraged that Tremblay himself didn’t get a nomination for his turn as Larson’s son, conceived and born while Larson’s character was held in captivity.
If you haven’t already guessed, Tremblay is an old soul packed into a ten-year-old’s body. Despite his young age, he plays characters who have experienced trauma beyond anything a normal ten-year-old can comprehend. Take Room and his newest film Wonder, where he plays a boy with facial differences finding his way through middle school and a sometimes-cruel world, as examples.
But in other respects, Tremblay is just a normal kid. He loves Star Wars, loves his dog—affectionately named after Rey from the Star Wars franchise—was star struck when he met Leonardo DiCaprio in person, and his parents monitor his social media accounts (though his gargantuan following, 469k on Instagram and 79.8k on Twitter, is certainly not normal for his age).
Tremblay’s older sister was the first of the family to try her hand at acting, but it didn’t take long before Tremblay joined in on commercials alongside her. When his sister landed her first movie, Elysium, the Tremblay kids got themselves movie agents.Tremblay booked his first film, Smurfs 2, and, in his words, “it’s been smooth sailing since then.”
After Room, Tremblay starred in this year’s The Book of Henry and Wonder, and recently wrapped filming for upcoming movies The Predator and The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, the latter with Kit Harington (of Game of Thrones fame) and Natalie Portman (yes, Tremblay and Portman did talk about Star Wars—“a lot!”)
Tremblay takes his craft seriously, as showcased by the care he put into delving into his role as Auggie in Wonder, where he stars alongside Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts. The prosthetics he wore to replicate Auggie’s facial differences helped him feel like his character, but he also reached out to real-life children affected by facial differences.
“I asked them if they could share some stories, so they sent me letters of stories and experiences they’ve had,” Tremblay says. “I took all these letters, and I put them in a book, so I could read them and really feel my character and see what they’ve gone through.”
With all the care that goes into delving into the mindset of his characters and memorizing his lines (his parents help him out with the memorization process), it’s no surprise that Tremblay is proud of the work he produces.
“During a movie there are lots of processes you have to go through. You have to go through the makeup, hair, you have to do the thing, and then there’s all the editing and stuff like that,” he says. “So after all that work, when I watch myself it really makes me proud.”
How do you ask a ten-year-old what they want to be when they grow up when they already have their dream job? Tremblay has no shortage of ambition. In the future, he tells me, he’d like to write screenplays and direct, as well as act.
“I’ve written a couple stories right now, actually. Yeah, I think that I want to become a scriptwriter and a director together, like to direct my own movies. I also kind of want to stay an actor too because it’s really fun and I’ve had such a great adventure.”
He sounds like a seasoned veteran, this old soul, but his “adventure” is just getting started. After all, fellow child-actor prodigy DiCaprio didn’t win his first Oscar until age 41. At the rate Tremblay is speeding along, he likely won’t have to be so patient.
Written by Helen Murphy
Photographed by Eddie Chacon
Styled by Sissy Sainte-Marie
Groomed by Lucy Halperin using Oribe and Ren at The Wall Group.
Styling Assistant: Robert Ziemer
Location: The Hollywood Roosevelt