Haley’s comet: Osment’s star is rising

Showest Supporting Actor of the Year

Haley Joel Osment Filmography

Haley Joel Osment is ShoWest’s supporting actor of the year, and even though the Los Angeles native isn’t old enough to sip a glass of champagne during the Las Vegas festivities, he’s handling his fame very much like a grownup.

“Honors are hard to compare,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an Academy Award nomination or someone admiring your entire body of work. They’re equally humbling.”

As if ShoWest’s tribute isn’t humbling enough, 12-year-old Osment, who has already been nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a SAG award, is about to return to the spotlight in a big way: He landed the lead role in Steven Spielberg’s production of Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi fantasy “A.I.”

Pic, which will be released this summer and is the helmer’s first project since “Saving Private Ryan,” stars Osment as David Swinton, a robot with artificial intelligence who takes an emotional journey.

But even though it’s a big role in a big movie, Osment is happy to look at “A.I.” as just the latest in a long string of high-profile learning experiences, and Spielberg as but the latest teacher.

“He’s able to do so many things at one time, and he’s always writing,” Osment says. “I learn something from everyone I work with, and with him it wasn’t always related to filmmaking. I learned how to make a great movie, but I also learned the meaning of professionalism.”

That’s a subject Osment seems to have already mastered. An actor since he was 5 years old, his star began to rise in 1999 after he caught America — and director M. Night Shyamalan — by surprise as the calm and collected pre-teen channeler in “The Sixth Sense.” And while the Disney/Spyglass film might have started out as a Bruce Willis thriller, by year’s end, it was clearly their film; U.S. auds took note of Osment’s eerily mature performance to the tune of $278 million.

“I was adamant about not using a Hollywood kid,” Shyamalan said after its release. “And then Haley walked in and blew the roof off.”

Learning curve

Now an A-list tyro, Osment scored the ShoWest nod after another central performance in a movie dominated by big stars. And though it never caught fire at the box office, Warner Bros.’ “Pay It Forward” was yet another major film that offered the kind of lessons Osment hopes to collect as he builds his career. “I take something very valuable away from every project I’m in,” he says. “Bruce Willis taught me how to be focused. In ‘Pay It Forward,’ Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt taught me how to act off of each other. I want to be in this profession as long as I can, so I think these lessons are more valuable to me than someone who has been doing this for a long time.”

Hollywood is taking his commitment very seriously. Considering the recent recipients of ShoWest’s award — Ving Rhames (2000), William H. Macy (1999) and Burt Reynolds (1998) were the org’s past three winners — it’s no surprise that execs, directors, critics and fellow thesps think Osment has longevity. “He gave one of the decade’s great child-actor performances,” says Newsday’s John Anderson of the young actor’s turn in “Sixth Sense.”

Rapid rise

Osment got his start in a Pizza Hut commercialand was soon on the bigscreen. He was Tom Hanks’ son in Forrest Gump and starred opposite Gerard Depardieu and Whoopi Goldberg in Norman Jewison’s “Bogus” (1996). His TV credits include everything from guest spots (“Murphy Brown,” “Touched by an Angel”) to sitcom regular (“The Jeff Foxworthy Show.”)

But it was the “Sense” role that catapulted him to stardom, which is why he’ll be accepting his ShoWest supporting actor award alongside thesps like Russel Crowe (the ShoWest actor honoree), Sandra Bullock (actress) and Judi Dench (supporting actress).

If you were to ask him who’s responsible for the greatest part of his success, Osment is convinced it’s due to the directors who have guided him. “Every director has been great in his or her own way to me,” he says. “I’m there to perform, but I’m also there to get better. They allow me to take in what I’m doing for the sake of my future.”

It’s a future that’s booked solid. Despite his schoolwork, Osment has a slate of projects that will keep him busy at least until he starts thinking about his driver’s license. Besides “A.I.,” he is finishing up a voiceover performance for Disney’s “The Bears,” and recently wrapped “Edges of the Lord,” a holocaust drama in which he stars opposite Willem Dafoe.

“I’ve already done so much, and I’m now in a position to look for quality scripts” Osment says. “But there are quite a few things that I haven’t accomplished. I would love to direct.”

Even the young ones say that.

Haley Joel Osment Filmography

FEATURES
The Bears (2002, voice)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2001, voice)
A.I. (2001)
Edges of the Lord (2001)
Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big (2000, voice)
Pay It Forward (2000)
Discover Spot (2000, voice)
I’ll Remember April (1999)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997, voice)
For Better or Worse (1996)
Bogus (1996)
Mixed Nuts (1994)
Forrest Gump (1994)
 
TV MOVIES
Cab to Canada (1998)
The Ransom of Red Chief (1998)
The Lake (1998)
Last Stand at Sabre River (1997)
 
SERIES TV (guest spots and as a regular)
Ally McBeal (1997)
The Pretender (1996)
Touched by an Angel (1994)
Chicago, Hope (1994)
Walker, Texas Ranger (1993)
The Larry Sanders Show (1992)
Murphy Brown (1988)
The Jeff Foxworthy Show (1995)
Thunder Alley (1994)

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