Youth Impact Report 2012: Bigscreen Kids

New Jersey-born Jared Gilman and Massachusetts native Kara Hayward were only 12 when they were plucked from open-audition obscurity to play the young romantic leads in Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.”

The pair’s performances — as orphaned “Khaki Scout” Sam Shakusky and French pop-loving bookworm Suzy Bishop, whose plot to run away together instigates a search-party misadventure — proved authentic and emotionally pure even in Anderson’s meticulously stylized world.

After opening this year’s Cannes Film Festival, “Kingdom” went on to become a breakout success, earning $55 million worldwide. That the inexperienced Gilman and Hayward could carry the film and hold their own against veteran co-stars Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand suggests the start of two healthy careers, and Anderson can be thanked for helping chaperone and shaping them.

“Wes’s attitude helped me maintain my enthusiasm and excitement and made me look forward to each day,” says Gilman. Hayward says she’ll take forward sound advice from Anderson: “Be natural,” she says. “When you’re trying to force a reaction for the script while you’re acting, it comes off as being forced.”

Gilman has yet to accept any project offers, but has been taking meetings with producers.

Hayward is currently attached to “The Sisterhood of the Night” (which received the Tribeca Film Festival’s Creative Promise in Screenwriting award), “The Last Good Car” (alongside Jason Ritter and Mark Webber) and “Mixtape,” about a girl who discovers an old audio recording made by her late mother, whom she never knew.

Impact: The first-timers starred in “Moonrise Kingdom,” the worldwide indie hit that opened this year’s Cannes.
Next: Gilman is taking offers, while Hayward is attached to three features, including the quirky indie “The Last Good Car.”
Causes: Soles 4 Soles (Gilman) and the MSPCA (Hayward).

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