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Toy story

'Magorium' stars chat at screening series

Magic was in the air at the Variety screening of the family-friendly “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, and newcomer Zach Mills. Director-scribe Zach Helm was on hand at the event with Mills to talk about the fantasy film.

“I wanted to make a movie in the same vein of the movies from my childhood. To bring a little bit of the Marx brothers and Buster Keaton and add a storybook aspect to it,” said Helm.

The $35 million pic marked the directorial debut of the budding helmer, who also wrote last year’s “Stranger Than Fiction.” Helm noted that he had no issues making the transition from writer to director.

“Luckily, I was blessed with a monstrous ego, so it didn’t seem too daunting,” joked Helm. “What appealed to me about the film is that it didn’t hinge on the special effects as much as it did on Zach and Dustin and Natalie and Jason.”

The filmmaker went on to talk about the biggest challenge in making a movie for children: casting them.

“There is a tendency for kids towards being precocious or being coy. And when they are not, there tends to be a lot more depth. But sometimes when a child has depth, and is precocious and is a good actor, they have horrible parents,” said Helm. “We saw Zach on tape and he jumped off the screen. We loved him immediately. As soon as he walked into the room, we knew he had the part, provided that his parents weren’t crazy.”

Luckily, the child actor came from good stock and nabbed the role of Eric.

“I wasn’t too nervous about the audition,” said Mills. “Excited, yes. Maybe a little nervous. But everyone was really nice and they taught me so much.”

“He was so prepared for every frame, therefore working with him was a real pleasure,” said the director. “It was the one thing we didn’t have to worry about. Which was nice, because we had zebras

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