For a 14-year-old who’s managed to hold his own against the likes of Viggo Mortensen (in “The Road”) and Eric Bana (“Romulus, My Father”), Kodi Smit-McPhee got an unusually casual start to acting. “When I was 8, my dad asked me if I wanted to audition, just for fun,” he remembers. “I did just a little short film, and I liked it. I just kept doing it, and then I started getting bigger auditions for bigger roles.”
In “Let Me In,” his current film, the young actor plays a bullied outsider who makes friends with a new neighbor who turns out to be a vampire. Despite the material’s seriousness, Smit-McPhee says the preparation he goes through with his father made it easy to return to the real world at the end of each day.
“With my dad, we make a whole backstory for the character,” he explains. “The main thing is that I don’t really bring anything personal to it, and then I can just let it go at the end of the day because I know that it’s all not real.”
The young thesp says his father also keeps him grounded with a few simple rules. “Yeah, ‘Don’t brag about anything’ and ‘Try not to get big-headed,'” explains Smit-McPhee, who is currently doing voice work for “Paranorman,” the new stop-motion film from Laika, the studio behind “Coraline.” He says the project was a challenge because he actually had to be less real for a change. “It’s a bit different because you have to get all of your emotions out through your voice,” he says, “but it’s fun.”