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Thomas Horn: Jeopardy champ gets ‘Close’ call

Youth Impact Report 2011: Up Next

Thomas Horn made his screen debut not as an actor but as a gameshow contestant. Last year, Horn surprised audiences by winning more than $31,000 on “Jeopardy.” He was only 12 years old.

The story grabbed not only the nation’s attention but also that of producer Scott Rudin. As Rudin was searching to fill the lead role in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” he remembered Horn and suggested the boy to director Stephen Daldry.

After extensive research trying to track Horn down, since neither “Jeopardy” nor his school would release any information, Rudin and director Stephen Daldry found Horn and invited him to a weeklong audition boot camp.

“He’s a unique young man with a unique imagination and a unique life,” says Daldry, who previously launched Jamie Bell’s career in “Billy Elliot.”

After just one audition, the filmmakers cast Horn as exceptional 11-year-old Oskar Schell alongside Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Daldry says he feels fortunate to have found Horn for the role — regardless of whether the bright young man continues to act.

“I’m instinctively hoping he will save the world from global warming or solve world peace,” he says.

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