×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kids From ‘The Florida Project’ Talk About the Shoot — and the Importance of Ice Cream

Brooklynn Prince, Valeria Cotto and Christopher Rivera, the three child stars of Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” stopped by the Variety offices to discuss the poignant coming-of-age drama set in a welfare motel outside Disney World. In the film, Prince plays Moonee, a precocious 6-year-old left to her own devices while her spirited mom struggles to make ends meet, and Cotto and Rivera are her two best friends. Over the course of one summer, this ragtag trio embarks on a series of mischievous adventures, winning over the hearts of everyone on their path, including the motel’s craggy manager, played by Willem Dafoe.

How did you all get cast in this film?

Valeria Cotto: Can I tell you the story? Once upon a time, there lived my mom, my uncle, myself and my siblings. We were walking around a Target store, and Sean [Baker] approached us. And he gave us this business card that had his two dogs on it, but on the other side it had his name and his email. He said, “Call me if you want to audition.” I really wanted to act, because I watch TV a whole lot, so when I heard I could probably be in a movie, I was like, “This is my chance!” So when we went home my mom said, “Do you want to do this?” And I said, ‘Absolutely!” And I go to audition, and the first day I meet these two kids [points to Brooklynn and Christopher] and they’re my best friends now, and when I heard they got the part and I got the part, I was like, “Yay I get to be with my friends and I get to be in a movie!”

Brooklynn Prince: I did a commercial for Chuck E. Cheese. I’ve done acting since I was 2. I was in modeling, then I did commercials.

Christopher Rivera: This was my first movie, but I did something before. I think it might have been for TV. I forget what it’s called, but I remember running and somebody was chasing after me.

What was your favorite part about making this film?

Prince: That we got to make a family.

Rivera: We got to shoot for two months.

Prince: It wasn’t two months. It was 35 days!

Rivera:  I loved that we got to eat, be funny and make new friends. I liked that we go to eat gummy bears in one scene.

How did you like working with Sean Baker?

Cotto: Sean was amazing to work with because he’d always be patient with us. He’d treat us equally. Sean, he loves us, and he’s an amazing director. Who doesn’t like him?
Prince: My favorite thing about Sean was that he was nice, he was patient and he was always there for us if we didn’t know any lines. We were equals, and he wanted to play with us.

The film tackles some pretty serious topics, like poverty.

Prince: What’s poverty?

It’s when you’re poor and don’t have enough money, like the characters in the film.

Prince: Oh, yeah.

Have you seen the film?

Rivera: Yeah, but we can watch it because we’re the stars of the movie.

Cotto: People that are reading this, this is rated R. Not for children. Capiche?

Prince: When I saw it I was amazed. Like mind blown!

Cotto: When I saw the movie, my hands were shaking.

Rivera: Her whole body was shaking.

Cotto: I was crying. I was sobbing.

Brooklynn, what was it like working with Bria Vinaite, who plays your mom in the film?

Prince: We had so much fun together. I mean, it was like she was my real mom. We have so many funny memories. One time we knocked on the door to see if she could come to me and Val’s room, and then she was napping.

Rivera: I’m like, “can you come outside?” And then she was like, “for what?” And I’m like, “to go to my room,” and she’s like, “no I need a nap first.” And then I came back 20 minutes later and then another 20 minutes later. And the window’s open and I hear her snoring.

Cotto: You know that scene where we’re like dancing on the bed? Every time we’re always dancing so funky and all crazy, and once we were jumping on the bed, and we were like five little monkeys, jumping on the bed, and then we actually fell off the bed!

Do you have any favorite scenes from the film?

Prince: My favorite scene is the rain scene with me and Bria, because it kind of shows what Bria feels. She feels sad on the inside because she’s gonna lose her daughter, but on the outside she wants to have fun.

What about the scene where you ask a stranger for money to buy an ice cream? That was sort of heartbreaking, too.

Prince: I was like, “OK, what are we trying to do? Are we trying to take people’s money or something?”

Cotto: They were set people who were hired to do it.

Rivera: And I’m like, Brooklynn, “take the money from the lady.” I’m like, “come on!”

Cotto: We ate 45 cones. My favorite flavor is mint chocolate chip.

Prince: Mine, too! We’re like twins! But by the way, the ice cream was actually sugar-free because of Sean Baker. Boo!

There’s a really powerful scene in which you all burn down an abandoned condominium complex. What was that like to film?

Rivera: It was awesome. I’m like, “Let it burn!”

Prince: Um, I was supposed to light it and when they handed me that lighter, I was like, “no.”

Cotto: When we burned down the condos that was kind of scary because it’s like burning, but the fire wasn’t actually real. There was a guy in there that was like making the fire happen.

Prince: But we actually thought we really put it on fire, and we’re like, “we’re so sorry!” And they’re like, “no, no, it’s fine.”

What was it like working with Willem Dafoe?
Prince: I’m a huge fan of him. He was so cool. He was in “Spider-man.” When I found out I’m like running around the house shouting, “I’m gonna meet Willem Dafoe!” And he’s in “Spider-man”! I love Marvel!

Rivera: He was like a dude.

Cotto: When I heard Willem Dafoe [was in the movie] I was like, “Who’s Willem Dafoe?” And then my mom’s like, “you do not know Willem Dafoe? Oh my goodness.” And she showed me a picture of him. She’s like, “so he’s gonna be playing the manager.” And she told me how many movies he’s been in and I’m like, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I’m meeting a superstar! Can I have an autograph?” He was in “Finding Dory” and he played Gill!

Brooklynn, in the last scene of the movie, you cry, and it’s such a beautiful moment. Can you cry on cue?  

Prince: I just did it.  They called out, one, two, three … and then I just did it. We did it in one take.

Is it exciting to be in a movie that is out in the theaters? What do your friends at school think?

Cotto: Well, I’m not a big movie star.

Rivera: I’m the biggest movie star.

Prince: I’m not a movie star, I’d just say I’m —

Cotto: A star?

Prince: I’m just myself.

So what’s next acting-wise? Is there anybody with whom you’d like to work?  

Prince: I want to work with Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning, Emma Watson, Daisy Ridley, Gal Gadot, Millie Bobby Brown, Ariana Grande, even if she’s not an actress.

Rivera: I want to be in a movie with Tom Cruise and Daniel Radcliffe. But right now we’re just promoting our movie.

Prince: I love promoting our movie!

Cotto: Hey, everyone! Enjoy “The Florida Project.” It’s in theaters everywhere. We’ll be coming to your city or country soon. We love you! Goodbye!

More Film

  • Sean Penn

    Sean Penn to Direct, Star in 'Flag Day' With Daughter Dylan Penn

    Sean Penn is set to direct and star in the conman drama “Flag Day” alongside his daughter Dylan Penn, his son Hopper Penn, Josh Brolin and Miles Teller. The cast includes two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz (“Fosse/Verdon”), Dale Dickey, Eddie Marsan, Bailey Noble, and Katheryn Winnick (“Vikings”). Jez Butterworth (“Edge of Tomorrow”) wrote [...]

  • China Film Group chairman La Peikang

    Shanghai: China Film Group Announces 28 Title Lineup

    China Film Group announced a line-up of 28 films at a large event on the sidelines of the Shanghai International Film Festival that feted both the mainland’s main distributor and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. “Nearly a thousand film industry people wished the motherland a beautiful and happy [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    Disney Re-Releasing 'Avengers: Endgame' in Effort to Beat 'Avatar' Box Office Record

    If “Avengers: Endgame” doesn’t beat “Avatar’s” all-time box office record, it won’t be for lack of trying. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told numerous publications that “Avengers: Endgame” will be re-released in theaters with extended footage that didn’t make it into the initial film, which already clocks in at a butt-numbing three hours and one [...]

  • Soul Pixar

    Disney Unveils Pixar Movie 'Soul' With 2020 Summer Release Date

    Disney has unveiled “Soul” as an upcoming original Pixar film, which will debut on June 19, 2020. “Soul” will be the second original Pixar film next year after “Onward,” which opens on March 6. The studio announced Wednesday that it had dated the film. While plot details are scarce, Pixar did release the tagline for [...]

  • Riverdale Alladin Avengers Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Riverdale,' 'Aladdin' Top 2019 Teen Choice Award Nominations

    The nominations for the 2019 Teen Choice Awards have been revealed, and voting has opened for the top movies, TV shows and music that has dominated the last year. “Avengers: Endgame” and “Aladdin” are the top contenders in the movie category with nine and five nods, respectively. In TV, “Riverdale,” “The Flash” and “Shadowhunters” each [...]

  • 'Toy Story 4' Box Office: Pixar

    Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' Building to $140 Million-Plus Debut

    After a lackluster few weeks at movie theaters, it’s Woody and Buzz Lightyear to the rescue. The dynamic duo is returning to multiplexes for Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4.” The fourth installment in the CGI series is expected to earn north of $140 million when it opens in 4,500 theaters across North America. If [...]

  • Yu Dong, Andrew Lau, Han Han,

    Shanghai Party: Red Carpet Rolled out at Bona Film Group 20th Anniversary Event

    No deal announcements. No talk of the Chinese film industry’s ongoing winter of discontent. Instead the parade of talent on stage Wednesday night at Shanghai’s Wanda Reign hotel put their troubles aside for a moment and celebrated the 20th anniversary of producer-distributor-exhibition company Bona Film Group. At regular intervals, Bona’s founder and chairman Yu Dong [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content