(Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage)
Fourteen-year-old actor Jacob Tremblay has built up quite the résumé of acclaimed performances in heavy films: He broke out in the Oscar-winning Room as a young boy held captive with his mother, then brought us to tears as the inspirational Auggie Pullman in Wonder, before shocking us with a brief but harrowing turn in Shining sequel Doctor Sleep. When he’s dabbled in lighter fare, it’s tended to come with an “R”-rated edge – think The Predator and Certified Fresh comedy Good Boys, in which the cognitive dissonance of hearing the innocent-looking Tremblay saying some very not-innocent things was the recurring punchline.
His latest project, Pixar’s Luca, is a definite change of pace – a trip to the Italian Riviera for a story about the titular sea monster (voiced by Tremblay) who just wants to be part of our world… and ride a Vespa. It’s already Certified Fresh on the Tomatometer, and, Tremblay says, arrives just in time for a world emerging from the darkness and reconnecting with loved ones. Ahead of the movie’s release on Disney+, Tremblay spoke to Rotten Tomatoes about his favorite movies, silencing his internal doubts on set (and on the slopes), and gives us a tiny hint of what to expect from the upcoming live-action movie, The Little Mermaid, in which he plays Flounder.
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
I think it’d be hard to put this list in a certain order, but I think the one I think about first is Ocean’s Eleven. The first time I watched it, I was actually in London, it was just on the TV, so I just put it on and I watched it. I think I’d seen it prior to that before, but I think that was the first time I was paying attention to it. I feel like every time I watch it, every time I rewatch it, I figure out something new, because the plan is so sneaky. Every time I watch it I can just find a little detail I didn’t notice the first time I watched it.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
I just love Star Wars, but I think Empire Strikes Back is the best one in my opinion. It’s great. What I really like about it is that at the end fight Luke doesn’t win. He loses. So it’s kind of cool to see how he wants to train more. I like that.
Rotten Tomatoes: Would you take a role in a Star Wars movie?
One hundred percent! Absolutely. I mean, that’s obviously my dream right now to be in one of those movies.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you want to be a baddy or a goody? Dark side, light side, Jedi?
Erm, you know, it’s interesting because usually you’d say, “Oh, I’d want to be a good guy,” but in the Star Wars universe, it’s the villains who always have really good stories. They always have the conflict in them. So I think it’d be kind of cool to play a villain.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
I think that one has a lot of nostalgia for me because I remember always watching that one when I was really little. I actually haven’t seen it in a while, but I remember I had a LEGO game on my DS for it, so I’d always play it. And, you know, when you were little and you would play imagination where you’d pretend you’re someone, I remember using a belt as an Indiana Jones whip. But it was really cool because, I think a while ago, I went to Disney World and, you know how there’s – what’s it called – Hollywood Studios? There’s a whole Indiana Jones experience and I actually got his classic hat. It was really cool.
The Dark Knight (2008)
I think Batman is a great superhero, but I also think that that movie is just amazing. Obviously, Heath Ledger’s performance was amazing and he’s just so cool. I like to quote him a lot from that movie just for fun. But yeah, I really liked that one. I think it’s good. A while ago I showed it to my older sister, and she usually watches Marvel movies from the MCU, and it was kind of cool to show her something different, something more gritty, I guess.
Rotten Tomatoes: You said you have favorite quotes from that movie – what’s the one you use most?
I think I like the one where – I don’t really have a good Heath Ledger Joker impression – but he’s all like, “I’m not a monster, I’m just ahead of the curve.” [Editor’s note: Jacob gave a very good Heath Ledger impression]. He’s just like that. I think I like that one.
A Goofy Movie (1995)
I feel like that one’s just like a comfort movie that I just put on in the background. My mom showed it to me recently because it was a big part of her childhood and you know I really like it. So I thought it was a really fun movie.nI love the music in it. I think my favorite part is maybe when they first start their road trip and they’re still on the highway, and there’s a lot of traffic and a musical sequence breaks out.
Joel Meares for Rotten Tomatoes: This movie, Luca, just made me so happy to watch. It’s like you’re transported to Italy, it’s got bright colors, it’s got beautiful themes. And it feels like it’s coming at just the right time, because it’s making us happy as we emerge from this rough period. And then it’s also about friends and reconnecting with friends and I feel like that’s also something we’re all going through. Do you feel like this is a really good movie for the current time?
Jacob Tremblay: Yeah, for sure. You know, because of COVID and everything, people are always inside and to be able to [go out]… I know this is more of a kid’s movie I guess, but I think it will mean a lot to adults too to be able to remember a lot of childhood memories of having fun adventures in the summertime.
Rotten Tomatoes: Yeah, absolutely. One thing that we saw in the trailer and is a big theme in the movie is this “Silenzio Bruno” concept – sort of putting down the doubter who lives inside you and saying, “Shut up, I’m going to go and have this fun and do this thing.” Do you have “Silenzio Bruno” moments in your own life or in some of your past acting jobs where you’re like, “Don’t be afraid, I’ve got to go and do this”?
Tremblay: Yeah. I guess that’s a big part of acting for sure, you not being afraid to put yourself out there and do stuff. Because if you don’t give it 100 percent, sometimes it’ll fall flat. But I think another example of it for me is skiing. I know skiing season is over, but I’m in Vancouver right now and skiing is amazing here in winter. So I did a lot of skiing this winter and I think sometimes you have to silence Bruno. Sometimes you can be scared to go out, go try a new jump or something. But yeah, I’ve definitely silenced Bruno. And I think because of that, I think because of me silencing Bruno, I was able to get a lot better and I was able to have a lot of fun with it.
Rotten Tomatoes: Are you on the black-diamonds?
Tremblay: Yeah, I’ve managed to do my fair share of blacks.
Rotten Tomatoes: I’d read somewhere else that you’re a big Pixar fan and a big fan of Cars in particular. Why is that your favorite?
Tremblay: I think it’s because it has the most nostalgia for me because when I was little – or littler I guess – I would always have Lightning McQueen toys. And I even had this Power Wheels car that was Lightning McQueen. It looked like Lightning McQueen or, well, it was Lightning McQueen. Yeah. I would always drive that up and down the street and have a lot of fun with it.
(Photo by © Pixar)
Rotten Tomatoes: And are there other Pixar movies more recently that have stood out to you or really appealed?
Tremblay: I think honestly Soul was really, really good. I really loved that one. And I don’t know if this is really, really recent, but Cars 3, I guess. Because I guess it’s like Cars 1 and 2 came out when I was at the toddler stage of my life. Cars 3 came out when I was kind of transitioning I guess. But yeah, to be able to see that, it was really cool. I really liked that movie.
Rotten Tomatoes: In this movie, Luca is obsessed with Vespas. He dreams about a Vespa, it’s his goal, that’s what he wants, he gets slack-jawed whenever he sees one on the street. Is there a thing in your life, an item or something, that you’ve been as obsessed about as Luca is with the Vespa?
Tremblay: So, speaking of going outside, I just got a bike recently, a new bike. I always had a bike but I got a really nice BMX bike. So I’ve been going out and teaching myself how to do tricks and stuff, and silencing Bruno on the way too. So yeah, I’ve been able to do that riding around town. But another thing is… I mean, this is very, very different, but I got a PS5 the other day, really, really recently. So I’m really excited about that. But I think the bike that I just got definitely relates to Luca more than a video game console.
Rotten Tomatoes: Luca is one of many animated films that you’ve done and you’ve got a few more coming up from what I’ve read. What do you like about animation that you get to do differently than when you’re doing something live-action?
Tremblay: It’s almost like a whole different set of acting skills. There are very, very talented voice actors and I had to learn a lot to do this film. I think one of the biggest things for me is learning how to transport a lot of energy into your voice. So yeah, I guess it was kind of a big learning curve to do that, because a lot of my acting roles have been these big dramatic roles where it has to be very real. And then for something as awesome as Luca I get to let go of all that and have fun with it. So it was really cool. And another thing about this movie is we were able to do a lot of improv. Enrico [Casarosa], the director, he’s a really awesome director. He let me kind of go off script sometimes. It was really, really cool.
(Photo by © Pixar)
Rotten Tomatoes: And just finally, you have another voice piece coming up… I’m sure you can’t say anything about it, but I have to ask. You’re returning to the water as Flounder in the live-action The Little Mermaid. Are you excited for that role and what can you tell us about your Flounder, if anything?
Tremblay: Yeah, I’m really excited for that one. Just like Pixar and Cars, Little Mermaid is such a big part of my childhood. Especially because I have two sisters, so they’d always put on Disney movies, even though I wanted to watch Indiana Jones. But they’d always have those movies on. So yeah, I definitely have a lot of good memories from that movie. So it’s very, very exciting to be a part of that. And even like when you go to Disneyland too, and there’s rides. So cool, so cool.
Rotten Tomatoes: Will your Flounder be any different from the Flounder in the original? Will it have a Jacob Tremblay spin?
Tremblay: I guess you’ll have to watch to find out. I think they did something really cool with the design for this fish.
Luca is available on Disney+ from Friday June 18, 2021.
Thumbnail image: Leon Bennett/WireImage, ©Lucasfilm Ltd., © Warner Brothers, © Buena Vista Pictures, © Warner Brothers, © Paramount