Jacob Tremblay may only be 11 years old, but the “Wonder” actor has already learned an important life lesson: to always be kind.
Coincidentally, that’s also the message conveyed in his new film, “Wonder.” The touching story follows a young boy, Auggie Pullman, who suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome, which affects the development of bones and other facial tissue and therefore causes differences in his face.
“When I heard the message of the film, I was just like, ‘I gotta be a part of it,” Tremblay — who rose to fame in the 2015 thriller “Room” — told TheWrap. “If you are a parent, [it’s important] to show your kids to choose [to be] kind because bullying is a terrible thing, and bullying usually happens at school, a place where kids need to feel safe so they can learn and develop who they are, as well … and they can’t do that when they are being judged.”
“Wonder,” written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, stars Tremblay, Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts. In the film, Auggie was homeschooled for most of his life, until his mom, played by Roberts, decides it might be good for him to be around other kids his age. But he gets mocked for his appearance, until a couple of classmates look past the facial differences and discover the wonderful, smart and funny Auggie underneath it all.
It’s a heartbreaking yet uplifting tale about not judging a book by its cover, an idiom as old as time. And “Wonder” had a completely different tone to Tremblay’s previous film, “Room,” in which he starred as a young boy who is held captive for seven years with his mother, played by Brie Larson, and then experiences the world for the first time after their escape. The 2015 film received widespread critical acclaim and scored Larson the Academy Award for Best Actress.
“I think [these two movies] were completely different,” Tremblay said about “Room” and “Wonder.” “‘Room’ was a very dark movie, but ‘Wonder’ is a fun, light movie that sends out an important message. There is a big difference.”
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Treacher Collins syndrome affects an estimated 1 in 50,000 people – and Tremblay reached out to some of the patients at a Canadian hospital to prepare for the role.
“When my parents were researching facial differences on line, we found a group of children from SickKids hospital in Toronto and we reached out to them and asked if they could send me letters of experiences or stories or stuff like that and we got a bunch back and I put them in a binder,” Tremblay explained. “All these letters were about experiences of being bullied. I would read that before I did the scene and it would help me think about how Auggie is thinking when he’s getting bullied and it would help me feel like Auggie.”
And getting Tremblay to look like Auggie was no easy feat — according to the actor, it took about two hours in the morning to put on the prosthetics, and about 30 minutes to take it off.
“We were filming in the summer time in Vancouver which means it was really hot, which means I got really sweaty … which means I got really itchy. You can’t itch on the prosthetic or else you will rip it and it’s really expensive. But it’s really interesting how they do it — there are a lot of pieces for the prosthetic. They have a neck piece, they have a helmet connected to a mechanism that pulls down my lower eye lids, the main face piece, a wig, contact lenses and dentures. [It was] a lot of work.”
“Wonder” was released on Nov. 17 and has since grossed over $100 million at the domestic box office. The critically-acclaimed film has also received Critics Choice Award nominations for Best Young Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Hair & Makeup.
“I definitely did learn a lot and I think so did a lot of people,” Tremblay said. “Go see ‘Wonder,’ it’s really fun and it will teach you a lot. I hope that everyone will choose kind as well.”