2008-06-26 / Community
Child actor learning Hollywood ways
Zachary Gordon had a good excuse for missing 72 days of school this year at Oak Hills Elementary in Oak Park. The 10-year-old is an award-winning actor who spent the time making films, television shows and commercials.
Zachary played a neighborhood boy in "Georgia Rule" with Jane Fonda, earning a Young Artist Award for best supporting actor in a comedy or musical film for 2007. The awards are given to performers under the age of 18 for their work in television, films, theater and music.
The young actor also appeared in "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" with Nicolas Cage and has several other films coming out in the fall, including "The Brothers Bloom" with Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo, and "Lower Learning," with Eva Longoria. He recently shot an HBO pilot with comedian David Cross and did voiceover work on "Dinosaur Train," a Jim Henson Company preschool pilot.
"I have a need to perform," said Zachary, a resident of Santa Rosa Valley. "I just want to entertain people. I don't care what I'm doing as long as I'm acting."
Last year he spent three weeks in Serbia, working on "The Brothers Bloom," a film about two con men brothers played by Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo. When one decides he wants out, the other brother convinces him to do one last job. Zachary plays Adrian Brody's character as a young boy.
Zachary said he enjoyed his time in Serbia's capital, Belgrade.
The film was shot in a vegetable warehouse made of tin. Zachary recalled that one day it hailed, and the noise of the hail hitting the tin roof was so loud that filming had to be stopped.
The trip was a valuable experience for Zachary to see how other people live, said his mother, Linda Gordon.
"It's not a wealthy country, but the people are so nice," Zachary said.
Zachary especially loved working with Ruffalo.
"He told me to work hard and stay humble. He had the flu on the set, but he still came to watch us film," Zachary said.
For Zachary, the end of any project is difficult, Gordon said.
"He gets very attached. Wherever he goes he befriends everyone," she said.
Zachary is getting his share of fan recognition. On a recent YMCA trip to Catalina, several young girls approached Zachary for autographs. He was a little uncomfortable but complied, Gordon said.
When he won the Young Artist Award, Zachary turned the prizeover to his mom in thanks for her support. He also thanked his dad, Ken, and his brothers Kyle and Josh, both Oak Park High School students, for their understanding.
"This award was quite an honor for him to get," Gordon said. "I had no idea what he was going to say, but he gave the most incredible speech, like a mini adult."
Paying the price
Zachary's life isn't all glamorous, his mother said. He must be driven into Los Angeles, Hollywood and Santa Monica several times a week to attend auditions, and the hours can be grueling.
Once, a Kay Jewelers commercial was filming with Zachary in Alta Dena and required a winter scene with fake snow and two jackets on the young actor.
"It was 104 degrees outside, and we were melting," Zachary said.
He also receives three hours of tutoring each day that he's away from school and on the set.
When he misses school, play dates, birthday parties and other events that children normally enjoy, Zachary is reminded by his mom that acting was choice he made.
"He really enjoys it. He's in his element," Gordon said. "You have to do what you're passionate about because that's what life's about. If you're passionate about what you do you will always be successful."
Zachary began his acting at 8. A family acquaintance submitted his photo for a film and he was called to an audition.
"There were hundreds of crazy kids around and hundreds of equally crazy parents," Gordon said.
Zachary left the audition excited about the opportunity to perform. Gordon was surprised to hear from the casting agent several days later. Zachary and two other children were called back. Although Zachary didn't get the part, the casting director liked him so much that he found another small role for him, Gordon said.
"A lot of the business is about luck and timing. It's not just about talent," she said.
Zachary's parents deposit his earnings into a college savings account, but he negotiated a deal with his parents that for every job he works he gets $25 to spend however he likes. At one point he wanted a Mac computer, but after calculating how many jobs it would require to purchase one he saved his money instead. He recently renegotiated with his mother to keep $100 for a weeklong job.
Performing isn't Zachary's only interest. He thinks he might want to be a veterinarian because he loves animals.
Whichever path he chooses, Zachary says, "I always want to be a hero."