2010-03-11 / Community
Oak Park boy stars in ‘Wimpy Kid’ film
On the road in Massachusetts for the publicity tour for “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” which opens March 19, Zachary discussed his role in the comedy with The Acorn . Zachary and his mother, Linda Gordon, were on their way to dinner at the home of Jeff Kinney, author of the best-selling book series that the film is based on.
Zach plays wiseguy Greg Heffley, a sixth-grader with a lot of attitude who’s not exactly learning the social rules of middle school. There are some similarities between Medea Creek Middle School in Oak Park, which Zach, 12, attends, and the school featured in the film.
“Middle school can be a tough place. I’ve seen people get picked on,” said Zach, who lives in Santa Paula.
Zach said he relates to Greg because, like the character, he likes videogames and can sometimes be a little competitive. But those are the only similarities, he said.
“Greg is cocky, judgmental, selfish and really competitive with tons of people. He uses people,” Zach said. “It took me a little bit of time to get used to his character and feel the situation he has in middle school.”
In interviews, Kinney has said that Zach was chosen from about 1,000 applicants because, in his audition, he seemed to truly understand the character of Greg.
“I like how he deals with his situation and how he uses people and how everything turns out for him,” Zach said. “I read the books before the audition. I told my mom I wanted to make a movie about it. It was like no other book I’d read before.”
The film differs a little from the book in that a character has been added and several scenes altered a bit, Zach said.
The movie was filmed in Vancouver in about 45 days. All of the out-of-town kids who worked on the film stayed in the same hotel, which was within walking distance of a movie theater and restaurant. Most of the youngsters were Vancouver residents, but the main actors came from Alabama, Rhode Island and Seattle. They became good friends, said Zach, a Santa Paula resident.
“We got together to play ping pong and go in the pool,” he said. “We all keep in touch, and we’re trying to make plans for gettogethers.”
Zach is currently on a publicity tour with Kinney and Robert Capron, who plays Greg’s on-andoff friend Rowley Jefferson. The trio are traveling to Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York. In New York, Zach sat in the audience to watch the film for the first time with several hundred kids and teachers at a screening at the Ziegfeld Theatre.
“It’s been amazing,” Zach’s mother said. “He did the red carpet at the Ziegfeld and had a zillion paparazzi taking pictures of him. He was in his element.”
Zach believes adults will like the movie, too.
“I think they will relate to it because they will remember things that happened to them and to their friends in middle school,” Zach said.
Although Zach has missed many class hours to film and promote the movie, he is still responsible for completing his homework and other assignments. By law, he can only work six hours a day. An additional three hours must be devoted to his studies. Zach works with a tutor to do the assignments he misses when on set. Each day after filming “Diary,” Zach would do homework, then learn his lines for the following day, his mother said.
“It’s a lot to get done and a lot of pressure, but he handled it well,” Linda Gordon said. “He’s a very dedicated and devoted kid and, luckily, a very quick study.”
Zach has appeared in many televisions shows, commercials and films, including “Georgia Rule,” “National Treasure Book of Secrets,” “Four Christmases” and “How I Met Your Mother.” He is currently working on “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2,” the sequel to the film “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”
Working in show business has been a rewarding experience, and there are perks, but it is also challenging, Linda Gordon said. Missing school, social gatherings and sports practices isn’t easy, she added.
“He gives up a lot in his life, but it’s his choice. This is his passion,” Linda Gordon said. “Wherever we go I’m very proud of him. He’s humble; he doesn’t brag; he tries to be as normal as possible.”
If “Diary” is successful sequels are planned, Linda Gordon said.
“It’s an emotional film, too. There are some serious moments about friendship and the relationship between the two boys,” she said. “They give an amazing performance.”