Kodi Smit-McPhee

Kodi Smit-McPhee is Australian, he’s 16 years old, and he’s worked alongside the likes of Eric Bana, Viggo Mortensen and Chloe Grace Moretz.  Once I got over my initial jealously, I had a phone chat with Kodi (who was calling in from Los Angeles) about his life in Hollywood and his role in ParaNorman, a new animated feature that is soon to be released in Australia cinemas (on 10 January 2013). 

You canlisten to an extract from the interview by downloading it here

Anyway, here’s how it went down…

Matt:  I remember first seeing you in Romulus, My Father and since then you’ve gone on to do some bigger films like The Road and Let Me In.  Where are you based these days – here in Australia or over in the United States?

Kodi:  After about three years, it set in that Los Angeles was my second home.  I’m here more than in Australia now.  I try to get back every few of years and visit for a couple of months to see my friends and family.

Matt:  So what’s it like as a 16-year-old living within the hustle and bustle of Hollywood?  Is it something you like or is it a bit crazy?

Kodi:  It can be crazy sometimes.   My family is here which is really good and they give me a lot of support.   But I love it here.  I’m just doing what I love and as long as I get back to Australia every now and again, it’s all going good.

Matt:  Do you hang out with a lot of other actors in Hollywood or do you prefer to stay away from that scene when not making movies?

Kodi:  To tell the truth, as a down-to-earth Australian, I try to stay out of that world when I’m not making films.  I have some friends who are totally out of the business and that helps keep me grounded.

Matt:  Is your schooling finished or are you still trying to balance that up in between movies?

Kodi:  No.  I’m still trying to do that.  I have to do home schooling here because I do quite a bit of travelling.  I have to do a few hours every day and juggle that alongside by work.

Matt:  Let’s talk about ParaNorman.  How’d you get approached about this film and your leading role as the voice of Norman Babcock?

Kodi:  I was actually in Australia when they approached me about it.  I didn’t know much about the project because it was kind of secretive.  I just recorded it, sent it off and found out that I got the job.

I then came over to America and read the script.  The company had done films like Coraline so I was blown away by how big this film was going to be.  It was such a really good script and I was excited to get to work on it.

Matt:  Of course, with an animated film, I realise that a lot of time is spent in the recording studio where you don’t often get to interact with other actors.  Was that the case here?  Did you see a lot of the other actors in the film?

Kodi:  I did.  I saw more than I thought I would.  When I get to work with people in the recording booth, it’s a lot of fun because the scene becomes alive and you get to interact with someone as opposed to sitting in a dark booth all day by yourself.

Matt:  Do you get any say in the look of your character and how he appears on screen or is that all in the hands of the animators?

Kodi:  Thankfully, that’s all up to the animators and they do an amazing job.  I actually got to go to Oregon one day to see them all working and it’s just insane.  It’s something that I could never do and so I thank God that I’m an actor and am not having to compete against those guys.

Matt:  Because you spent so much time within a recording studio, what was it like seeing it on the big screen for the first time?

Kodi:  I was working on it for 2 years and everyone else was working on it for 4 years.  It was really attached to me and so finally seeing it come out and seeing everyone relax was great.

Matt:  It’s largely an American film and you have to take on a generic American-type accent.  Is that easy for you to do or does it take a lot of practice to get the accent just right?

Kodi:  The American accent is actually pretty easy.  I learned it when I was 8 years old with the help of a dialect coach when I started to get into acting.  Learning it so young, it’s stuck with me now and it’s easy to turn on and off.

Matt:  Are you a fan of animated features in general?  Did you watch a lot of them growing up?

Kodi:  Yeah!  I love animation.  When they told me I was going to be in a stop-motion animated film, which is one of the rarest forms of animation, it was an awesome feeling.

Growing up, I really liked The Nightmare Before Christmas and James And The Giant Peach.  They were two films that I watched repeatedly.

Matt:  I’ll finish up by asking about the new version of Romeo & Juliet that is being released in 2013.  What can you tell us about that and your role in the film?

Kodi:  Yes, I play Benvolio who is Romeo’s cousin.   The reason that they are making another Romeo & Juliet is so that there’s something for this generation.  It was a lot of fun and I got to shoot it in Rome.  I also got to learn horse riding and sword fighting.  It was cool experience.