Sam Rockwell and Jacob Kogen Get their Family on in Joshua

     July 5, 2007

Written by Steve Chupnick

There are some movies where the kid steals the show; then, there are certain flicks where the child scares the hell out of you. The new film, Joshua, takes the cake in both categories.

Jacob Kogan plays the 9-year-old title character opposite Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga in the thriller. When his baby sister is born, things change in Joshua’s life; his parents seem to be spending more time caring for her than paying attention to him. So instead of talking to them rationally, Josh decides to turn a little dark – ok, a lot dark. Think The Omen with no devil worshiping.

Speaking to Jacob, who couldn’t be any more like a normal kid, he says playing such a demon-like character was actually kind of fun. “Everyone sometimes wants to be the bad guy, get away from what you usually have to do in society, just being normal. And then you get to delve into this kind of world of an evil kid; it’s kind of fun being evil.”

Working closely with Sam Rockwell really helped him get into the role. “He taught me a lot; we did these Meisner exercises, like a repetition exercise, and stuff like that, and he really helped. We also did these run-throughs of the script like two weeks before we started shooting, and those really helped. And George (Ratliff), and Sam, and Vera all helped me out; George and I practiced the Joshua ploys and everything he did, like his face, and his body, and everything he did. We rehearsed so much that by the time we started shooting, it became very easy to switch in and out of character, and Sam Rockwell is a fantastic method actor.”

Even Sam was taken a back by Jacob’s performance and work ethics. “It came together really nicely; we were doing the acting and listening exercises that helped. We would talk to him about certain scenes, when he has to cry. It’s got to be something very personal; if there’s too much pressure, you’re not going to cry.”

Sam, who’s not a father, says this movie could be a little freaky for parents to watch. “I think it hits home for some parents who saw it. I think he’s just trying to be a good father, and maybe he’s in a bit of denial; he gets sucked into this web. And he’s a manipulative kid.”

In once scene, Sam’s character finally loses his patience with Joshua; so he takes matters into his own hands – literally. “Don’t you think he has it coming?” Sam quipped. “There are some people who are born chemically imbalanced and are a bit of a psychopath; I don’t know the answer to that.”

Jacob talked about acting alongside Vera as well – even though she’s screaming at him a lot of times in the film. “Vera actually really scared me one day – when she’s screaming at me in the scene where right after the hide and seek she starts screaming at me; I was actually completely petrified. Even after we did like five takes, even on the fifth take, I was still really freaked out; you can actually see on the screen, if you really look closely, you can see I’m absolutely petrified, it’s really funny.”

But Jacob says being with the whole crew was pretty cool to work with. “I don’t know what to compare it to, but for me it was pretty easy to switch in and out of character, so everybody on the set was so nice; it was really easy to just hang out with them. Like Sam and Vera and George and I, we all joked around, it was really fun.”

Talking with Jacob, you can tell he’s nothing like his Joshua character; however, he says he can relate to some of his characteristics when it comes to having a baby sibling. “Yeah, it really helped shooting the scene where I meet Lily, because two days earlier, I met my brother and it was kind of the same emotions. When I met my brother, I was in absolute shock and I couldn’t touch him; I was just too shocked, because I lived all 10, 11 years of my life with just me and my sister. And finally, there’s another baby that pops into the picture; it was too shocking. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it; of course, now, I’m totally fine with it – he’s the cutest thing ever. Those past emotions that I had actually really helped when I started shooting; it really helped that he was there, because it was almost the exact same thing that had happened two days earlier, and it really helped me to get in the mindset for that scene.”

The funny thing about it is that Jacob really sympathized with Joshua. “I was the only person on set because I was playing him; I just found it to be really heartbreaking. But I think the is because I just feel bad for him; he’s doing all these things because he is aspiring for love in his life, because his baby sister is born and his parents show less love for him than they did before, and he feels really bad, and he’s jealous. He feels that he’s getting more love from his uncle than he does from his own parents, so he’s trying to get this love from his uncle. And it’s just kind of a sad story of a kid trying to get the smallest amount of love in his life, because at his current position, he doesn’t have any.”

Joshua will definitely hit home if you are a parent or even if you’re not a parent. Jacob debuts in the movies with an amazing performance; you can definitely tell this kid has a great future! Vera and Sam have equally strong roles, and each one has certain scenes where they’re allowed to shine.

Joshua is disturbing, but it’s one of those movies you’ll be talking about for a while. It opens in theaters July 6th; it’s rated R.

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