Aside from helping him become an internet sensation, go to the Oscars, and meet the stars of Star Wars, Jacob Tremblay’s moving performance in 2015’s Room had another major effect on the young actor’s career: He’s in such high demand that he’s already being offered roles without a tryout.
“Yeah, sometimes I don’t have to audition!” the 10-year-old tells EW with a laugh. Such was the case with his starring role in Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of Wonder, based on the best-selling 2012 novel by R.J. Palacio. Tremblay plays Auggie, a bright fifth grader with Treacher Collins syndrome whose parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) send him to a mainstream school for the first time. Auggie has to interact with other kids — some of whom aren’t very kind — without the security of the space helmet he used to wear when he was younger because, as Tremblay explains, “He just wants to feel normal. And he doesn’t want people looking at him.”
“I really wanted to be a part of this message,” he says of the film, which tackles tough schoolyard subjects like bullying. “I thought that by doing this role I would really help change the world.”
To prepare for his part, Tremblay exchanged letters with kids who have facial differences like Auggie’s, and visited them at a Toronto hospital. “They wrote me some stories about them, and I got to come over and visit,” he says. “I also went to a craniofacial retreat. That was really fun. There was this part where we went to a swimming pool, and we would have nice breakfasts together.”
Tremblay reflected on their experiences to inform his performance — especially in the tough, emotional scenes, like the one depicted in the exclusive photo below, with Roberts. “I had this book of all the letters from kids with facial differences,” he explains. “They wrote me to teach me things, they wrote me some stories. I listened to sad music, and I really think about them, the kids I was friends with. It really helped me.”
His movie mom was a big help as well. “She was really nice to everyone on set. And to watch her act and to see all of her great techniques really taught me a lot, because she’s like, the queen bee of acting!” Tremblay says.
Of course, not everything about playing Auggie was new to Tremblay — the two have plenty in common. “Auggie’s also a really big Star Wars fan like me,” he says. “I liked the scene where Auggie wins his medal. That was a really fun one because it reminded me of the end of A New Hope.”
Next up for Tremblay is The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, due in 2018 from director Xavier Dolan. “He’s really nice to work with because he’s really artistic with his shots,” Tremblay says of Dolan. “He’s also pretty funny, and he’s a big Harry Potter fan. I got him a Voldemort wand, and I got my own want, so we had so much fun on set. I think most of the time we were having more fun than worrying about the scenes.”
Wonder hits theaters Nov. 17, 2017.