Seth Green remembers Corey Haim: 'Never debate about his talent'
Image Credit: Haim: Andrew EcclesLike most people in their mid-30s, Seth Green was a fan of Corey Haim. But as a fellow child actor, and later as cocreator of Adult Swim’s stop-motion pop-culture parody Robot Chicken, he actually got to work with him. Haim and Corey Feldman voiced themselves in a 2006 Robot Chicken sketch called “Corey & Corey Save the World” (pictured), in which the duo were living together, sharing bunk beds, saw that George Bush’s daughters had gone missing, and set out to rescue them (following an extended montage of them doing their hair, dressing in cool clothes, and jumping on a bus). Here, Green remembers Haim’s enthusiasm and sincerity, and the advice he gave him on making the comeback he so badly desired.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about how you approached the Coreys for the Robot Chicken sketch.
SETH GREEN: I assured both of them the tone of what we were doing and how it would influence public opinion, especially in this age group. ‘Cause you’re talking about two guys that were infinitely popular amongst their peers, and then as happens sometimes, people in the height of their success become ultimately annoying. The audience kind of turned on them. They both got caught up in drugs and excess to the degree that people’s opinion of them shifted so dramatically that it didn’t seem like there was a real opportunity to come back. Harder for Haim than for Feldman. Feldman kept finding movies to act in, and Haim kind of found ways to burn every bridge. But he was always the more sympathetic of the two just cause he’s so heartfelt and earnest and really, really sweet and just loves performing and was just addicted to drugs for a really, really long time. He kept having moments of clarity, it would seem, and kept really wanting to perform and try to find ways to continue to act and just was always pulled back into drugs.
When I talked to him about doing our show, it was two years before they made that reality show [A&E’s The Two Coreys]. He just wanted so badly to get back to LA, he didn’t have a work Visa at the time, he was living in Canada. I got the feeling that he was just low on money. I talked to his mom at great length, and they really believed that if Corey could sort of convince everyone that he was cleaned up, that it was a different time and that what he really wanted to do was act, that he could get a second chance. I suggested to him instead of trying to reenter at the same level, being a romantic leading man, he try to pursue roles like John Ritter’s role in Sling Blade or Donnie Wahlberg’s role in The Sixth Sense. I’m like, “If you just completely change people’s mind and remind them that you’re an actor as opposed to a personality or a movie star, for lack of a better word, you will get what you’re after.”
When he worked on Robot Chicken [his voice was recorded over the phone] he was just endlessly enthusiastic. He had a bunch of ideas, gave us an energetic performance that was just great. We’re like, “Man, that’s why that kid was a star in the first place.” My partner [Matthew Senreich] and I actually had a message on our office phone for over two years from him that was just kind of a superpositive “thank you” message. It was really sweet.
Did Haim get the humor in the sketch?
I explained really clearly to them that we were gonna do this with love, that we’re all big fans of the movies and wanted to celebrate their cultural impact as much as we wanted to tongue-in-cheek say instead of them having a plane, they’re taking a public bus. We wanted to do something that both acknowledged their fall from popularity and also celebrated their style of humor and movies. Corey was so cute. At one point, we were talking about all of the things they would have, whether it was the Coreymobile or the Corey jetpacks and that kind of stuff. He said, “It would be awesome if we actually had those jetpacks at the end of the thing.” I’m like, “You’re right.” So right after the credits, there’s a shot of the two of them in like skin-tight military jumpsuits flying around in high-power jetpacks. And they’re just like, “Whoo-hooo! Whoo!” It doesn’t mean anything, it was just funny.
Now did you know him at all in his younger days?
I met him first when I was probably 14 or 15, and it was the height of their success and I was so enamored by kids that were doing what I wanted to do. And then after his career had started to wane and he was doing more slim-chance-of-release movies, he did a movie called The Double O Kid and I had a small part in it that wound up getting cut. [Laughs] Let me think. I was probably like 17 or 18 years old. I was like his buddy driving him to his new job and we’re talking about what the job is, and it’s all exposition. “Really, you’re taking a summer job interning with the CIA? That’s great” or whatever it was. We spent two days together working. We started to shoot one day and he was complaining of stomach pains and eventually wound up leaving and we couldn’t shoot anything that day and I was really upset. I was such a defender of him, and then to show up on-set and then have him sort of act the way people were accusing him of acting was really disheartening. Then like a day or so later, they reset up everything to shoot and he was just immeasurably professional that day. Like just all over the place, working way above and beyond, busting his ass, knew all his lines, was hittin’ his marks really sharp, and elevating it. As much as you could elevate The Double O Kid, elevating it. That’s kind of what he was, was this duality of incredibly sweet and earnest professional who really loved performing and would go above and beyond for the project and his castmates and also this kind of troubled, tortured drug addict that could be an entirely different person depending on where he was with his addiction. But like I said, when we got back to shooting, I was blown away by how awesome he was.
That’s easy to forget until you read an old review, like Roger Ebert’s of Lucas. He wrote, “He creates one of the most three-dimensional, complicated, interesting characters of any age in any recent movie. If he can continue to act this well, he will never become a half-forgotten child star, but will continue to grow into an important actor. He is that good.”
Always a talented kid. Never debate about his talent, just about his reliability. Feldman and I had a long conversation about Robert Downey Jr. at one point. It was when he was on Ally McBeal. Just about the forgiveness of the audience and what they will or won’t allow, where they’ll allow you to continue to do well even after you f—ed up, versus who they say will never work again.
Do you think Hollywood was willing to give him the type of roles you suggested? Was he someone we would’ve granted a comeback?
You look at John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, you look at Donnie Wahlberg in The Sixth Sense. People have liens against them in crazy ways and the audience is always forgiving — if you prove it. I just felt like if he had been able to audition for more serious parts, for smaller things, for just things that no one had ever seen him do, that he definitely had the goods to get the work. But he didn’t have an agent, he didn’t have representation, you can’t cold call casting people. People had an opinion about him that needed to be changed so until someone was really willing to give him a chance, he didn’t have an opportunity. I don’t know if you remember this, but [in 2008] he took out a full page ad in Variety just announcing his willingness.
That’s like that Corey Haim: Me, Myself, and I video documentary he shot in 1989.
I’ve got a copy. It was a masterpiece of insanity. I don’t know who said, “Listen, Corey, there’s been a report that you’re into drugs. So you need to do something about it.” Just him showing how healthy and awesome he is, like ridin’ in his cool car, doin’ a bunch of athletic stuff, like I can’t possibly be doing drugs because I’m playing softball. It’s a tough one to watch, and really easy to make fun of when you put it out there like that. But you look at him, not a shred of irony. He believes it wholeheartedly, and that may just have been the height of his skill at the time, but that’s what I mean — he was just so sweetly earnest and sincere that it’s heartbreaking.
And that sincerity is what drew audiences to him in the beginning.
Absolutely. There are actors that make themselves so emotionally available on film that you relate to them. Corey is one of those actors. Kate Winslet is like that. No matter what she’s playing, she brings a sincerity to it that’s undeniable and it makes her utterly charming. Corey, aside from being physically appealing, was just achingly sincere no matter what he played. Even if he was playing a cocky hipster, he still had a charm to him that even other actors in the scene didn’t have.
As a fellow child actor, what was the difference between you and Corey Haim?
I was never famous as a kid. [Laughs] That’s the biggest difference between me and any other kid actor is that I wasn’t famous as a kid. I was never specifically associated with a part, I didn’t have tons of money, I wasn’t conventionally tall or handsome, so you know the things that were available to me were hard work and perseverance. I just didn’t have the same opportunities so I wasn’t able to make the same mistakes.
Anything else you wanted to say?
As people get older and fall out of the spotlight, people’s memory of them changes. He was a really sweet and earnest performer, and that came through in everything that he did. Whether it’s Silver Bullet, Lucas, even Lost Boys. He really just loved performing so much and wasn’t cynical. I just hope that people will always remember the kid as somebody who was a really good actor and loved performing and just got caught up.
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