Evan Bird's map to stardom

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      Julianne Moore’s performance in Maps to the Stars is one of the most amazing things we’ll see onscreen this year. Running a close second is Evan Bird’s. Holding his own against that kind of competition only makes the 14-year-old Vancouverite’s complex turn as detestable, multimillionaire child-star Benjie Weiss even more remarkable. In the very second scene of the film, opening Friday (October 31),  he’s throwing anti-Semitic slurs at his browbeaten handler and demanding to see his “cunt.” “Because I know you have one,” he hisses. Yet by the end of the movie you actually want to hug the poor little messed-up asshole.

      “It was always in the script that Benjie is someone who feels hurt,” says Bird, talking to the Straight from his Vancouver home. “I guess that makes you connect with him in a way, through the movie, and as you see the horrible things that are happening to him. He’s going crazy. He’s losing his mind. And, you know—his life really sucks.”

      Modesty aside, a lesser actor wouldn’t have managed to create such sympathy for Benjie Weiss. Along with some “kinda twisted” pointers he took from director David Cronenberg, Bird reveals that he had Justin Bieber and Macaulay Culkin in mind as he developed the role. “Even though I don’t know them personally,” he’s quick to add. Indeed, Bird downplays the film’s savage appraisal of Hollywood, in which the fates of a seemingly disparate group of characters—from Moore’s fading A-lister, to John Cusack’s phony new age therapist, to Robert Pattinson’s aspiring limo driver—are tragically entwined by the arrival of a strange and physically disfigured woman (Mia Wasikowska).

      Interestingly, reviews from closer to the belly of the industry beast—notably Variety and Hollywood Reporter—have been unimpressed. In Europe, meanwhile, Maps to the Stars is being hailed as Cronenberg’s best for a long time. Bird says he saw it coming.

      “I predicted that the Europeans would like it more than the Americans would,” he says. “A lot of people are thinking that this is about Hollywood, that it’s trying to make people look bad, and it’s not. It’s a movie about people that want to be recognized and seen and appreciated. It’s a commentary on modern ambition.”

      Under Tinseltown’s klieg lights, that kind of ambition looks particularly ugly, not to mention deeply shocking. As it unfolds, Maps to the Stars eventually plumbs some very sick territory. Even with his work in grown-up fare like AMC’s The Killing behind him, you have to wonder what the barely into his teens Bird made of Bruce Wagner’s screenplay the first time he read it.

      “It just looked fun to me, actually,” he says, chuckling. “Those types of roles are always the best.”

      Follow Adrian Mack on Twitter @AdrianMacked



      A. MacInnis

      Nov 4, 2014 at 2:26pm

      He gives an excellent performance. I was only so-so on the film - I respected it, but I didn't really enjoy it as much as I'd hoped, at least the first time through - but one of the best things in it is the way that Bird manages to generate sympathy for his character. Had no idea until reading this that he was from Vancouver! Cool...