Jakob Salvati is the 11-year-old lead in superstar producer Mark Burnett’s (The Bible, Shark Tank, The Apprentice, Survivor) latest film, Little Boy, which opens today April 24th.
The family film, directed by Smithsonian Institute Award-winning director Alejandro Monteverde, follows the story of Pepper Flynt Busbee (Salvati), whose father goes off to fight in World War II, and who tries desperately to get the war to end so he can be reunited with him. Rounding out the cast are Michael Rapaport, Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson, David Henrie, and Ali Landry, and themes include self-sacrifice and racial equality.
We had the chance to interview Jakob over the phone a few days ago, and here are the highlights of our conversation:
What would you like people to walk away with after watching this movie?
I want them to walk away thinking they can be the best of their ability and they can be the best quality of themselves.
What was the most challenging part about working on the film?
Were there any funny or crazy moments on set?
Well there was one part when I was in Hashimoto’s car, played by Cary Tagawa, and the brakes broke when we were going downhill!
It was like a joyride to me (laughing).
So, not part of the script, the brakes broke. Whoa, what happened?
We were rolling down the hill and fortunately no one got hurt, but it was a hilarious moment…but very very scary.
I bet your parents weren’t laughing!
(laughing) Yeah, they weren’t laughing one bit!
Okay, so I am sure you have answered this question a few times now, but tell me about the movie and your character in it.
Well Pepper Flynt Busbee has the biggest faith and the biggest love out of anyone in the world, and he is very close to his father. His love is centered on his father because his father is the only one who spends time with him because he is short for his age and no one really likes him at all. And when his father has to go to war, he tries everything in his power, through faith, to get his father back.
What part did your parents play in helping you prepare for the movie?
My mom coached me.
How about your dad, because I know he is a pastor. Did he help you out any?
Yeah he told me to pray between every single scene.
Now, speaking of prayer, there seem to be more Christian-based movies being made these days. Do you think this a good thing?
Yes…we need Him a lot in this world because God is littling [sic] down, and other horrible things are raising up.
In the movie’s trailer, your character seems to have some superpowers. In real life, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?
No…the strength of a hundred men! (laughing). I already have 50!
Okay good, so you are halfway there! So with a few vitamins and maybe some spinach you’ll hit the other 50, right?
What do you think you’ll remember most about your experience with this film, from the moment you auditioned up until now?
I would say getting to meet the fellow actors, because its hard not to be their friend. They are just great people. Also, living in Mexico was great. [The film was shot in Mexico]
We are a teen-based website. Why do you think teenagers should watch this movie?
It will make them better people.
Well Jakob, you have a pretty good head on your shoulders so congratulations to you, and to your parents for raising you with morals.
Thank you very much!
As an aside, Jakob’s father shared an interesting story of how Jakob landed the role. It seems another young actor from New York had already booked the job, but the director woke up in a cold sweat one night and turned to his wife and said “he is not the one.” The search then resumed, and Jakob’s brother Joshua was called in for an audition. When the director saw Jakob just hanging around the waiting room, he asked for him to read for the part as well. He was given the most difficult scene in the film, and everyone in the casting room was so taken by his performance that he was asked back to audition several more times and screen test, eventually confirming his selection.