We Interviewed Haley Joel Osment About His New Film “Sassy Pants”

In Sassy Pants, [July 20, 9:30 pm, Ritz East; July 22, 5:00 pm, Ritz East] Bethany (Ashley Rickards) is a homeschooled teen who has a keen fashion sense but little else going for her. Her overbearing mom June (Anna Gunn) has stifled her social life and creativity, obviously compensating for her own mistakes. When Bethany finally runs off to her gay dad Dale’s (Diedrich Bader) she starts to find herself.

The film plays broadly with stereotypes and clichés, with most of the sass in “Sassy Pants” provided by Bethany’s feisty grandma (Jenny O’Hara) and Dale’s boyfriend Chip (Haley Joel Osment).

We spoke with Osment about playing gay and being sassy.

Gary Kramer: What appealed to you about playing Chip?

Haley Joel Osment: I thought the entire script was hilarious when I read it. I think Chip’s got a great injection of energy, and he’s endearing. And it’s a role that transformed me completely and physically.

GK: How did you play up/down queer stereotypes?

HJO: That was a line I wanted to walk carefully—I didn’t want to make him a caricature or have fun at his expense. He’s a selfish person; the humor doesn’t come from his orientation, but the self-absorption.

GK: How did you work on Chip’s “look”? The lip ring, lipstick/eyeliner, hair, nail polish, tattoo, tight pants and cowboy hat?

HJO: We kept adding layers from the first day I went into the makeup trailer. The lip ring came in a moment of inspiration. The haircut was a sweep forward and a peacock in the back. Coley [Sohn, the writer/director] gave a clear picture of him in the script—the boots, the hot pants, that and tattoo.

GK: Was that your tattoo?

HJO: No…. There are certainly talismanic qualities when you put boots on or the lip ring and/or nail polish—the walk and voice came naturally. We had some line dancing lessons which helped with the way Chip moves.

GK: You and Diedrick Bader, who plays Dale, briefly two-stepped in the film. Are you a good line dancer?

HJO: NO! I had two days experience when it went on film. It is not easy.

GK: Chip and Dale (great names!) were more touchy-feely partners, than kissy-sexy ones. Did you guys have boundaries?

HJO: I don’t think we put too much thought into it. As a comedy, not sexy drama, Dale’s uncomfortable that my character is so much closer in age to his daughter, that Chip encouraged the PDAs.

GK: Has it been difficult to make the transition from child actor to adult superstar?

HJO: The choices I make are not about perception about age, but interesting material. After college and my difficult last years of high school, new worlds have opened up for me in my age group.

GK: You excel in a supporting role here, but you can also do leads. Do your prefer giving a memorable performance in a small film, vs. the pressure of a leading part?

HJO: Both are a lot of fun. Here I was on set six days, so I got to put the effort of a 3-month shoot into 6 days. I just finished a film that’s a lead for I’ll Follow You Down, which was an endurance test—a 50 days shoot.

GK: How did you work on your comic timing, which was really good? I loved your line “My veneer popped off. Sucks!” and your excitement about a trailer across the freeway from a waterpark was infectious.

HJO: [Laughs]. Coley sort of set those lines up perfectly. Chip is the light comic button on the end of the scene. A lot of that [comedy] comes through rehearsal—trying out timing, and “feel.” I did sitcoms in the late 90s, so that work that gets ingrained. With comedy, watching comedy gets those rhythms, too.

GK: Chip is a bar back who loves to drink mudslides and make margaritas…what the hell was in those green drinks? They looked like liquefied jell-o and probably tasted like gasoline

HJO: I don’t even know! Luckily I didn’t have to drink the stuff I was making. Crème de menthe, warm soda that’s been sitting around… They trusted me enough to put me behind the bar, throwing things around trying to make drink.

GK: You get punched by a guy and take the blame for Bethany, “because that’s how friends roll.” What do you think of Chip?

HJO: He is someone desperate to be liked, and will put himself in harm’s way. He is loyal, but unreliable—but clever enough to be supportive.

GK: Sassy Pants is all about letting your freak flag fly. How do you relate to that? What’s freaky/sassy about Haley Joel Osment?

HJO: Sassy about me?! Being an actor gives me plenty of opportunity to be sassy on film. [Laughs].

GK: You were in Philly for The Sixth Sense and back recently for the play, Red. Will you come in for Sassy Pants? What do you love about our city?

HJO: I think so. I hope I will get there. I really like working in Philly. I’ve visited since The Sixth Sense. I like it’s a manageable size and has so much history. I walked everywhere.

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Gary Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based film critic who thinks Sandra Bullock mambos. He likes eating ethnic food and watching ethnic movies—though not necessarily both at the same time or from the same country.

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