birth 24 August 1973, Los Angeles
parents: Kent and Kathy
Barret's film career
Article from SF Movieland
as one of the scout boys
episode: Knight of the Phoenix (pilot)
Kiss Me Goodbye
as Little Boy
Jekyll & Hyde...
as Child in Supermarket
as Kid #2
The Incredible Hulk
Die Unendliche Geschichte
... aka The NeverEnding Story
Invitation to Hell
as Victor Frankenstein
Highway to Heaven
episode: To Touch the Moon
as Arthur Neeley
Finder of Lost Loves
episode: Portraits (episode # 1.9, 12/1/1984)
as Matthew Powell
Tall Tales and Legends
ep.: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
|1986 (14. Feb)
The Twilight Zone
episode: Gramma (# 1.44)
Spot Marks the X
as Ken Miller
The Secret Garden
as Dickon Sowerby
episode: Me and Mr. Magoo
Cocoon: The Return
Scenes from the Class Struggle
in Beverly Hills
as Willie Saravian
Working in a field as demanding as filmmaking can create unique pressures for as eleven-year-old. But while acting in Cocoon, Barret Oliver received unique help and guidance from his director, Ron Howard.
Since Howard is a former child star, he was able to bring a special understanding to his dealing with a young performer who perhaps reminded his a lot of himself. Comparing Howard to other film directors he's worked with, Barret explains, "It wasn't anything that different. He was just very nice, and he really worked with me. He didn't just say, 'All right, I want this and this and this', and walk away. He'd come and talk with me, encourage me to try to do my best without putting any pressure on."
"He's very nice," Barret observes. "I think he understands child actors because he was one. So he knew what I was going through and tried to be easy to work with."
In Cocoon, Barret plays the young grandson of Wilford Brimley. In fact, Oliver appears in the very first scene of the film, looking at the stars through his telescope.
While Cocoon is about people recapturing life in a world that tends to discard the elderly, Barret represents youth striving to hold onto the knowledge and experience acquired by older generations. When finally faced with the realization that he'll never see his grandparents again, it's difficult for his to let go.
Working with stalwart film veterans like Brimley and Maureen Stapleton was one of the things Barret liked most about Cocoon. "It was fun working with some of the older people. They really taught me a lot."
A Young Veteran
A lot, maybe, but far from everything. Barret has been acting since the age of seven. One of his earliest tv appearances was on Galactica 1980. In the episode "Spaceball", he played one of the super-scouts engaged in a super baseball game. Oddly enough, all of Barret's subsequent motion picture has continued to be in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. Following years of tv commercials, he landed his first feature film role as one of the two stars of The Neverending Story. He also appeared in Kiss Me Goodbye ( a fantasy about a ghost who returns to visit his widow), Frankenweenie ( a Disney-produced short takeoff on the Frankenstein legend) and this summer's Cocoon and D.A.R.Y.L.. On the non-fantasy front, Barret's done recent guest shots on ABC's Finder of Lost Loves and the opening episode of the highly successful Highway to Heaven, in which he played a boy dying of leukemia.
The Galactica connection is an interesting one to note because Noah Hathaway, who co-starred in The Neverending Story, was a regular on the original Battlestar Galactica series. Barret likes coincidences like this. "What's funny is that Steve Guttenberg, who's in Cocoon, played in Diner with Daniel Stern, who plays my father in Frankenweenie. Steve is also in the Police Academy movies, and Colleen Camp, who's in D.A.R.Y.L., is in Police Academy II. The boy didn't want to go to school in the second Police Academy picture plays one of my best friends in Frankenweenie. I know a lot of people from the different films."
His role as Bastian in The Neverending Story, even though a co-starring one, did not bring him into much contact with Noah Hathaway during the production. "That's because he was finishing his work when I was just starting mine. Altogether I worked 2 1/2 months on that film, which included about two weeks of dubbing."
A Boy and His Dog
Perhaps Barret's most unusual role is Victor Frankenstein. This wasn't in your ordinary, run-of-the-laboratory Frankenstein picture, though. Titled Frankenweenie and produced in the summer of 1984, it's a 25-minute short directed by Tim Burton (who created the seven-minute, animated Vincent). Frankenweenie, filmed in black & white, tells the story in a modern setting, as though the name Frankenstein had no history behind it. It just happens to be the little boy's name.
When Victor's dog Sparky is struck and killed by a car, the boy is inconsolable. That this is by no means a straightforward story becomes apparent quickly, though, when we see that the pet cemetery where the dog is buried has huge, ancient monuments like something out of an old Universal picture.
Needless to say, Victor gets the idea to bring his dog back to life, with both predictable and unpredictable results. With Stern playing his father, Shelly Duvall as his mother and Paul Bartel as a science teacher, the result is, as Barret puts it, "funny, strange and uncommon."
Barret got the role in Frankenweenie largely through the scope of abilities displayed in The Neverending Story. They interviewed several other kids for the part, but they really wanted me from the beginning.
"Working with Tim was nice because I got to him very well. We live near each other. The shoot for Frankenweenie was only two weeks long, so it's hard to really compare him to director I've worked with on other features."While Frankenweenie employed the usual soundstages and studio sets, parts it were also filmed in Pasadena. An unusual departure was that the house used for exteriors of Victor's home was also used for all of the interior home shots as well.
"Another funny thing is that the dog in the story is named Sparky and the real dog we used was also named Sparky", Barret adds.
Paul Bartel, well-known director of such cult classics as Deathrace 2000 and Eating Raoul, appeared as Victor's science teacher. It's the teacher's explanation of how jolts of electricity can make a frog's muscles twitches that gives the boy the notion that perhaps Sparky isn't quite as far beyond the pale as he thought. "That was a great scene," Barret recalls, "and it was really funny."
Opening the same month as Cocoon was Barret's new starring venture, D.A.R.Y.L., the story of an artificially created human with a computer-enhanced brain.
Directed by Australian Simon Wincer ( Phar Lap, Harlequin), the film sensitively tells the story of the boy Daryl, and how he learns to relate to humans raised under less extraordinary circumstances than he.
By coincidence, D.A.R.Y.L. was filmed in Florida just a few months after Barret worked there on Cocoon. He's already tested for D.A.R.Y.L. before filming Cocoon, and was in Florida on Ron Howard's team when he was contacted again.
"They flew me up to New York to do another interview for D.A.R.Y.L.. After I was in Amsterdam promoting "The Neverending Story", we stopped in New York on our way home and they talked to me for the third and final time. We started shooting D.A.R.Y.L. around Christmas.
"We were in Florida for about a month and a half and then we flew to London and did some of the special effects and scientific stuff. Then we flew back to France for some of the opening shots. They filmed the car going off the cliff."
This film was shot all over the place. The exterior of a science lab was lensed in Orlando, but the interior was done in London.
D.A.R.Y.L. includes a car chase which required that a freeway be closed due to the complicated stunt driving involved. While Daryl was ostensibly the driver of the key vehicle, a lot of movie magic was really behind the wheel.
"I was involved in most of the interior car shots. There were only a few shots from outside of the car which had me," Barret explains. "Most of the stuff which showed the actual car was either a stunt or regular driver - I couldn't do any of that!"D.A.R.Y.L. is a gentle fable about self-realization and humanism versus dehumanization. It shows off Barret's skills at communicating emotions. His feelings about the experience are evident on the screen.
While D.A.R.Y.L. was shot in Orlando, Cocoon was filmed to the southwest in St. Petersburg. Comparing the two shoots, Oliver explain that he preferred working in Florida in the summer over the winter. "That's because for the past three years they've had very harsh winters there and it was real cold." It was during his summer stay in St. Petersburg that Barret had an aquatic encounter of a very different sort from anything pictured in either film.
"Before we started shooting Cocoon, I was out the beach once, walking in the waves. The water was real murky and I was looking for shells when I saw this big black thing. I didn't know what it was but I found out that it was a stingray. I learned that to get away from being stung you shuffle your feet. If you're walking and you step on it, it'll sting you."
One wonders if he was thinking about this when he had to film in Cocoon scenes in the water.
Barret is quite an active young talent. Whether he continues in films in the fantasy genre or those of a different nature, he will doubtless continue to bring his personal, special realism to movie audiences.
SF Movieland /Nov 85
sent by David Duncan (who prepared it in the electronic form) and Marcos
Bravo 20/84 (10.5.1984), Poster S. 47, 50,
gescannt von Noodle: Bild 1, Bild 2,