July 19, 2020
His role as a cherubic 10-year-old with a classic catchphrase made him world famous. He talks about how he coped with the early attention, working with Kevin Spacey, and why he loves playing bad guys
I grew a beard to try to hide in public: Haley Joel Osment on success after child stardom
Haley Joel Osment thought he was finished for the day. It was 1998 and the 10-year-old was shooting The Sixth Sense, directed by M Night Shyamalan. With 10 minutes left on set, they wanted to squeeze in a short scene. It required Osment’s terrified character, who, memorably, sees dead people, to confront a bloody ghost. Osment had to get into the right mindset, fast. The young Actor threw himself against a door, again and again, until he was sufficiently shaken. “If they’d known I was going to do it, they probably would have stopped me,” he says of Shyamalan and the other adults on set. “It came to me spontaneously – and I guess it worked.”
I see little of that intensity in the 32-year-old man facing me via Zoom. Still boyish-looking, despite a dark beard, Osment is upbeat and quick to laugh. He returned to his home town of Los Angeles last autumn, after 13 years in New York, and found this house a week before lockdown, when he was shooting a forthcoming series of Goliath for Amazon. After the extraordinary success of The Sixth Sense – a box office phenomenon, his performance lauded by critics and rewarded with an Oscar nomination, while his character’s most famous line quickly became a catchphrase – he has enjoyed a different kind of career lately. He works steadily, on screen but somehow under the radar, probably not recognised as the Sixth Sense kid by most of his audiences.
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