There is a moment in the new horror flick "Let Me In" when a local policeman goes in search of a young girl named Abby, who he believes is connected to a series of grisly murders. As he walks into her apartment, he steps on one of the toys that she and her friend Owen had been playing with moments before.
It's a small yet redolent moment: The cop has missed her for now, this young girl with a horrifying secret whom the audience has come to care about so deeply. It turns out the moment was neither part of the shooting script nor one of director Matt Reeves' ideas. It sprung from the mind of then-13-year-old Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Owen.
"I was like, 'That was a great idea,' " Reeves told MTV News recently.
"And we did it. With kids, you have to be open to what they bring."
That's a lesson Reeves learned from none other than Steven Spielberg, who's directed child-actor-centric films like "ET," "Empire of the Sun" and "Hook." The directors were brought together by J.J. Abrams, who produced Reeves' "Cloverfield" and is working with Spielberg on "Super 8," an upcoming film shrouded in mystery.
"[Spielberg] had seen 'Cloverfield,' and he was very, very complimentary," Reeves said. "I asked J.J., 'Do you think Spielberg would talk to me ... about directing kids?' And he was like, 'Yeah, of course. I'll ask him.' I met with him, and I was like, 'Oh, this is cool.' "
Reeves remembers Spielberg coaching him: "He said, 'The thing about it is you have to let them bring themselves to it. When you go in a room, say, "OK, this is your room. Where would you go? What would you do?"
Let them bring it. I'm telling you, that's where the gold is.'
"Because they actually are the ages of the characters, you're remembering what it was like to be 12," he continued. "They are 12.
That was the big thing."
The result of this advice was an environment of open collaboration in which Smit-McPhee (who starred in "The Road" last year) and co-star Chloe Moretz (who plays Abby and made a name for herself in
"Kick-Ass") were free to contribute ideas each day. Many of those ideas, like the toy one, made it into the final picture.
"Directing them was really playful, just learning to try and see through their eyes," Reeves said.
Check out everything we've got on "Let Me In."
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