Ten-year-old Owen Vaccaro is already an acting pro, with two hit movies under his belt.
It is an unseasonably warm December afternoon in New York City when Buckhead-based actor Owen Vaccaro steps out of his chauffeured car and makes his way onto the red carpet for the premiere of his new movie, Daddy’s Home. As he stops to pose for pictures in front of the waiting gallery of photographers, he hobnobs with Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and several other co-stars from the hit film.
Cut to a few days later, and Owen is on location for his next project, the setting of which is a fourth-grade classroom at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs. But this isn’t for any film or TV role. Owen is a student there.
Just 10 years old, Owen Vaccaro caught the acting bug after his first grade teacher suggested he sign up for classes at M.Z. Stageworks, a local theater arts school. His passion for it was immediately apparent, and soon he was appearing in local stage productions of The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan and Hairspray, which led to commercial and film work. His first on-screen role, at age 7, was in a Ford commercial. “I got to sit on a bench and eat ice cream all day,” he remembers of the shoot.
His latest project is Mother’s Day, a big-budget movie shot in Atlanta last fall that is scheduled for release April 29. In it, he was directed by the legendary Garry Marshall and appears alongside a star-studded cast that includes Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts. “I play a kid with two moms,” Owen says of his role. One of the most memorable scenes he had to shoot involved his having to wear a nude skin suit and pop out of a giant fake womb. (“Let’s call it an egg,” he says bashfully.)
Wanting to know what it’s like to be such a seasoned performer at such a young age, I meet with Owen and his mom, Alli, at Jan Smith Studios, just before Owen’s weekly singing lesson. Decked out in a button-down shirt, blazer, jeans and black-rimmed Ray-Ban glasses, he certainly looks the part of a snappy young actor. As we chat, he occasionally turns to his mom for guidance, but proves to be exceptionally well-spoken, funny, smart and polite. And despite the success he’s achieved so far, he seems perfectly grounded.
His day had started out normally enough, he tells me. He got up, ate breakfast and went to school. But by lunchtime, a news crew from 11Alive was following him around, filming him for an upcoming interview. After school, he went home for a bit, messed around on his mom’s iPad and played with his Great Dane, Dempsey. Then it was on to the studio for his regular Tuesday voice lesson. Afterward, he ate dinner, practiced his vocabulary flashcards, and then read for about 30 minutes (his current favorites are the Harry Potter and Magic Tree House series) in his beach themed bedroom before lights out.
On Mondays after school, Owen takes an acting class, and once or twice a week he auditions for new roles, which he typically does on tape either at his house or at a local studio called Catapult. His week may also be filled learning lines, meeting casting directors, attending rehearsals, and simply doing the stuff every other kid his age does—jumping on the trampoline and watching funny cat videos (he wants to have a cat some day and even writes persuasive essays for his parents on being a responsible cat owner). His schedule varies, of course, when he’s on set. It can sometimes be a long, 14-hour day, but there are numerous breaks throughout, most of which he’ll spend working with a tutor in order to keep up with his schoolwork. The rest of the time when he’s not filming, he jokes around with the other kids on set, plays video games, watches movies or takes field trips to area attractions. One of his favorite activities is to raid the food and beverage in craft services.
“I want to be an actor for life,” says Owen, when asked about his career goals. Judging from his enthusiasm and already strong body of work, he seems to be well on his way.
STORY: Jill Becker