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STIR OF ECHOES

The Kid
Although Stir of Echoes features several stirring performances, perhaps its most noteworthy will be Zachary David Cope's feature debut, because it could well end up launching a long and impressive film acting career

Although Stir of Echoes features several stirring performances, perhaps its most noteworthy will be Zachary David Cope's feature debut, because it could well end up launching a long and impressive film acting career. Cope is a 7-year-old Arizona native who makes his feature film debut in Stir of Echoes, playing Jake Witzky, the supernaturally tuned-in son of Tom and Maggie Witzky.

The youngster - a "veteran" of six commercial acting roles by the time he won the role of Joke last year - adds an eerie sensibility to the film as a completely open-minded child whose eyes and mind see and hear the supernatural rhythms cascading all around while the rest of us continue blindly on our way. A refreshing presence who gently advises aspiring child actors to "never be mean to anybody if you want to succeed," Cope was hired partly because he slightly resembles Kevin Bacon, and partly because everyone who met him fell in love with him and his obvious acting ability.

"I was impressed by how professional he was, while still maintaining that childlike innocence," says director David Koepp about the youngster. "For one thing, he never got scared during the entire production. Obviously, we took great care to explain things to Zachary and to avoid placing him in violent sequences. But he gave us a great open-mindedness that I think really comes across on the screen. Unlike an adult actor, you don't need to explain every little nuance to a child. With Zachary, we just told him we were pretending, but to try and think there really was a ghost there and she was his friend. Unlike an adult, he just accepts it and that is what we wanted from his character-total, unquestioning belief in what he sees and hears, minus any fear of it."

In fact, the biggest problem filmmakers encountered with Cope was the fact that he would often begin laughing in scenes in which his character encounters the ghost.

"We have a scene where his character is watching a frightening movie - Night of the Living Dead - on TV and the ghost won't let him turn the TV off," says Koepp. "We and his parents spent a lot of time explaining to him that that movie wasn't real, and we told him it was just gross, made-up stuff. Well, we ended up having a hard time getting a take in which he wasn't laughing. He understood this was make-believe, he liked everyone he was working with, and he had a good time making this movie."

Indeed, Zachary spent much of the shoot - when more intense, adult scenes were being filmed - going on field trips around the Chicago area with his tutor and parents. When he was on set, the youngster never got frightened by the film's intense subject matter for what he says is a blatantly obvious reason - "it was all make-believe."

"I knew it was all pretend," he says. "When I was 5, I was scared by Ghostbusters because I thought they were real ghosts. But I'm older now and I know they don't exist, so I wasn't scared. I thought it was cool seeing them dress up and film the ghost, but I never got scared or anything."

Cope did make a lifelong friend, however, in Kevin Bacon. For one thing, the actor found himself spending much of his time between takes playing rock-paper-scissors with young Zachary.

"Zachary was great to work with,"

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