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Humble in Hollywood

By Belinda Elliott Daily Life Producer

CBN.comOne would think that making movies with celebrities like Steve Martin, Sandra Bullock, Natalie Portman, and Hillary Duff would inflate an ego considerably. But to teen actor Cody Linley, it’s just another day at work – in a really cool profession.

Sixteen-year-old Linley stars in the new family film, Hoot, produced by musician Jimmy Buffet and directed by Wil Shriner (Fraiser, Everybody Loves Raymond). His character, Mullet Fingers, is a wild-natured boy who lives on his own in an old boat yard. He makes trouble for land developers when he discovers they are building a new restaurant on a site that is home to several burrowing owls, an endangered species.

The role required that he run barefoot through the streets and forests of Coconut Grove, Fla. To toughen his feet in preparation for the role, he said he began doing as many activities as he could without wearing shoes.

Although Hollywood has many devices and tricks available for such feats, the crew informed him that what would look best on camera was to go “all natural” and truly perform the stunts barefoot. Linley said for the most part, his toughened feet faired well, even though one scene required 13 takes before the filmmakers felt it was just right.

Running barefoot through forests was just one aspect of nature that Linley got to experience. While filming the movie, he also experienced his first hurricane. Although hurricane Katrina was not as fierce when it crossed over south Florida as it was when it hit New Orleans, the storm still made an impression on Linley and his co-stars, who were evacuated from their ocean-front hotel and moved to a hotel several miles inland.

“It was pretty scary,” Linley said. “It was just a category one and it knocked out all the lights in Fort Lauderdale and knocked down trees.”

Less scary were his interactions with many of the animals involved in the film. He noted playing with the tiny owls during filming breaks and working with several trained Rottweilers that chase him during the movie.

The most difficult animals to work with, Linley said, were the fish that he had to grab out of the water from beside a boat (the reason his character is named Mullet Fingers). “That scene took a long while in trying to figure out how they (the audience) will see you grabbing it out of the water without seeing a net or anything,” he said.

Whether toughening his feet on gravel or practicing his fish-grabbing skills, Linley accepts the work required for his character as just part the job. Working hard to perfect his craft is something the young actor is accustomed to.

In a suburb of Dallas, Texas, where he lives, he attends public school for half the year, then spends the other half of the year in Los Angeles enrolled in “Options for Youth,” a free independent study program for actors. He is currently finishing his sophomore year. When he is not in school he can be found taking advice from his mother, also his acting coach, and assisting her with the acting classes that she teaches.
Linley made his acting debut at 8 years old as “Spit” in the film My Dog Skip, working alongside actor Luke Wilson, who also stars in Hoot. The rising star followed up that role by working with Sandra Bullock and Benjamin Bratt in Miss Congeniality and, later, appearing with Ashley Judd and Natalie Portman in Where the Heart Is.

More recently, he shared the screen with Steve Martin and Hillary Duff in Cheaper by the Dozen and appeared as a guest star on several Disney programs including “Hannah Montana” and “That’s So Raven.”

His latest film gave him a chance to work with musician Jimmy Buffet, someone he was not previously familiar with. “Going into the film, I didn’t really know who he was because it’s not really my generation,” Linley said.
His dad, on the other hand, was very excited when he heard his son would be working with the legendary singer.

Linley said Buffet gave him his newest CD, but it wasn’t the famous performer’s music that most impressed him. It was his attitude. Linley described Buffet as a really nice guy who made it a point to talk to everyone on the set.

He said he admires celebrities like Buffet who are not egotistical, and he aspires to carry that attitude into his own acting career. If his career takes off, he said, he never wants to become what he refers to as “some kind of big-headed jerk.”

“I don’t think anyone has the right to be a big-headed person, because even if they are a big star, it’s just a job,” Linley said. “Their lives might seem more glamorous and kind of cooler than most people’s, but really it’s just a job. It’s their craft, just like an athlete or a journalist.”

It’s refreshing to see such humility in Hollywood.

Read a review of Hoot. For more information, visit the movie's Web site.

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