Oakes Fegley is just a typical 12-year old boy who loves to play Minecraft and other videogames on his Xbox and play football with his friends. Oona Laurence is a usual teenage girl getting ready to enter high school. Yet there’s something not so standard about these kids. Oakes and Oona star in the live-action version of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, now playing in theatres everywhere. The pair walked into the room with brimming with childhood energy, yet confident and wise beyond their years. Read on to learn more about what Oakes and Oona had to say about filming in New Zealand, the challenges of acting to tennis balls on sticks, working with legends like Robert Redford, and the message they want you to take away from Pete’s Dragon
On how many times it took pretending to throw himself off a cliff before they got the scene right
Oakes: I don't know the exact number. But I'd say probably 10ish. Or a little bit more. It was fun. We did stunt training before we started filming, and we felt safe with all the stuntmen, so all the stunts that we did, we just had a ton of fun and felt safe while doing it. So it was really, really cool.
On their favorite scenes in the movie
Oona: That's hard. I love the whole movie. I guess the part where Oakes and Elliot say goodbye really made me cry. I mean, that part was, like, ‘Oh god.’ It ripped my heart out.
Oakes: That's one of my favorite scenes, as well as I like when Elliot slides into the cow.
What is the dragon snot made out of?
Oakes: It was water and all sorts of stuff. But anyway, do you know, those air guns where you pull it back, and then, it's kinda like a big circle. And then you pull the tab back, and then once you release it, it shoves air through it? It was the same sort of thing. It was just filled with that. And then they blasted it at you.
On acting with the green screen
Oona: I guess it was pretty tough at first because a lot of the time the dragon was a pole with a tennis ball on the end. So it was kind of difficult to imagine that it was a dragon. But I think as time went on, I think we all kinda got used to it.
Oakes: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And like she said, it was like a tennis ball on a stick. Or a piece of tape on the wall, as an eye line. So you had to imagine that's a dragon. It gets easier and easier as you get used to it. But at the beginning, it was kind of challenging. It was definitely hard.
Coming off of a comedy like Bad Moms and now going into something serious and kind of dramatic like Pete's Dragon, do you have a preference of comedy or drama?
Oona: I mean, I like doing both. They're both very different. And I think, yeah! You get different things out of them. I guess they're really both different. But I enjoyed making both of them. And everybody on both of them were so nice, and yeah! I just want to keep on doing whatever comes my way.
On seeing the original Pete’s Dragon and if they used it as preparation
Oakes: Well, because they're completely different, it wasn't a matter of preparing with the other one. I truly hadn't seen it, and I didn't see it before we had filmed. So I just watched it after. I've seen it a couple times since then.
Oona: Yeah. I haven't seen it actually.
So when you got the script, your parents were just, like, ‘Oh my gosh! You have to do this movie?' Because they grew up on it and loved it?
Oona: Yeah, kind of.
Ookes: Well, like I said, it's a completely different movie. So, it wasn't that. It was a Disney film. I was, like, ‘Wow!’ I'm incredibly proud of myself. I can't believe I got the role, and it's just been life-changing.
On how they got the roles
Oona: We did the audition, and then I think I did another audition. And then I ended up doing a chemistry read with Oakes. And yeah! It was kind of just, like that! And then when I found out I got it, I was, like, ‘Oh my god! I'm going to New Zealand. What?!’
Oakes: Same sort of thing. I went through three auditions, and then I had the chemistry read after that.
On how they reacted when they got the news
Oakes: I was actually at school. And my parents were on the couch. So I just walked back from my bus stop, and then they told me I got the part and I was really happy.
On what’s up next for them
Oakes: I just finished filming a movie directed by Todd Hanes. And Julian Moore was in that. I got to do another starring role in that, and it was just really, really life changing, and really cool.
Oona: Nothing for me right now. I'm going to high school, so I think that's enough to keep me busy.
On their favorite part about filming in New Zealand
Oona: I mean it's just such a beautiful and luscious place. I mean, oh my god. There's so much to do there, too. So it was great. When we had free time, we would go do all the touristy stuff. And also, the people there are so nice. At the end of it, my mom was like, ‘We have to move there.’
On working with Robert Redford
Oakes: Robert was, I mean, he's a legend. He's really, really cool. He's funny. And he's really nice. And he's a lot like a father. To everybody. He's just amazing. He's super.
What message do you want our kids to take away from watching this movie?
Oakes: I mean, just for them to know that family is very, very important. And that you can't give up on family because they are there for you whenever.
Oona: I would say the same thing.
So when you guys are not acting, what are you guys doing?
Oakes: I go to school, and I play football with my friends pretty much. Or I play video games. I play a lot of video games.
You don't ride dragons?
Oakes: No. Sadly. Sometimes they can be divas.
Oona: It's true. Yeah, I just hang out with my friends, go to school. I don't know. I'm just, like, a regular kid outside of acting I think.
So did you grow your hair long for the film?
Oakes: It was actually extensions. They wanted me to grow it out as long as I could, but I couldn't get it much longer than this. So they just ended up putting the extensions in. They were permanent extensions, so I couldn't take them out at night. So I had to just get used to having really long hair. And I didn't really like it. But it's fine, 'cause once I took them out, I was, like, ‘My head is so light!’
What were your thoughts when you saw the finished product and you watched the movie in its entirety?
Oona: Yeah, it was really, really cool. I think seeing the dragon, too. They had given us rough drafts of the dragon, but we had never seen it in full. And I think when we both saw it, we were both, like, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing. How did they put this together? It looks so real.’
Oakes: Mm-hmm. Same. Like, watching the trailers and seeing the dragon for really the first time. I mean, it was incredible. After imagining the dragon for so long, it was just incredible.
On special moments on set/filming
Oakes: I had a lot of extra special moments. My driver, Shane. We were always, um, doing stuff outside of filming, and he was just so nice. And I really miss him.
Oona: Yeah, I guess, also doing the stunts were really, really fun, too. I don't know if that counts as a special moment, but it counts as a special week, because it was really, really cool to do those.
What was the most challenging scene that you had to do?
Oakes: The most challenging scene is probably the scene where I have to leave Elliot, because I was crying about a green screen leaving me. So, that's pretty much—I had to imagine that the tennis ball was, was going bye-bye. So it was kind of hard, and after I had filmed the set a couple of times, I could just—I was just laughing. Like, I couldn't stop laughing. Yeah.
Oona: I guess the toughest was when our parents—or my dad—basically fell off the bridge. And I was never gonna see him again. And I think that was pretty tough to imagine that. When really, like, I wasn't actually looking off a cliff. I was looking at a green screen on the ground. So, I really had to imagine that, and harness emotions from other things.
On what book they’d want to see come to life on screen and have a staring role in
Oakes: Maybe Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus series.
Oona: Frozen 3
On their favorite Disney movies
Oakes: Besides Pete's Dragon? I really like The Jungle Book. But I think my favorite, favorite—you go first.
Oona: I guess The Lion King would be my favorite, just because, I mean, it makes me cry every single time.
Oakes: Yeah, maybe The Lion King. But also I like the old Jungle Book a lot, the animated one. I just really like that one.
PETE’S DRAGON is now playing in theatres everywhere.