Alex Winter interview: ‘Showbiz Kids’ director

“The theme that emerged was the idea of universality,” reflects director Alex Winter about making “Showbiz Kids.” For our recent webchat, he continues, “No matter how different our experiences were in the industry, whether we were acting at the turn of the centenary or the present day with 20 million Instagram followers, the experiences were very similar.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

“Showbiz Kids” is an HBO documentary film which tells the stories of current and former child stars. It features interviews with Wil Wheaton, Todd Bridges, Evan Rachel Wood and others. It was a personal project for Winter, who was a child star himself on Broadway before his breakout film role in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” He reveals, “The film is somewhat autobiographical. I’m kind of telling my own story through others. The motivation to make this grew from a feeling I had never really seen our stories told in a nuanced way. It was either very tabloid and sensational or extremely superficial. That really motivated me because I had lived it.”

The director admits, “Diana Serra Cary (Baby Peggy), was 100 years old when I interviewed her. She was acting in 1918. She just opened her mouth and my story came out of her mouth. It was wonderful. I realized once that happened the first time, that it would happen every time, and it did. I felt an extraordinary kinship with them, and for many of them it was mutual.”

On whether he thinks it’s a good idea for children to enter the entertainment industry, Winter explains, “There’s a lot that can go wrong. It is an extremely competitive business for a child that is still dealing with their own development. But I wouldn’t be hyperbolic about warning people from doing it all together. There are consequences, and those consequences are unavoidable. They are not necessarily grave, but they are there.”

Winter also believes that the film touches on broader themes than child stars. He says, “Childhood is tough for anybody. It is wonderful, magical and inspiring but it’s also stressful and difficult. The film is really about the universality of childhood. While someone has the stressors of being in public and being in an adult-ified environment, your experiences are really similar to other children. People are captivated by people in the entertainment industry. In a way the film was a Trojan horse. It’s using the allure of child acting to make broader statements about what it means to be a child in modern society, and where those children are protected and where they are not protected.

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UPLOADED May 29, 2021 6:40 pm