Haley Joel Osment eyes a comeback. Let's give the kid some encouragement.

Haley-Joel-OsmentImage Credit: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic; ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty ImagesHaley Joel Osment was, for a brief but pivotal pop culture moment, one of the most famous child stars ever. He captured the zeitgeist with his gloriously freaked-out role in The Sixth Sense. Two years later, he starred in A.I., the long-awaited, much-debated, utterly bananas Steven Spielberg movie about a robo-boy who loves his mother. From there, Osment did a slow-fade from the public mainstream: voiceover acting for Disney, a token run-in with L.A. Law, and an initiation of the Jodie Foster Protocol (in which child stars attend top-tier East Coast universities; See also: Natalie Portman, Emma Watson.) But now: comeback alert! According to The Hollywood Reporter, Osment is starring in the upcoming Sex Ed, a comedy about a young college grad who wants to teach Algebra but ends up teaching the birds and the bees.

Child stars are a bizarre breed. When they’re young, they act like adults in kids’ bodies, way too self-aware for their own childhood. (Think Dakota Fanning in I Am Sam, or Chloë Moretz in Kick-Ass.) But when they get older, the equation flips: all the leftover celebri-kid energy makes them seem perpetually immature. That’s certainly true of Osment, who basically looks exactly like his 11-year-old self, with more facial stubble.

Still, I can’t help but root for the guy. Even if you don’t like A.I., you have to admit that Osment’s role in the movie is uncanny. Simultaneously embodying and deconstructing the modern idealized vision of childhood, Osment’s David is one of the most interesting protagonists in modern sci-fi history.

PopWatchers, do you think that Sex Ed will help Osment bridge the divide from “Child Star” to “Actor with a Real Career”? The plot description sounds more like a Judd Apatow joint starring Seth Rogen, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. (At least there are no lions in this movie.) And can we give Osment for his lead voice role in Kingdom Hearts? Sure, Sora’s one of the most annoying videogame heroes ever, but I suspect he’d be even worse without Osment’s easygoing delivery.

And no, PopWatchers, I haven’t forgotten about Pay it Forward…but I wish I could.

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  • Ceballos

    “Even if you don’t like A.I., you have to admit that Osment’s role in the movie is uncanny.”

    I agree 1,000% He’s absolutely excellent in “A.I.” and that’s the major reason I’m rooting for a comeback. Unlike child stars who relied almost exclusively on being cute or precocious, Osment was GOOD.

    • nodnarb

      Did you like A.I.? I think it’s HUGELY misunderstood and one of Spielberg’s best. There, I said it!

      • Ceballos

        I was VERY impressed and I generally liked “A.I.” when I originally saw it in theatres, but I was VERY apprehensive about the ending. (I thought they were aliens, which goes to prove your point that it’s misunderstood

        Every time I’ve seen it since then, I like it more and I remain incredibly impressed.

        In short…yeah, I like it…I think it’s pretty great.

      • Ceballos

        …also, Teddy’s kind of my boy!

      • nodnarb

        That’s exactly my experience! It took me 2-3 viewings before I really started to appreciate it. I sorta love movies like that.

      • paige

        that movie is an underrated masterpiece along with Minority Report- I loved how Speilberg was channeling Kubrick and letting his cinematographer go crazy with the visuals… Haley Joel Osment was a revelation in A.I. he Shouldve been nominated for an oscar- the kid doesnt blink once (!) in the entire movie! and teddy – oh teddy, how i wish i had my own :-(

      • Ceballos


        Minority Report! That’s another one of my favorites.

        These movies are part of the reason why I get really annoyed when people imply that Spielberg has been washed up for a while.

      • e4ia

        Paige- It was mentioned in one of the “making-of” segments that his blinks were digitally removed to give him a more robotic feel. But still…an amazing performance in an very underrated film.

  • Madd

    I’ve always thought he was a terrific actor. I believe he was in a play on Broadway a few years ago.

    • Megan

      He was in Mamet’s American Buffalo. I rode an elevator with him and the rest of the cast. It was kind of weird to look up and have my first thought be, “I see dead people.”

  • Nicole

    I’ve never seen A.I., but to this day when someone asks what movie I hated the most ever, it’s Pay It Forward. What schlocky, cheesy, manipulative garbage. Sadly, since I also never saw The Sixth Sense (the twist was ruined for me, so what was the point?), this is what I identify him with most. I’m all for giving him a chance to be associated with something else though – and is it just me, or does he need to play James Van Der Beek’s brother sometime? They have really similar features.

    • Ceballos

      “The Sixth Sense” still delivers, in my opinion, thanks to excellent work from both Osment and Willis (who I think is at his best).

      “Pay it Forward” (ESPECIALLY the ending), however, is pretty inexcusable.

      • Sue1

        I agree, Ceballos. The Sixth Sense was Shyamalan’s best work, and both the leads were excellent. Even knowing the twist the film stands the test of time as good entertainment. Pay It Forward was awful, but not Osment’s fault. I still remember him as Avery, Murphy Brown’s son. Best of luck to him.

      • LoveBug68

        He was also Forest Gump Jr. :)

      • kim in kentucky

        and one of Jeff Foxworthy’s sons

  • Briana

    Will never watch Pay It Forward. I vowed not to years ago. Make a come back HJO! I miss seeing you on my TV!

    • Chris

      I would like to be reimbursed for having seen Pay it Forward

  • Colin

    I know the twist in “Sixth Sense” and it is still a fantastic movie.

  • Jennifer

    “And can we give Osment for his lead voice role in ‘Kingdom Hearts’?” Huh?

    • Maria Mendoza

      Kingdom Hearts is an action Role playing video game developed by Square Enix & Disney. Sora – the main protagonist – fight to defend various worlds from dark being and to ultimately keep the heart of all worlds and being – “Kingdom Hearts” safe from various evil doers.

      While I do admit that the plot is cheesy, the Disney aspect of it makes the game painfully immature, and the animation is not up on the list next to heavier hitting games these days, I am an avid fan. And a MAJOR fan of Sora. Sure – hes awkward, slightly over emotional, over excited, and had a dorky anime style hair cut. But the character is genuine. And HJO does a fantastic job! Its a very popular series with 6 games already released, and another 2 on the way. Its an acquired taste, that requires patience. And with an all star voice cast, it obviously delivers.

  • Jennifer

    I still say his best role was as Forrest Gump, Jr.

  • Ellie

    I like him, I’ll check it out.

  • SisterZip

    Just watch “Secondhand Lions”. Such a fun movie and he did very well. He also played Forest Gump, Jr.

    on IMDB it looks like he has quite a few things in the works.

    • Elysia

      Yes! I love this movie. :-P

  • DNTO

    My advice….stay away from big budget films. Build an adult career like Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Christina Ricci and focus on smaller films.

    • Saracen Riggins

      I’m with this advice. I think a movie titled Sex Ed sounds like a terrible idea for him to be taken seriously. Especially if it is Seth Rogen-esque. That will keep him in the perpetually immature category if you ask me. Oh. And JGL is amazing ;)

      • Gwen

        He is immature. He is in his early twenties and deserves to play guys in their early twenties. He may have to do a NPH and wait until early thirties. But he is still really cute.

      • dnyce

        he’s 23 years old. he doesn’t need to be taken seriously in every movie he makes. it just happens that his two best parts were tough roles where he shined. give the KID a break.

  • Brian

    It’s okay. Walker told him he has AIDS.

    • Ceballos

      This comment wins! (I miss the lever so much.)

    • Jennifer


  • Melody

    Hey, I loved Secondhand Lions!! It’s my sons favorite movie and a simple delight.

    • Kristen

      Second hand lions is brilliant. And Haley Joel can totally hold his own with significantly more mature brilliant actors. I love HJO!!!

    • Gina

      Another vote for Secondhand Lions! Every time I watch it love the twist on classic adventure tales even more.

    • Josie

      I agree. It is so much fun.

    • Herbert

      I agree with your son. Lions was great.

  • Wait what

    You know, I thought he died in a car crash. May his career be resurrected like his body.

    • Ken

      I like HJO and he’s a great actor—but I sure hope he makes enough money to get his teeth fixed!

  • barock

    “one of the most famous child stars ever” Only EW would make a such a myopic statement like that

  • Angela

    Comebacks are always good, especially if they’re long lasting. I don’t really like the sound of that plot, but who knows? The main question is, after this hiatus of sorts, not to mention his maturation into an adult, can he really act?

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