A jaw drop is common place when Aaron Schwartz informs folks that he played the lovable Dave Karp in The Walt Disney film, The Mighty Ducks or the revolutionary Gerry Garner in the Judd Apatow produced, Heavyweights. To say that he has undergone a physical transformation since, would be an understatement. These days, all grown up, that handsome smile and witty charm are accompanied by a chiseled jawline, six pack abs and a very adult sensibility about Hollywood and life in general.
In between time on set and sessions in the gym you may spot Aaron out for a meditative run or sitting in L.A. traffic listening to smooth jazz, but more than likely won’t catch him in the club as he prefers to spend his Friday nights at home with his feet up, watching close buddies Matthew and Russell Lewis on Netflix’s Godless while munching on a bag of peanut butter filled pretzels from Trader Joe’s.
Aaron recently sat down with OnRCRD and told us what led him to acting, how he overcame the stigma that comes with child stardom, what he is working on now and what his plans are for the future. Check out some of our conversation.
What got you into acting?
Aaron: I got into acting when I was six. I remember my brother did a play, he was spotted on the street and they asked him do a play and it was with Playwrights Horizons which is now huge, and it was kind of big at the time in New York city. Saw him, and I was obsessed with the whole idea of getting on stage and performing for some reason.
Looking back now I’d think to myself, if I started from scratch and saw that I’d be terrified but at six I was like let’s do it, you know? I had a friend in kindergarten who used to love playing la bamba and his name was Richie and he had a little mini-guitar and he played la bamba all the time. And so I found out about an audition through my mom and she sent me out to an audition and I played la bamba.
I sang la bamba and booked this play, and ever since I’ve just been acting. I started becoming obsessed with wanting to be in movies. I stopped Anthony LaPaglia and Michael Keaton on the street when they were filming One Good Cop to ask them how to do it, they wrote out a whole list for me on how to make it in the business, what steps to take and I literally, verbatim took every step and by the time I was 10, I was signed with an agency and auditioned for Mighty Ducks which was called The Lucky Ducks when it first started.
Any other big influences early on?
Aaron: Macaulay Culkin. I was obsessed with Home Alone when it first came out and I was like “I wanna be his friend, I wanna like do what he does, I wanna be that.” I ended up actually becoming friends with Macaulay Culkin later on. I went to school with him was in the same circle with him, but he was definitely a huge influence when I was a kid, kinda someone to look up to.
Tell me about that experience, auditioning for The Mighty Ducks
Aaron: I mean, we showed up, it was like a cattle call. I had an agent and it was like, a scheduled audition, it was still kind of a cattle call, just tons of kids in this small office building. We got to the audition, they asked us if we knew how to play hockey. We did not know how to play hockey but all said we did.
I had four callbacks and then at the fourth callback, they were like, you booked the role and we’re flying you out to Minnesota. And we got there, we did not know how to ice skate so they postponed the shoot date for a month and a half and spent a month and a half putting us through an ice hockey camp.
And for six to eight hours a day, we would just drill on ice skating and playing hockey. And then, we had no idea it was gonna be that big. I was 11 and I was just like, floored that I’m watching a Panavision camera, with actual film rolling in there.
I was hearing the buzz of the film. That’s something I actually miss now, hearing the buzz of the actual film and sitting there and thinking, holy crap, this is real. And I thought it was amazing but nobody knew it was gonna turn into what it turned into, and then the audience loved it and it became The Mighty Ducks.
“It was Disneyland times a thousand for me as a kid.”
Being 11 years old, getting pulled out of school and thrust into this environment must have been a pretty surreal experience?
Aaron: It was an awesome experience. It was surreal getting pulled out of normal childhood. I know it sounds kinda jarring to a lot of people, getting pulled out of school to go and all of a sudden, next thing you know you’re filming a movie next to Emilio Estevez. I think for parents to hear that their kids, they’re like, holy crap, I don’t want my kid to go through that. But, it’s the most amazing thing in the world. It was Disneyland times a thousand for me as a kid.
Do you maintain friendships with of the cast-from-from that experience?
Aaron: Yeah. I maintain a lot of friends from the cast. Danny Tamberelli, who I also did Pete and Pete with on Nickelodeon, he was in the Ducks, still good friends with him. Jessie Smith, once in a while we’ll talk to each other, we stay in contact. He’s now doing Empire, he’s skyrocketed, it’s amazing. Brandon Adams, Marguerite Moreau, Elden Henson. I’m in contact with pretty much everybody from the Ducks, almost everybody.
We were such a tight-knit family when we did the shoot. I think now also with social media, we’ve been able to kind of regain access to each other in ways we weren’t able to before. So, became closer.
You’ve got The Mighty Ducks under your belt, what happened immediately following that? Was Heavyweights an immediate follow-up?
Aaron: It wasn’t. No. It’s horrible when you hear about like a little kid 11, 12 years old, having anxiety, “what’s my next project?” But that’s what it was, I was like, okay, I gotta keep on going, you know? In between, I was in an environmental awareness group called World Patrol Kids.
Natalie Portman was one of the co-singer and dancers with me and we would tour and go to, Earth Day and perform on stage and sing about recycling and all that kind of stuff. I did that in between and then I found out about Heavyweights. It was Judd Apatow, who I didn’t know who he was at the time, but he was friends with Steve Brill, who wrote, The Mighty Ducks and he co-wrote and directed Heavyweights with Judd.
Steve brought in a lot of the Ducks to audition for Heavyweights. A lot of the heavy, heavier Ducks to audition for Heavyweights. And it was just a really awesome experience. I was supposed to play Josh, the co-star and something happened, they kept on switching around, and screen tests, and finally I got the role of Jerry which was my first lead in a feature film. So, that was pretty exceptional.
And then, yeah, after you finish a project, you’re always thinking, “Okay, what’s my next gig? Like, when is it gonna happen?” So there’s always that little stress in between gigs.
Was there ever a point, as a young person that you felt fatigued or were no longer interested?
Aaron: When I was 13, I was a little bitch. I was a nice kid, but there were times when I was like, “I’m too cold” and, you know, I was a little bitch at points. So, there were times where it was tiring, it was work, but ultimately the underlying consensus for everybody there was, we were so grateful to be a part of something like this.
When I was doing Gossip Girl, there were long days, long shoots, a lot of times with a lot of sitting around, and doing absolutely nothing, but I never once was like, “Ugh, what a long day.” I’m always just grateful to be doing what I love.
“I remember seeing it like, damn there it is, there I am on the big poster”
What was the first time you personally experienced fame?
Aaron: When I was 11 and doing the Ducks, I did experience some fame. Again, there was no social media. I feel like if I had an Instagram at the time, it would have been insane. But, there was none of that, so it was just people seeing you in the street. And, I don’t really think I got recognized a lot when I was 11 after the Ducks.
After Heavyweights though is when I really experienced like the first intense, like I wasn’t able to go on the Subway for probably two or three years. I would not be able to go into a subway without being stopped. My first experience, I was waiting for a bus on the Upper West Side in New York City, and the poster behind me was of Heavyweights and I was like, “Wow, this is so crazy.” And I remember seeing it like, damn there it is, there I am on the big poster. And then, I turned around and a group of kids just came all at me and asked me to take pictures, and sign autographs. And, and it felt great. It was awesome. It’s what I was looking for when I was six years old, I was looking to have that happen and I was grateful for it.
Do you find it hard to shake the reputation that you’ve achieved through being a part of these two majorly iconic films as a young person?
Aaron: Yes. There are moments where it’s hard to shake the iconic fat kid from the movie syndrome thing. For me personally, it’s hard, it’s hard. I still have some insecurities that people don’t assume I would have, because I was affected, you know. So, I’m always like, “Oh, shit. Do I look like fat in this?” I could have a six-pack and be like, “Oh, man. I’m not feeling too good right now.”
Auditioning for roles as a very much transformed adult, did you find that your past experience prohibited you, in any way?
Aaron: Yeah, I think I’ve shaken off the whole, I was a fat kid in a movie thing that’s out there. If anything it works to my advantage now because of that the shock value of, “Oh ,wait. Are you that kid? Wait, no way.” I’ve had casting directors in offices come to me and be like, Oh my god, I was like a huge fan of Heavyweights and then I would get auditions for it.
Did you feel like any point in your life that you did fall off? Was there ever the curse of the child actor for you?
Aaron: I think the curse of the child actor is always chasing the dragon. I think that’s what it is. It’s like any addict, you’re always chasing that first taste. If you get out of that mindset, if you completely shut it off, okay [snaps fingers] I think if you shake that mentality, it goes away completely. You’re always gonna be leveled.
If they said, we’re gonna make another Ducks, we want you to come back, would you do it?
Aaron: I am totally open to that opportunity. I’m completely grateful for what the Ducks and Heavyweights has given to me, and even a Gossip Girl reboot. I’m completely grateful for it and there are times where I just don’t want to sit there and go, okay. Let me just use this from the ’80s and ’90s, again and again. But, = I don’t think there’s anything wrong if it’s something that got me into the limelight in the beginning, And, it’s something that’s gonna keep me in limelight and get me further along in the limelight to be able to do what I love in this business. I don’t see there’s anything wrong with it. If they redid, Mighty Ducks, I’d be there. If they redid Heavyweights, I’d be there.
Who are the people that have helped you along your journey?
Aaron: Hell, yeah. There is, yeah. There have been rough times. When I got back into the business, and was in my early 20’s, and I was like, “Okay, I’m getting back into this now. I’ve left for a little while”, and it wasn’t waiting for me. It was like, “Oh, okay. I have to hustle again, and start from square one.” My mom has always been a rock for me since day one, since I was six years old, she was always, whatever you need, whatever you want, you wanna follow dream, you got it, and she would like literally, almost to a fault just like be there for me without being a stage mom. Without pushing me in any direction so, my mom has always been somebody who’s always there to support me in anything I’ve done.She’s definitely my rock.
I moved to LA three years ago and, LA’s a hard place to move to when you’re coming from a place like New York. ‘Cause New York is an epicenter, and this city, and LA’s just little chunks of places all around. You have to drive here, and drive there and if you don’t have a home base of friends out here, you get lost quick.
I made some good friends from New York, and I have a good friend, Rich out here that’s always there for me. My friend Chris Canote who’s not here, he’s out in Missouri but, he’s always on the phone if I’ve ever needed anything. So, yeah I think it’s important to have those rocks there to help you through the journey. It’s not an easy business but, it’s a rewarding business.
What would you say your favorite career moment is?
Aaron: I mean of course Heavyweights, that was one of the first things I’ve ever done professionally and it definitely goes down in history as one of my favorites. But, I’m really proud of Gossip Girl because, I came from square one again. I literally had to get an agent, get a manager, I had to do intensives to meet people. Nobody knew where I was or, who I was. And, I had to really restart it all over again go on auditions for small little roles, and keep on pushing, and pushing.
I would go into this intensive, there were these casting director intensives and, my fiancee at the time was like, “You have to get on Gossip Girl?” and I was like, “All right, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna get on Gossip Girl.” I would just bug the casting director over and over and over again and, I would just go into all these intensives and finally they started bringing me to auditions.
Somehow the Russian doorman stuck with them for one of the auditions I had and I booked it. It was something. I didn’t use anything from my childhood. There’s always a luck aspect but, there was a lot of hustle involved, and I’m really proud of it coming from no agent to booking a show on CW.
Most embarrassing for you?
Aaron: I auditioned for Wolf of Wall Street. I went into audition twice, three times there isn’t any callbacks. I get an e-mail from my, agency saying uh, “Hey, you have one more callback for Wolf of Wall Street, please play nice with Mr. Scorsese.” And I’m like, “What? like uh, I’m a huge fan of Martin Scorsese.” I end up getting an audition to go in front of Martin Scorsese and, I’m there, it’s me and three other guys and we’re all reading with him. He’s reading the script with us, and were supposed to be stock brokers who will pick up the phone and be ad-libbing like,”Come on you know, do-do” whatever the lines were.
Scorsese comes up to me, and I completely blanked and I just stopped for a second and I’m like,”Oh, fuck” and I was like, “Let me do that again.” He goes,”Yes, please do that again” [laughs], and I was just like,”Oh, I’d just –” in front of Scorsese. I completely shit the bed, so, that was one of my-one of my, all time embarrassing moments.
Is there an actor, actress, director, or producer that you dream of working with?
Aaron: I personally would love to work with Chris Nolan. His stuff is just insane. The sci-fi aspect to stuff is mind boggling, the way he films it, the lighting. I’m just obsessed with Chris Nolan.
Sam Rockwell is definitely one of my favorite actors and I saw this movie Duncan Jones wrote and directed for Sam Rockwell called Moon and I was obsessed with it, obsessed with Sam Rockwell, obsessed with Duncan Jones, the way he films stuff and so, Duncan Jones is definitely somebody I would really love to work with as well.
What advice would you go back and give to eight-year-old Aaron?
Aaron: If I could go back to eight-year-old version of me and give myself some words of wisdom, I would probably say just enjoy the journey, the destination is not important. That’s what I would say. I know that’s a cheesy line but if you could keep that in mind when you’re a little kid — I mean I probably wouldn’t have listened to myself anyway because I was one of those stubborn kids who was like, “I gotta learn it on my own, I gotta figure it on my own.” But yeah, enjoy the journey. Sometimes things are not gonna to be going smooth, most of the time. Beautiful things happen in the process of getting to know where you’re gonna go.
What’s in the pipeline? What are you working on? What are you looking forward to?
Aaron: I’m working on a show I’m about to film that’s being called Bad Agents. I just finished a film called The Bone Box which is a horror film. It’s the first time I play a bad guy I’m really excited about that. I have a little bit of a New York accent and carry a gun so that’s fun and yeah just auditioning and plugging away.
Is there anything you want to set the record straight on or go on record about?
Aaron: Yeah. Yeah, I am not the goalie in the Ducks, everybody thinks I’m the fat kid in the Ducks and I’m the goalie, I’m not the goalie, I’m the one who gets hit on the head with the puck, not the goalie, it’s Goldberg.
Also, I’d like to go on the record that my mom is coming tomorrow and I’m really excited to spend six days with my mom in LA. I’m also really worried about spending six days with my mom in LA but, I love you mom.
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