Stars of Sundance: Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri

Stars of Sundance: Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri

Back In January, V Caught Up With All Of The Stars Of This Year's Sundance Film Festival For Our Fashion & Film Issue. Here, Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri Talk About Their Upcoming Film, Little Men

Back In January, V Caught Up With All Of The Stars Of This Year's Sundance Film Festival For Our Fashion & Film Issue. Here, Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri Talk About Their Upcoming Film, Little Men

Photography: Charlie Engman

Styling: Emma Wyman

Text: Natasha Stagg

Their careers will no doubt rocket in two different directions, but Michael Barbieri, 14, and Theo Taplitz, 13, owe their next phases of work to a stellar tandem acting effort. Their portrayal of neighbors and best buds in Ira Sachs’s latest exploration of Brooklyn gentrification, Little Men, pits the young actors’ strengths against an adult landscape that, for all too familiar reasons, can’t handle such an unlikely friendship.

Playing these characters—the shy son of a theater actor and a psychiatrist, Jake (Taplitz), and the outgoing only child of a financially struggling single mother, Tony (Barbieri)—has made fast friends of the actors, too. For reasons of physical location, though, they might similarly struggle to keep this bond intact. Taplitz lives in Los Angeles, while Barbieri lives in “downtown Manhattan” and, like his character Tony, plans on attending the famous LaGuardia High School for acting. (At the time of our conversation, he had one week left before hearing the verdict on his audition.)

“Neither of us had met before [shooting],” says Taplitz, pronouncing each syllable, “but after the movie, I think it’s safe to say we are both friends.” Barbieri backs him up in a confident tone that brings to mind a young Marlon Brando: “When I first met Theo in Brooklyn, we talked and we skated. We had similar interests and became good friends, but as we filmed, we became great friends.”

Clothing Topman

Both say that working with Sachs was an invaluable first film experience, and not just because it took them to Sundance. “Ira actually told me something that I will remember for the rest of my acting career,” says Taplitz, “which is that less is more. And you never want to push anything out, you want everything to be very real and very true and honest.”

This advice is honored beautifully when Jake finds out that Tony has to move away, and cries. Finding that emotion wasn’t difficult, says Taplitz, as long as he remembered the real sadness the story described. “You just really need to feel it. For instance, in that scene, I came to this realization in my character that suddenly everything was going to change and my friend was going to be gone, and also that hinting feeling that my parents were not the people who I thought they might have been. That was heartbreaking. In that moment, I just really felt truly sad. It’s about feeling the emotion and the real, raw ingredients that are coming from the experience.”

“I was so honored and so lucky to have my first feature film be with Ira, and with such a great cast,” says Barbieri, of Sachs and actors Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Talia Balsam, and Alfred Molina. “Ira always told me, ‘Whatever you want to do, do it. Don’t ask me for permission if you feel this is what your character would do.’ It’s very cool to have a director that always had my back—it was just an amazing experience I won’t forget.”

Credits: CREDITS: MAKEUP, HAIR, GROOMING ERIN SKIPLEY USING DIOR BEAUTY (CLOUTIER REMIX)  PRODUCTION SYLVIA FARAGO LTD  DIGITAL TECHNICIAN JONATHAN HOKKLO  PHOTO ASSISTANT MICHAEL TESSLER   STYLIST ASSISTANT COCO CAMPBELL  GROOMING ASSISTANT TAMMY YI  EQUIPMENT ACME CAMERA COMPANY

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