Rick Bentley

Meet the new voice of Nemo; catch up with Frances O’Connor

Hayden Rolence, 12, a student at Still Middle School in Aurora, Ill., supplies the voice and personality of little clownfish Nemo in the new Disney/Pixar animated adventure “Finding Dory.”
Hayden Rolence, 12, a student at Still Middle School in Aurora, Ill., supplies the voice and personality of little clownfish Nemo in the new Disney/Pixar animated adventure “Finding Dory.” AP

One of the interesting aspects of this job is how different star interviews can be. Recently, over the course of a couple of days, I talked to Hayden Rolence and Frances O’Connor.

It’s the first film for Hayden and the continuation of a long career for O’Connor. It’s always interesting to talk to people at both points in a career.

Hayden is the 12-year-old actor from Illinois who is the new voice of Nemo in “Finding Dory,” which opened in theaters Friday, June 17. Alexander Gould spoke for Nemo in “Finding Nemo,” but he’s now 22 years old and his voice has changed.

The fact Hayden is 12 means he wasn’t born when “Finding Nemo” opened in 2003. He had seen the movie before the audition, but he spent a lot of time listening to Gould’s work during the audition process to be the new Nemo.

“They sent me pages of scripts from ‘Finding Nemo’ to read. I watched the movie and did my best to match the lines,” Hayden says.

The second round of auditions was more difficult because the scenes were original and he could not match his voice to a scene.

His mimic skills were strong enough to land him the job. His parents got the call he was cast while Hayden was at school.

“They told me I had an audition and Dad got out his camera,” Hayden says. “Then they told me the news while recording. First, I was in a bit of disbelief. I kept asking them if they were joking me.”

When he realized it was no joke, he got excited.

Hayden started modeling when he was 5 and a couple of years later his agency asked if he could act. His reply of “yes” was the start of a career path that’s taken him from commercials to the Pixar movie.

It took nine trips to California for Hayden to do all the voice recordings. It was a little odd when he finally saw the film and heard his voice coming out of Nemo.

“After a little bit, I got immersed in the story and stopped thinking about it,” Hayden says.

Scary work

While Hayden is just starting his career, Frances O’Connor has almost a quarter of a century of acting credits. The English actress, who is starring in “The Conjuring 2,” is best known for such films as “Mansfield Park,” “Bedazzled” and “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”

In “The Conjuring 2,” O’Connor plays Peggy Hodgson, the mother of a family haunted by what has been called the most documented paranormal experience in England’s history. The mom tries to hold her family together while a dark demon takes over her daughter.

Before filming started, O’Connor could have met members of the real family. Her years of acting experience prompted her to decline such a meeting.

“If I could tell from them that they were lying, it would have ruined it for me. I decided to leave that in the realm of the imagination,” O’Connor says.

O’Connor’s imagination was all she really needed. While reading the script, she freaked herself out so much that she bought a necklace of crystals to wear on the set. Then, when she got to work, she realized her fears were silly.

It also helped that O’Connor is a mother. What she had to come to terms with is why any mother would stay in a house where her children were being terrorized on a nightly basis.

She says the key is to understand the mindset of England in the 1970s.

“You had to realize the level of poverty they were in. You didn’t have the option to move,” O’Connor says. “You had to wait for the government to get you a place. You also didn’t think you could move. You just assumed you couldn’t. They didn’t have a mindset of a better life but just doing the best with what you had.”

O’Connor has made the best of her acting skills, especially in recent years. Along with the starring role in “The Conjuring 2,” she was in the TV productions “Mr. Selfridge,” “The Missing” and “Cleverman,” plus had a small role on “Once Upon a Time.”

Other news

Nooooooo!!!!! BBC America has announced the fifth season, to air in 2017, of “Orphan Black” will be its last. The fourth season has just wrapped.

It has had to be a nightmare for Tatiana Maslany to play all of the different roles, but she is on one of the best series to ever air on TV.

Funny stuff: “MADtv” returns to TV at 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 26, on the CW Network. The sketch comedy series stars eight new comics, plus cast members of the original late-night series.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

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