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Jeopardy! kid contestant lands major Hollywood role

December 28, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The answer: Thomas Horn. The question? Who is the teenager now starring in a movie thanks to "Jeopardy!"? It's the unlikely story of a kid who's won an actor's prize: overnight stardom.

Thomas Horn took the championship title last year on "Jeopardy's Kids Week." But his winning didn't stop there.

Out of the blue, he was called to audition for the lead role as a gifted but definitely different child in the September 11th-themed drama, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close."

"I think winning 'Jeopardy!' was critical to getting this role, but not in the capacity of helping me," said Horn. "I think it was just the factor that allowed me to become seen by the person who gave me the role."

"Scott Rudin, my producer, remembered him," said director Stephen Daldry. "He won kid 'Jeopardy!' and he said, 'There's a kid on it last year and I think you should, you know, find out about him.' We did. We brought him in. We auditioned him and he got the job.

"On the whole, I usually say no to this," said Daldry. "Usually it is a process by which you have to go through auditioning. But actually, to be honest, with Thomas, that wasn't the case. He came in and within 20 minutes, it was, 'I bet you we cast this kid.'"

Did it come easy?

"It didn't," said Horn. "I mean, I've had an amazing experience and I've certainly been very lucky in many cases. I mean, none of this was typical. It all involved atypical luck, like my circuitous path to acting. You'd never think I'd want to be an actor. And that's true. I didn't before I tried out for this role."

Horn, 14, makes his acting debut opposite two very popular stars.

Was he intimidated that he was working with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, who both have Oscars?

"At first I was a bit intimidated when I first met them," said Horn. "Besides being amazing actors, they are also really nice people and they tried their best to make me comfortable on set, which was really nice."

Horn says he's still deciding if acting is in his future or if this is it.

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