It takes many actors years to work their way up to stardom. Typically building from smaller roles to larger ones, they make their way through the ranks in the hopes of one day headlining in a feature film and being nominated for a major award. But there's at least one small star proving to be an exception to this path, and that's 12-year-old Roman Griffin Davis, the Jojo Rabbit star who is earning praise from fans and critics alike.
Jojo Rabbit premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won top prize. It then went on to rake in tons of award nominations stateside. The film earned six noms at the 92nd Academy Awards, and Davis specifically snagged a Best Actor nomination at the Golden Globes. He also took home the Critics Choice Award for best young performer.
In the dark WWII-based comedy, Davis plays the movie's namesake "Jojo" Betzler, a 10-year-old boy living in Nazi Germany who is a member of the Hitler Youth. With an imaginary Hitler by his side as a friend, he discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in the attic, and has to battle between what he's been taught and what he feels. Viewers have been applauding the young Davis for portraying the emotional role so well. Clearly, Roman Griffin Davis is one to watch, so here are some facts to help you get to know him a bit better:
1. 'Jojo Rabbit' Was His First Movie Role
Fans might be amazed to hear Davis' star performance in the film was actually his first time being in a movie, or any filmed role in general. This means this is also his first go-round on the awards circuit. At the age of 12, he is one of the youngest actors ever to be nominated by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association for a Golden Globe.
2. Davis Auditioned Late For The Role Of Jojo
According to Vanity Fair, the film's director, Taika Waititi, looked all over the world and viewed over 1,000 audition tapes searching for the perfect person to play Jojo before he came across Davis. Waititi said he chose the young actor because of his resemblance to the Jojo character. “It’s not just [his] look; it’s really about [his] attitude,” Waititi explained, also noting that "casting kids who resemble their characters at the end of their story arc is key."
3. He Knew He Wanted To Act From A Young Age
Davis's family is embedded in the entertainment industry. His father, Ben Davis, is a writer and director who's worked on popular superhero films including Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange, and his mother, Camille Griffin, is also a writer and director who works on a variety of short films. Davis explained in an interview with Deadline, "In my household, we only really speak cinema and such, so we’ve got our own language. I used to always go to my father’s sets and see what he was shooting, and I always felt like I was at home, when I went to his set.”
But it wasn't only a passion for the industry that got him interested in the career; it was also a means to leave the rough life of a middle-schooler. "I thought, 'How could I get out of school?'” Davis recalled. “I thought, 'Well, I’d have to be working, and the only place I could really work is in the film industry.' Then I thought, 'I can’t do any of it, apart from acting. So, mum, could I get an agent?'”
4. He Enjoys Swearing, But Can Keep It In Check
While Davis mentioned a passion for the movie-making process, he explained his favorite part of filming involved swearing. Davis recalled his favorite scene involved “kicking Hitler in the balls” and telling Adolf to “f*ck off." He told Vanity Fair, “It was really quite fun, because Taika was directing me to say it in different ways ... We did a whole improvising scene where I just said the f-word loads of times,” he recalled.
But just because he enjoys letting loose during filming, it doesn't mean he makes a habit of using those words, especially during interviews. “I’ve learned to not swear on live … I’ve learned to control my inner swearer ... I used to just shout out whatever came to mind,” Davis adorably explained to the Los Angeles Times.
5. He Wants To Help Others
Director Waititi said Davis "in real life, is an incredibly sensitive and emotionally connected kid who cares deeply about people." This fact is made more evident by his future career aspirations. "I really want to be able to do films that have an important message, that are relevant for today, and which are kind of teaching people ... I think that’s the best part of filmmaking, is that you can show messages which people will actually learn from,” Davis said.
6. He Looks Up To Taron Egerton
The Sussex-born star looks up to Taron Egerton and calls the one of his signature films, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, his favorite motion picture. Upon hearing this news, Kingsman director Matthew Vaughn gifted Davis an orange suit inspired by Taron Egerton's blazer in the film. Davis proudly wore the suit at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards, and even earned him a shoutout from Egerton himself when the Kingsman actor took the stage to accept his Golden Globe for Rocketman.
Davis also looks up to other celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joaquin Phoenix, Steven Spielberg, and Eddie Murphy.
7. He's Playful
If Davis' high-spirited answers to previous interview questions didn't prove it, his personality came out full force when he revealed how far he'd go to meet his idols. Davis mentioned he'd even pretend to be a waiter to go up to Steven Spielberg's table at an awards show and meet him. But what's more likely is the young star will probably end up sitting next to the famed director one day.