Funny Boy

Page 6 of 7

While filming on a back lot and at a California farm, Corbin acquired yet another accoutrement of the Hollywood actor: a manager. Managers focus on actors' long-term goals, providing day-to-day feedback that agents don't have time for. In return, they earn 10 to 15 percent of the actor's income. Corbin's on-set tutor recommended a manager named Lynda Goodfriend, once an actress on Happy Days, who agreed to represent Corbin after seeing the Leno tape. "He's a wonderful actor," Goodfriend says. "He has a real down-to-earth quality, not the glossy L.A. kid with blow-dried hair. Being such a sweet kid counts a lot in my book."

But after they shot his last scene, agent Gossett called Corbin with bad news. The director decided that a smaller child cradled in his grieving father's arms would wring more emotion. He was being replaced.

Corbin called his father sobbing and said, "Dad, I want to come home."

"That's fine," Gary told him. "But if you come home, we're not going back. Do you want to think about it?"

"Yeah," Corbin said.

Corbin remembered Goodfriend's rule of thumb: Only one out of three people make it in Hollywood, because the other two give up. Three hours later, Corbin called his father back. "I'm going to stay," he said.

"My parents hung a sign in my oldest brother's bedroom that says, 'Checkout time: 18 years.'"

Since Leno and Seabiscuit, Corbin has come this close to several other roles, including the lead in a TV comedy. But nothing much else has happened, and the Coronas blame getting braces and the weird nether zone that actors find themselves in after hitting 15 or 16.

Goodfriend says it comes down to money.

"They want actors 18 years old to play 15," says Goodfriend, "because they can work long hours, and they don't have to hire a teacher. I've seen it happen to every client I've had."

An adult who looks 15 is a better bargain than a real 15-year-old and usually has more acting chops. That matters as more serious subjects--drug addiction, crime, violence--are introduced into roles for ever-younger actors.

Another problem is the pressure to be beautiful. "The girls, at age 12, they can be girl-next-door," says Goodfriend, "but at 13, they want them to be sexy, with cute little boobs. After 15, they want boys to be handsome, athletic young studs. Mini-adults."

And those braces. The Coronas had a Dallas orthodontist put on clear bands but learned that no Los Angeles orthodontist would touch them when a problem arose. Gary negotiated a deal with an L.A. orthodontist to put on a whole new set and then take them off if Corbin books business. But the Coronas know that casting directors have a hard time seeing beyond the metal.

It was at the Smokehouse in Los Angeles, a restaurant where industry people hang out, that Gary came up with a scheme to get Corbin through adolescence. Everyone was talking about how Hilary Duff's mother conceived the Lizzie Maguire pilot and sold it to Nickelodeon. The Lizzie Maguire Movie had a $17.3 million opening weekend, huge for a cable TV star. She's released a CD, starred with Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen, and a merchandising empire is not far behind. The Houston-born star turned 16 in September.

So Gary decided to finance a film project to co-star Corbin.

"My dad surprised me," Corbin says. "He's been doing it behind my back, and then he told me. I think it's awesome."

Well, that's not exactly what he told his father. "Corbin hears me on the cell phone in L.A. and says, 'Dad, you've only been here three months, and you've already gone Hollywood,'" Gary says. "But I think it can be a good investment."

Gary has found a comedy script, called "Double Wide," by Texas-based screenwriter Anne Rapp, and the film will be shot in Texas. He plans to raise $10 million to $15 million and produce it with Goodfriend.

The Coronas also have plans for Corbin behind the camera. In mid-December, Corbin signed on as executive producer of a low-budget sci-fi thriller to be shot in Dallas this month. "Corbin will be on the set, learning the other side of filmmaking," Gary says. "People say I should take Corbin through every step of the production process. That's where the actors with staying power are going."

How do you get to be executive producer? Money, baby. Gary agreed to raise about $100,000 to finance the project.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Glenna Whitley

Latest Stories