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Funny Boy

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And this spring, Corbin will write, direct and act in his own short film, a drama that will be entered into film festivals like Sundance and the Austin Film Festival. "It shows he's not only an actor, but has other talents," Gary says. The price tag on that: $25,000.

Will it pay off? Gossett believes that 2004 is the year Corbin will make his name known. "I wouldn't be surprised if Corbin finds himself on a situation comedy," Gossett says. "The young stars today can come from TV like the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. We look at those channels as film tracks, because they're creating a film audience for the rest of an actor's career. Hilary Duff can open a movie because of her TV show."

But he admits that young actors face big risks. "Because of the spotlight, the general trappings of the business, you can get your values mixed up," Gossett says. "Kids need extra help in understanding that. Unfortunately, the parents can get caught up in it, and the whole thing becomes a big mess, because it's dealing with ego."

Acting coach Simmons stresses to parents that they let their kids be kids. She learned it the hard way, as a child actor herself. "I missed my prom," she says. "I was always working. I missed my senior year in college. I didn't join the sorority." It seemed worth it because everyone told Simmons she was destined to be a big star. It never happened.

Detta and Gary say they're aware of the pitfalls and try to keep Corbin on an even keel. In a lot of ways, he's an ordinary teenager, riding his skateboard and razor scooter around the Oakwood complex, hanging out with his friends when he's back in Dallas every few months. He loves the online computer game Ultima. And he gets in trouble, usually for talking back.

"We continue to jerk his chain," Gary says, "to make him see he's a dependent of ours." Corbin recently got grounded for driving around after midnight with another 15-year-old neighbor in the boy's sister's BMW.

Corbin returns with his dad to Los Angeles later this month. He believes that in the next five years, his career will take off. If he goes to college, it'll probably be someplace like Pepperdine, where he can study...acting.

To get ready for stardom, Corbin's been shopping online for a getaway. He'd really like to buy his own island.

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Glenna Whitley

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