CNN Showbiz

'Indian in the Cupboard' brings new faces to the screen

July 13, 1995

(CNN)--The cherished children's book "The Indian and the Cupboard," which features a young boy and a tiny Native American, sold more than 5 million copies. Now the challenge is to see if it will fill movie seats with its debut. It showcases two new actors.. who are not stars. Not yet, anyway.

It's the first starring roles for a roller-blading 10-year- old, Hal Scardino, and a rapping Native American, Litefoot. They dramatically join hands in "The Indian in the Cupboard."

We asked Hal if he gets along with Litefoot offscreen. "Sometimes," he said, laughing. "He's a bit annoying, but yeah." Litefoot kidded him back. "Uh-oh, look in the movie I'm a bit littler than you, but now, look at me and look at you."

In the movie, Litefoot as Big Bear is three inches tall. Scardino's character, Omri, is nine years old. A turn of the key in the cupboard brings toys to life, and unlocks a tale of acceptance and compassion. Said Litefoot, "It has everything that Hollywood has to offer in terms of excitement and adventure and special effects. But at the same time it also has something you can leave the theater with." Hal agreed. "Normal movies, you just see it, ha ha. Then you go home. Litefoot I would have to agree with. This is also for children and adults."

"E.T." screenwriter Melissa Mathison converted Lynne Reid Banks' popular children's book to film. Scardino and Litefoot embodied her vision of Omri and Little Bear, so they wound up in the showbiz spotlight in Vancouver, promoting the film in dozens of interviews.

Scardino seemed not to mind too much. "So we get tired." "Actors are so mistreated," quipped Litefoot.

Scardino played a bit part in "Searching For Bobby Fischer" -- this was definitely a different type of role for him. "I've seen myself on the screen before, but me eight feet tall it makes me feel sort of weird."

Litefoot is a member of the Cherokee nation. He insisted his role accurately portray Big Bear and his Onondaga people (68K AIFF sound) -- "not just in how he looked and how he appeared .. but how he spoke, how he presented himself," he explained. Litefoot believes all Native North Americans, including those represented by the totem poles in Vancouver, can take pride in the film.

As he put it, "There's room at the top for all of us, no matter what the tribe."



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