How To Eat Fried Worms
Watch Clips From 'How to Eat Fried Worms'
Standing Up to the Bully
The Bet
Though only 11, Luke Benward is already a Hollywood veteran. When he was five, he appeared alongside Mel Gibson in "We Were Soldiers," and more recently had a part in "Because of Winn-Dixie." He's now starring in "How to Eat Fried Worms," the first big-screen adaptation of the beloved children's book. Luke--followed by his mom, Kenda, herself an actress--spoke to Beliefnet about the life of a child actor and what being Christian means to the family.

What, in particular, do you like about the "How to Eat Fried Worms"?

I really like how he makes friends with all the boys, even on--even some of the people on Joe's team and he has bravery to stand up to the bully.

What is the movie's lesson or message? If you don't stand up to your fears, have bravery, loyalty, and you don't have friends, you'll never win. You'll never feel better about yourself.

There are some parents who complain about this story, and the book sometimes gets taken out of school libraries because of the gross factor of them eating worms. How do you feel about that?

Well, how I feel about that is I'd rather not people, after they see this movie, go home, find a worm on the ground and eat it.

What would you say about the movie that's coming out to people who say, "Oh, I read the book, why would I want to see the movie, also"?

Well, the movie is quite different from the book. The book has less characters. There's not a girl. He ends--in the book, he ends up liking worms, but in the movie, he ends up hating the worms. And also, he doesn't have a little brother in the book. And in the movie, he does. And in the book, it's 10 worms in one day and not 15 worms in 15 days.

How did you first get into acting?

When I was little, my mom was an actress, and she still is now, and she'd go on commercial auditions, and if they needed a mom and a son, she'd take me along, and that's how I got started.

And then, my first movie, "We Were Soldiers"--I was in kindergarten, and I was five, and my mom took me out of school and she brought me to the audition of it. And I wasn't ready at all. I didn't know any of the lines. And I just went in there, said the Pledge of Allegiance, and I said my citizenship pledge from kindergarten class. They thought I was so cute, so they hired me.

What was it like working on that movie? Did you work with Mel Gibson?

Yeah, he was awesome. He was so cool. First day, I wrestled with him. And, you know, my mom was really embarrassed. But, he has kids, so he's used to it. And also, during lunch, he didn't sit with like the casting director and the director. He sat with us kids at the kids' table and showed us magic tricks.

Have you kept up with him at all?

No, not really. I haven't talked to him.

What's your favorite movie?

Oh, man, my favorite movie. You know, I really like "Passion of the Christ." I like that movie. I also like "We Were Soldiers," and "Braveheart." And "Napoleon Dynamite"--that movie was funny.

What was it about "Passion of the Christ" that you liked so much?

I'm a Christian, and I just like the story. I liked what Mel did with it.

When you're on a set filming a movie, what's your life like? Do you have school and church while you're out filming a movie?

There's a tutor on set, and my mom tells them [at school] that I may be gone for like two months, and they'll send in the work to my mom, and the tutor will teach it to me. And when I go back, I'm supposed to have it all done. So it's like I wasn't gone, I was sitting there at my desk.

How do you decide which roles to take for movies?

Usually, before my mom says, yes, we'll do the audition or no, we'll read the sides. And if I don't like the sides, we'll read the whole script. And if I still don’t like it and it's kind of, like, just bad, I'll say, mom, I really don't want to do this and she'll be like, okay. And we'll tell my agent and he'll be like, okay, that's fine.

And have there been any scripts that you or your parents have said, "No, I don't want to do this because it’s not the right values or not the right message"?


And how did you feel about having turned those down?

I just kind of feel like I it's my choice to do what I want to do. And my agent, he's totally with it. He tells me, you can turn down any audition you don't want to.

Is there one particular role or character or story that is your dream role, that you'd love to play some day?

I'd love to play in like a "Lord of the Rings," or something like that, or a James Bond or, you know, just something like with action, shooting.

That's very different than what you've done. What advice would you give to kids who are your age or even younger who are interested in becoming actors, professionals?

And how is your life different when you're there and when you're out in Hollywood?

Well, it's really different because in Nashville, there aren't as many hobos. They just make me feel sad. They make me feel sorry. And also, Nashville has four seasons. It's not always hot like it is in California. And it rains a lot more in Nashville. And I feel like Nashville is much less crowded than California.

Is there a particular church that you go to when you're out in California?

We go to Vineyard. Vineyard in Malibu.

Is it hard, when you're out in Hollywood, to stay the same person that you are when you're at home in Nashville?

Yeah, it is. You know, you just, you get so used to being out here, and you just get so used to people being mean.

What else do you have in the works? Do you have your next project that you're working on?

I'm going to shoot a commercial Friday.

Have you done a commercial before?

I have done a Hamburger Helper commercial, a Hardees commercial, a McDonalds commercial. American Express commercial.

Thank you! appreciate your taking the time to speak with us.

Okay. Do you want to talk to my mom?

Interview With Kendra Benward

How do you find balance between Luke as a professional actor and Luke as a regular child?

We keep it really balanced. I know so many parents who over-schedule their children. They put them in dance and soccer and football and baseball and for every season, there's a new activity.

And we kind of balance it out for Luke by allowing him to do only, you know, a few things throughout the year. Acting is pretty much his continuous hobby. He does that, you know, probably once a week or maybe twice a month. It helps that we live in Tennessee because he has to tape everything and he doesn't have to actually go to the casting director every single day.

His agent will send us things in email and we will tape them and then, overnight them here to LA. And then, he may not get a callback, you know, maybe one every ten tapes we send. So, that really helps balance it out. It's definitely more selective on that level. And then also, as far as sports and things, you know, he does football in the fall. And that's pretty much the only sport he does all year. So, that really helps us balance it out.

And plus, we have two other children that we have to make sure they have their own things, as well. But, keeping it balanced is just finding what your child is good at and helping them find the balance, not only outside of that with other activities, but also within that. You know, we don't allow him to do every single audition that comes his way. There's many that we turn down that just, I don't feel are maybe age appropriate or content appropriate. So, that's how we kind of get around it. You know, this is--it can be, you know, a very difficult business to be a part of if you don't have parental involvement. So, we stay very involved.

And what role does faith play in your family's life and in helping to keep him grounded?

Probably the highest role. We are a Christian family and God is the center of our home. And every time--well, I would say most every time, you know, before an audition or after an audition, we, you know, just lay it before the Lord and pray favor on the project and, you know, pray whatever God's will is for that, that that would come about and if not, then we just move on.

It's really good for Luke because it takes the pressure off him. You know, he can go in, do his best work and then, once he has done that and it's gone, you know, he really has a sense of it being out of his hands at that point. He doesn't have to carry the weight of rejection or anything like that.

You know, we just kind of go, okay, well, we've done our best, we've laid it out there and what's going to happen is going to happen. And we trust that the Lord has a great plan for our lives and that ultimately, God is in control of our lives and that we just kind of, like I said, do our best and wait for everything else to fall in place. So, faith is a huge part of who we are as people and our careers and our lives in general.

If they live in Tennessee, my mom does a workshop every year. My agent comes. And they can come to that. And they have to learn a monologue and they do it in front of the agent. And then, if the agent likes them, he'll represent them. And so, I'd say, first, you can do that if you live and Tennessee. But, if you don't live in Tennessee, I'd try, go get an agent. And if you get one, just wait until he sends you auditions, learn the lines, and do your best.

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