By Amy Daybert
For The Associated Press
BOTHELL, Wash. (AP) — Fifth-grader Karan Brar went to school this week like most kids his age. He also got to do something few kids get the chance to ever do.
He’ll watch himself act on the big screen.
Karan, 11, plays middle school student Chirag Gupta in the new children’s movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” which opened last Friday.
“It’s getting kind of crazy. The whole fifth grade is going to watch the movie after school,” Karan said last Thursday. “Everybody’s happy, and they want to see the movie.”
The Cedar Wood Elementary School student started reading the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series in the third grade, but never thought he would one day portray one of the characters in it.
“It was pretty shocking,” he said. “Nobody ever actually imagined the book would turn into a movie.”
For his part, Karan had to learn an Indian accent. His parents, Harry and Jasbinder Brar, are originally from northern India, but he was born in Redmond. Learning the accent wasn’t easy.
“I needed an accent, and I wasn’t good at it,” he said. “My acting coach, he was Italian, he taught me how to do my accent. That was quite the funny part.”
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is based on the series of four books by Jeff Kinney about a kid named Greg Heffley, who survives the awkward moments of middle school life. Chirag is Greg’s friend.
Karan started acting at the age of 7 after his father, who has also acted, told him he could give it a try.
Harry Brar took his son to the John Robert Powers acting and modeling school in Seattle. Shortly after, Karan was signed up for a competition at the International Presentation of Performers in Los Angeles. He finished as the second runner-up in scene acting and was a top 10 finisher for his monologue performance.
Upon arriving back home in Bothell, Harry Brar began looking for an agent for his son. He found Sterling Talent Agency in Renton and Karan acted in several commercials. When he turned 9, Karan started looking for roles in small films and discovered that 20th Century Fox was looking for an Indian child to star in an upcoming movie. Karan auditioned. After four months, everyone started to forget about the audition until they got a call from Hollywood asking for another tape.
“We sent another tape, and we still didn’t know what was going on,” Harry Brar said.
He eventually learned that his son was one of 9,000 kids from all over the world who were competing for the role. Then he found out Karan was one of nine kids being considered. Then one of four kids. Finally, Karan received a phone call asking him to audition one final time in Vancouver, B.C.
After that audition, Karan was upset. He didn’t think he did well.
Two days later, Karan received another call and was offered the part.
“I was happy because at first, I thought I lost the job,” Karan said. “I was really happy and I thought, ‘Now, I finally did it. It finally comes down to this.’ ”
The movie was shot over 45 days last summer in Vancouver. Karan was on set for 30 days, according to his father, and impressed directors with his ability to memorize his long lines.
At one point during shooting, Karan asked his father for pencils and paper. He and several other actors in the movie drew pictures of the behind-the-scenes action on the set of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
The movie directors and producers saw the drawings and decided to include two of Karan’s in the book “The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary: How Greg Heffley Went Hollywood,” released last Tuesday.
That book and those in the series are very popular and don’t stay long on the shelves at the Everett Public Library, said Emily Dagg, the library’s manager of youth services.
“The books are written from the point of view of the main character,” Dagg said. “He draws pictures of the things that happen to him or that he imagines will happen.”
With his elementary school being first through fifth grades, Karan finds himself just a few months away from middle school. He believes he’s learned a little about what that experience is like from being in the movie.
He also thinks he has a few things in common with his character.
“Besides being small, I have a little in common with him,” he said. “Sometimes I can figure out if the teachers pick favorites.”
Karan could continue to play Chirag in future movies if “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” does well. He knows he wants to continue his acting career. He recently auditioned for Tim Burton’s remake of 1984’s “Frankenweenie.”
“When you act, there will be ‘nos’ and sometimes, you don’t get the part. But at the same time, don’t worry,” he said. “There will be ‘nos’ in life, but keep going and there will be a ‘yes.’ ” ♦