An impressive ensemble of actors led by Chris Evans along with Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, Lindsay Duncan and Jenny Slate support young multi-talented actress McKenna Grace as she takes on the titular role in director Marc Webb’s Gifted .
Evans plays Frank Adler, uncle and guardian of Mary (Grace) in the movie who both lead normal lives until Evelyn (Duncan), Frank’s mom and Mary’s grandmother, decides to take custody of her grandchild. Frank’s sister entrusted him to raise Mary after she died for fear that her daughter might also be subjected to the pressures she’s been through as a prodigy. But as soon as Evelyn finds out about Mary’s intellectual state, Frank finds himself in a custody battle to keep Mary under his care.
On finding the right child-actor, director Webb insists there was a good reason for the massive search: “I couldn’t have made Gifted unless I found the right Mary Adler. It was the biggest hurdle to making the movie. There’s an emotional depth and sophistication you don’t see very often in an actor, but for a child, that’s a level of virtuosity that is incredibly rare.”
Mckenna remembers it was very stressful meeting Marc Webb for the first time. “They had given me the wrong sides (scenes) to read, so he just gave them to me in the hallway. I had five minutes to memorize them. But once the audition was over, we just talked and had a fun time. I wanted this movie more than any movie I’ve ever wanted.”
She says that she and Webb “had an amazing connection together. He was the perfect director for this job because we needed someone with a big, caring, loving, heart. He let me take my time when there was a crying scene. I would walk in, and he’d sit by the camera and he would cry with me, so then I didn’t really feel alone.”
Mckenna says she also learned a lot from working with Evans. “He was very focused on the set, and sometimes he would sit down and help me with my script.” Evans treated her “more like a friend, like he treats Mary. I really like that he treated me that way, except he did try not to say bad words around me.”
Mckenna proves that she has a different kind of perspective, genius or not. When asked what the message in Gifted means to her, she gives a most moving and simple answer: “At the end of the day, no one can tell you if your family is perfect or not. You may just have a mom, or you may just live with your daddy, or two moms and two dads, or you may live with your grandparents, or you may have an uncle like Mary does. People say that the perfect family has to have a mom and dad, a big amazing house and a lot of money. But as long as you have a loving, caring person that you live with, then I think that’s perfect for you.”
Gifted opens today in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox, distributed by Warner Bros.