IF IT’S AWKWARD enough interviewing someone who is practically a child, it’s more awkward still when they have a spot of whipped cream on their button nose. “Are you sure?” says Abigail Breslin, taking a swipe at it with a finger. “Gone?” Nope. She looks across the room at the mirrored wall of the café—one of those old-fashioned New York Italian pastry shops where more than half of the coffees on the menu contain some kind of sweet liqueur, and which, Breslin’s mother will inform me later, Frank Sinatra used to frequent—but it’s a bit too far away for her to make out details. “Hmm,” she says, pondering her next move. Shall I get it? I offer. I reach over, and it’s gone.
To watch her on screen, you might imagine Breslin, who grew up with her family in the same apartment down the street that she still lives in now, to be one of those child actors who is actually not much of a child at all. Hers, after all, is a prodigious talent. By the time she attracted widespread attention after being nominated for an Oscar, at age 11, for her role in Little Miss Sunshine—the feel-good, low-budget Sundance film that could—she had been acting for eight years, and she has since gone on to steal scenes from some of the most famous actors in the world: Catherine Zeta-Jones in No Reservations (2007), Jodie Foster in Nim’s Island (2008), Cameron Diaz in My Sister’s Keeper (2009). Breslin’s last film, Zombieland, was an unexpected box-office hit and this morning, I tell her, it was reported in Variety that there was going to be a sequel, in 3-D. “I had no idea!” she says, smiling. “But that sounds pretty cool, right?” The last 3-D film Breslin saw was the Jonas Brothers’ Movie; she has pictures of her with them on her bedroom wall.
This month, Breslin will make her Broadway debut in The Miracle Worker, a new version of William Gibson’s play, which he adapted for the screen in 1962. Breslin plays Helen Keller, the deaf and blind activist and author who learned to communicate with the help of her teacher, Annie Sullivan (played in this instance by Alison Pill). “[Keller] is one of my heroes,” says Breslin. “When I got the call asking if I would play her, I was like, ‘Heck, yes!’” Outside of her work, though, Breslin could be any other 13-year-old. Only when she goes to Disney World next week, it will be to perform at Epcot. “It’s really fun!” she says, her eyes wide. “You get to go on rides all day, and then at night I do this thing called Candlelight, where I tell the story of Christmas to the audience.” On her own? She eats a spoonful of cream. “Well, there’s a choir that sings between the narration. But otherwise, yep!”
Breslin, predictably, loves the Twilight books. “I’m a crazy, obsessed fan. I went to see the first one on opening day,” she says. “But I felt left out because everyone in the audience had Twilight T-shirts and I didn’t. So I have Twilight T-shirts now. And have you seen those Twilight water bottles? I have one of those.” Her concerns right now include getting a new cell phone (“no luck on that”) and having sleepovers (“my cousin Jen came over for the last one. We did each other’s hair, watched The Office, talked about Twilight stuff.”)
So, does she want to be an actress when she grows up? “Yes,” she replies. “It’s my favorite thing in the world. If I don’t, there’s another thing I like doing, and that’s writing.”
What kind of writing?
“Short stories, mostly. I just wrote one about a girl in a mental institution. Which leads me to my next thing.”
“I would love to be a psychologist.”
You’d have to go to college, is that on the cards?
“Yes! I have a whole plan. Me and Jen are going to share an apartment. She’s going to go to Columbia, and I’m going to go to NYU.”
And will you act at the same time?
“Well, I wanna be a vet, too.” A pause. Some pensive stirring. “But I can’t handle blood and stuff. Freaks me out.”
Maybe being a vet isn’t the best idea.
“Yeah, maybe not. Hmm.”
She looks down, finishing off the cream with a final spoonful, getting just a speck by her left eyebrow.
--LUKE CRISELLPhotographer, Peter Ash Lee Stylist, Liz Cresci Hair, Thomas Dunkin for Sebastian Pro Makeup, Talia ShobrookSee the full interview in the February issue of NYLON.Plus: Madeline Zima, former child star
Kristen Stewart, former child starAnd... uh... Lindsay Lohan, former child star