If you ask Heather Pyle to describe her 11-year-old daughter Gwendolyn, she would say she learns through experiences. .
“She is an experiential child. She will try anything once, if you ask her to cut down a tree or go skydiving, she’ll try it,” the proud mom said, gloating about Gwendolyn’s first and successful performance in movie screen acting.
Gwendolyn, a well-mannered and poised child who attends Sylvania's Whiteford Elementary School, is on screen for two seconds in Disney’s Oz The Great and Powerful, which premieres Friday.
The Sylvania Township resident was excited to find out that the scene she was in would appear in the movie. Gwendolyn appears for several seconds in the preview clip shown to promote the movie.
“The scene I’m in is important to the movie cause it explains how Oz is formed,” she said. She is in the front row of the audience, to the left of a family which watches Oz perform a magic show, and is in the black-and-white portion of the film. The family sitting next to her includes a young child in a wheelchair who cannot walk. Played by Joey King, that child is brought to Oz, or Oscar Diggs, for a magical cure.
The Pyles found out that Gwendolyn was in the movie scene two years after the filming.
"I woke up early and saw that they released the trailer, so I watched it, saw the magician scene and they pan to the audience, and saw her," Mrs. Pyle said. "I was shouting 'she’s in it' and clapping my hands on the counter, at 6 a.m. when everyone is sleeping.”
Even though it is a two-second appearance, Gwendolyn and her mother are excited that she is in the movie.
“We’ll take it,” Mrs. Pyle said.
Gwendolyn tried out for the part after a Web casting call in 2011 for extras in the movie. . On a lark, she sent in her headshot. Her family was happily surprised when they found out she was chosen as an extra.
That fall they headed to a vast sound stage in Pontiac, Mich., inside what was once a factory.
Her scene was shot inside a tent where several actors were on hand, including James Franco, who plays Oz.
Gwendolyn kept her cool around the professional actors, and abided by the instructions not to ask the main actors for autographs.
Gwendolyn recalled that she wore an uncomfortable, form-fitting costume that included a pinafore and low-heeled boots, and her look mimicked a child living in the Dust Bowl.
“They made me look dirty,” Gwendolyn recalled. “My makeup made me look dirty, they put dirt in my fingernails, dirt on my face, so it looked like I was from the Dust Bowl.”
She had to look the same for three days of shooting, and even if one hair was out of place, a hairstylist would stop to make sure she looked exactly the same in each day’s shoot.
“They also had such great food, I was really impressed with how they had different sections and one just for dessert,” she gushed.
Gwendolyn has been studying the performing arts since she was 6 at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, and has had parts in its production of Alice in Wonderland, Jr., and Pirates of Penzance, Jr. Familiar with the one-time-chance to get it right in a theater performance, she appreciated the retakes that movie-making allows.
Moreover, she realized that movie-making required many different people in artistic roles to make it a success, and that if her dreams of acting were not fulfilled she could still be in the business in another role.
With her recent acceptance into the Toledo School for the Arts, she will continue to study the craft of acting and dancing.
She and her family are planning to see the movie Sunday. In honor of the witches in the film Gwendolyn will wear the Wicked Witch's hat, and her sister Mia, 8, will wear a "Glinda" crown.