PRESENTATIONS: Meet Hayden Zaller | Local cinema | Savannah News, Events, Restaurants, Music

Local boy and ‘American Underdog’ actor Hayden Zaller will be at the Savannah Theater on September 16 to kick off the theater’s return to film screenings, starting with American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story.

In 1979, the theater stopped showing films and turned into a stage theater. Recently, the Theater decided on their off nights to show cult classics, old movies and other movies that might appeal to people who aren’t the type to want to see live shows.

Assuming they had a natural connection to “American Underdog” (Zaller stars), that was a good movie to start showings.

“It’s amazing how attentive he is and how quickly he learns. He learned his way in theater so quickly, it’s amazing to see him engage with audiences because I’ve always, as an actor, engaged by sight. So for him to have that natural feel is really amazing,” said Savannah Theater co-owner Matt Meece.

In 2016, Hayden was adopted by Shannon and Mike Zaller at the age of five, which is where his introduction to acting will begin. Her father, Mike Zaller, is one of four owners of the Savannah Theater and a lead actor in many of the theater’s productions.

“We put him on our Christmas show, to have a little song to say ‘meet our son’. Everyone just fell in love with him. He just has the sweetest little sweet voice and the sweetest little expression. Everyone went crazy for him,” Shannon Zaller said.

Hayden attended the Esther F. Garrison School for the Arts, where he studied acting. At the time of the filming of the film, he was 11 years old (he is now almost 12). After “American Underdog” he had auditions here and there and continues to go casting, most recently he walked the runway of dreams at New York Fashion Week, for Zappos Adaptive.

Prior to “American Underdog,” Zaller performed in a few of the Savannah Theater shows. It wasn’t until a family friend (who, like Zaller, is blind), saw a casting call, looking for a blind actor about Zaller’s age at the time, and told him. suggested to the family, that Hayden would go into acting. a serious level.

“They wanted us to have the audition the next day. We ended up having to have him memorize about four pages of script, which he had never done before,” Shannon said. “I would read it to him and ask them to tell me and I would read it. He repeated it to me until it was memorized enough that I felt we could film it and send it.

The arrival of COVID-19 briefly halted casting and filming progress, but Hayden would eventually get a call asking for another audition to be sent in a few months.

“We were out of town for Hayden’s grandfather’s funeral. But we were like, okay, we’ll do this audition literally on his couch,” she said.

“Within weeks we got the call that they would like to cast him. The FaceTime director said to him, hey, I want you to be, I want you to be the part. Then we found out that Zachary Levi and Anna Paquin were going to be in it, which really excited Hayden because he loves superhero movies (Levi plays Shazam, and he was in Thor too). Paquin also played Rogue in all of the X-Men movies, so he was excited about that.

During filming, Hayden’s parents said he was a natural and fell easily into working with the other actors. He even received braille scripts.

“Hayden is, to our knowledge, the first completely blind child actor to be cast in a lead role in a major feature film,” Shannon said.

He hopes to one day be cast in a superhero movie, and he wants to work in consulting on video game projects, to make them more accessible to blind people. He says he’s not one to let anything hold him back and plans to work to step out of the stereotypical roles assigned to him and others similar to him.

“He talked to me about wanting to do a superhero movie at some point. He doesn’t necessarily want to be Daredevil, everyone says Daredevil because he’s a blind superhero, but he wants everyone everyone knows he loves Doctor Strange,” S. Zaller said. “He’s like, ‘Well, why does anyone think of me as that kind of character?’ “I don’t just have to be blind to be a superhero,” Shannon said.

The American Underdog airs Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. Starring Hayden Zaller, of the Savannah Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students. Come see the film in the presence of Hayden Zaller. Hayden will present the film which stars himself, Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin and Dennis Quaid. For more information, visit Savannahtheatre.com

Gladys T. Hensley