Interviews with The Dust Factory’s young stars, 15-year-old Hayden Panettiere and 18-year-old Ryan Kelley, conducted on October 11, 2004, by Greg Shull, editor of Preview.
Hayden’s films have included Raising Helen (2004), Normal (2003), Panic Room (2002), Joe Somebody (2001) and Remember the Titans (2000). Newcomer Ryan Kelley was most recently seen in the critically acclaimed film Mean Creek and was also in the HBO feature Stolen Summer.
Greg: How old were you during the filming of The Dust Factory?
Hayden: 12 years old. I turned 13 on the last day.
Greg: So, that makes you 15 now?
Hayden: Mmm, hmm.
Greg: What would you say makes The Dust Factory unique or special?
Hayden: It’s a very different script. It’s very beautiful. I think it has a great message, a really in-depth message. It was brilliantly directed, written and produced. It was a blast.
Greg: What is the message of The Dust Factory?
Hayden: It’s a story about love and friendship. The message is basically live your live and don’t let the fear of death stop you from living your life.
Greg: Who would you say is the intended audience for the film?
Hayden: I think there really wasn’t an intended audience in mind. I think it’s a film geared for anyone, especially someone willing to go into the movie and bring back a heart-felt message. It’s geared to those with a heart and mind who can see the message we’re trying to portray.
Greg: Do you think this movie is a good one for children?
Hayden: Yep. That’s the greatest thing about it. You can even bring really, really young kids. They’re not going to get the message, but it’s a fun one to watch. You know, it has special effects.
Greg: What challenges do you face as a teenage actress?
Hayden: I think the biggest challenge I’ve seen is that we always get judged by the last role we’ve played. If you play certain roles, you get shoved into this category. So you get all of these scripts for the same character, and that really bugs me.
Greg: What acting role are you proudest of?
Hayden: It’s hard to say because they’ve all been so different. I’ve got some films coming out that I really enjoyed doing. It’s like asking me, “What’s your favorite movie?” I’ve got my favorite action movie, my favorite comedy.
Greg: Preview not only addresses the plot and acting of a film but also comments on the morality and message. What part do you think religion or morality should play in films?
Hayden: Hmm. It’s a good question. I’ve never really thought about it. I think it depends. I don’t specifically have an answer to whether religion should play a role in all films. I think it’s good when they have to do with all religion, not just Jewish or Christian. The Dust Factory has to do with all religions. It’s spiritual. It’s not geared to a specific religion or anything like that. It’s the common bond of all religions — love and compassion.
Greg: In what way do your personal beliefs influence the films you choose to participate in?
Hayden: I’ve never really based my choice of films on a religious belief. Like The Dust Factory, I believe in what it’s saying. I believe that people need to just live life and enjoy it. When I read a script, I’m asking, “Am I going to have fun in this film? Am I going to experience life? Will I have good experiences with people?” I don’t ask, “Does this specifically have to do with religion?”
Greg: I understand you’re in a large family.
Ryan: Yes, I’m one of 15. I’m the fifth.
Greg: How has having so many brothers and sisters affected you?
Ryan: It’s had a big impact on my personality. I have nine sisters, so I’m not intimidated by any girls. I’m good with kids, and I’m not uncomfortable with any people. I’ve grown up in a house that’s always busy, so I don’t get rattled.
Greg: How does your faith play a part in your involvement in movies?
Ryan: I’m 18 now, and I still question things. I was raised Lutheran, but I still ask questions and am trying to figure out what I believe. I’ve got a long road ahead. The Dust Factory script raises the questions, “Is there a God?” and “What’s the meaning in life?” I connected with that really well because that’s where I was in life. And that’s what some of my friends are going through.
Greg: What’s different about where you are now, since three years have passed since the movie was made?
Ryan: I’m a lot more mature. When I was younger, I didn’t think church was that important. Now, the lesson is actually important to me. When I was little, I didn’t connect with the pastor. I’ve changed just in the way I talk to people. I’ve learned a lot by talking to others about their religious views.
Greg: What are your thoughts on spiritual truth, that there is a definite right and wrong when it comes to spiritual things?
Ryan: I definitely side on spiritual right and wrong. I don’t see how someone can think that killing is okay. You get good feelings when people are nice to you. There’s a right and wrong. Always has been.
Greg: Do you think that movies should have moral or spiritual messages?
Ryan: If you go to the movies, seven of eight are just special effects, violence or provocative. I definitely thought when I was younger that it was fun to see blood. I think it’s important to walk out of a movie with a moral message, something that makes you know yourself better.
Greg: What are some movies with messages that you like?
Ryan: When I travel, I’m with my mom. When we have time, we like to see a movie. I remember a month ago, we saw Mr. 3000. It surprised me. It actually has good morals. He’s a jerk at first and ends up doing something for his team instead of for himself like he had always done before.
Greg: Is there something unique about you that few people know?
Ryan: Most people don’t know that I’m not from California. I was born and raised in Chicago. People think I’m always doing movies, but I spend most of my time with my friends and family back home. I’m getting ready to go home to go to my high-school homecoming.