It was just one moment from an Academy Award-nominated performance, shot in a rather pedestrian living-room set, but it was a high-wire act for Jackie Earle Haley.
Small Spoilers Warning
Those who have seen Little Children will recall what was literally and figuratively a shattering scene for Haley's character, ex-convict Ronald James McGorvey. Those who haven't, just take my word for it it was explosive.
Given the impact that the scene would have on the set dressing, Haley had little margin for error.
"What they had was two setups," Haley said during an interview he gave me a little while back for Variety. "I had basically two takes."
Haley acknowledged feeling the pressure as the cameras rolled.
"There were a couple of times I ran out and up to the camera, and for some reason, I wasn't feeling it, and I just stopped," he said.
Finally, he went through his no-holds-barred first take. It was a success, though not without a price.
"During the scene, I cut the ---- out of my hands," Haley said.
Nursing his wounds as they moved the cameras for the second run, Haley said he studied the footage from the first take.
"So I could bust everything up in the same order," he says. "Cause you're running around like a maniac. I had to find the same emotional place and still be cognizant of that."
Between the first take and the second, Haley delievered everything Little Children director Todd Field needed. It was a critical moment for the success of the film, as well as for Haley earning his Oscar nom.
And perhaps most appropriately, the scene illustrated how Haley, finding new life in acting after his career lay dormant for more than a decade, could make the most out of two chances in Hollywood.