‘It wasn’t completely my choice to take the break. I wrestled with the idea of never acting again’ (Getty)
The Nineties heartthrob made teenage hearts flutter as the human version of Casper the Friendly Ghost, then survived ‘Final Destination’ and stalked Eminem in his video for ‘Stan’. He talks to Rachel Brodsky about burnout, his TV comeback, and finally embracing his pin-up status
Can I keep you?” At 14, Devon Sawa had no idea how impactful that little bit of dialogue would become. Playing the human version of Fifties cartoon hero Casper the Friendly Ghost in the CGI-driven 1995 film Casper, the blonde, angelic Sawa only graced the screen for about five minutes. After descending a dramatic staircase, he and co-star Christina Ricci slow dance in mid-air and share a kiss. But, because IRL Casper is under a “Cinderella”-type spell, he morphs back into a spectre as the clock strikes 10. Sawa’s part was over, but those four words would haunt him for a long time.
“I had to smoke pot in movies and I had to be in a hip-hop video. That’s what I felt like I had to do to get away from ‘Can I keep you?’,” Sawa laughs over Zoom from his Los Angeles home. “Everybody wanted to hear, ‘Can I keep you?’ It drove me nuts.”
Ironically, the CGI Casper was not actually voiced by Sawa, but by an actor named Malachi Pearson. Still, the floppy haired teen’s brief appearance in the film had an enormous impact, and he was subsequently cast in a run of Nineties young adult hits. He’d reunite with Ricci in 1995’s Now and Then, a coming of age ensemble film set in small-town Indiana. Sawa, who had only been in one other movie before Casper (1994’s Little Giants), portrayed bully Scott Wormer, who strikes up a romance with Ricci’s Roberta. Infamously, it features a scene in which Sawa swims nude in a pond, inspiring a mix of fear and titillation in the film’s core group of girls, played by Ricci, Thora Birch, Gaby Hoffmann, and the late Ashleigh Aston Moore.
Between Casper and Now and Then, Sawa became a teen idol. His image was splashed across every glossy magazine, next to blond contemporaries such as Jonathan Taylor Thomas (with whom Sawa starred in the 1997 film Wild America), and the band Hanson. For a long time, he tried to run away from his heyday, but he’s since come around to embracing it. Now, he happily connects with fans on Twitter and regularly responds to Casper-related “Can I keep you?” memes.
It doesn’t hurt that Sawa is also currently enjoying something of a career reboot. In May of this year, he had a brief but memorable role romancing Jean Smart’s legendary insult comic Deborah Vance on Hacks, which follows the professional and personal relationship between Deborah and a Gen Z comedy writer (Hannah Einbinder’s Ava).
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Rachel Brodsky on Independent
Published: June 08, 2022
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