With his shock of dark hair carefully coiffed and new red Vans on his feet, Brayden Tucker bounced up to a table at Wandermere Village Centre Cinemas exuding restless energy.
That energy is what made him perfect for the role of Lyle Hatcher in the movie “Different Drummers,” which opened Friday at Wandermere.
Hatcher, who co-wrote and co-directed the film with Don Caron, said from Brayden’s first audition, “I knew I wanted him to play me.”
“Different Drummers” takes place in Spokane in the mid-1960s and tells the story of the friendship that sprung up between Hatcher and David Dahlke. Hatcher was a hyperactive kid whose boundless energy landed him in all kinds of trouble, while Dahlke suffered from muscular dystrophy and used a wheelchair.
When casting the movie, Caron and Hatcher looked for a kid who could capture Hatcher’s near-constant motion while also conveying the deep sensitivity that bonded him to Dahlke. What they got was a Hatcher mini-me.
“When you see him, it’s like looking at me as a kid,” Hatcher said.
Indeed, as the two sat side by side at the theater, the resemblances from deep dimples to matching hand gestures were striking. The most notable difference is Brayden’s eyes are brown, while Hatcher’s are blue.
Brayden, a seventh-grader at Northwest Christian School, said the role of Hatcher wasn’t a stretch for him. “He’s just like me – hyper and everywhere!”
Another similarity made him perfect for the part. “I have a disabled sister who’s in a wheelchair,” Brayden said, “so I can relate to Lyle’s relationship with David.”
A pivotal scene in the movie involves Hatcher pushing Dahlke in his wheelchair down a steep hill and the momentum gets away from them. Brayden said, “I’ve done that with my sister.” His mother, Nadine Arrotte, grimaced nearby, and Brayden said, “Hey, she likes it!”
Hatcher said his father found the resemblance uncanny. “My 80-year-old dad was on the set and Brayden was running around screaming and yelling. My dad said, ‘Not again!’ ”
That relentless activity was hard to contain, and back in the ’60s there was no such diagnosis as attention deficit disorder. Hatcher’s principal resorted to making him run laps around the playground. Eventually, Hatcher was put on medication. “I was told I was the first kid in Spokane to be put on Ritalin,” he said.
His friendship with Dahlke was spurred by his need for a partner for his science project. That friendship propelled Hatcher into asking bigger questions about life, death and the existence of God.
Before “Different Drummers,” Brayden had only appeared in church dramas. His real passion is soccer. “It’s fast and quick-moving,” he said. If he could choose between becoming a professional soccer player or an actor, his choice is easy. “Pro soccer!”
He may be hyper, but he’s more than capable of the extreme concentration and discipline it takes to memorize pages and pages of dialogue – 7,500 words in all. “More than everyone else in the movie combined,” Hatcher said.
The shooting schedule involved some brutally long hours. Brayden said of the 13- to 14-hour days, “That was the hardest part.” But he hastened to add, “Still it wasn’t that hard.”
His off-screen interactions with actor Ethan McKay, who plays Dahlke in the film, mirrored their on-screen relationship. “I’d be climbing up on the bathroom stalls and Ethan would say, ‘Stop it! Get down from there.’ ”
Watching the movie onscreen with a packed house was exciting for Brayden. “People were laughing when they were supposed to laugh and crying when they were supposed to cry,” he said. “It feels good. It feels like an accomplishment.”
And while soccer remains his first love, he’s not opposed to an acting career. He just returned from Portland where he filmed an episode of the television show “Grimm.”
Tucker said, “It’s not work to me. It’s fun.”