This story contains spoilers for Mike Flanagan’s Stephen King adaptation, Doctor Sleep**. You might want to stop reading this if you haven’t yet seen the movie. And really, go see the movie. It’s incredible.**
There are a half dozen ways your typical 12-year-old boy might celebrate his birthday. A three-hour session at a local trampoline park. A sleepover with some close friends. Or, if you are Wonder and Good Boys star Jacob Tremblay, you ring in your 12th birthday covered in sticky movie blood and screaming your throat raw as a family of bohemian vampires maim and torture you so they can “drink” your steam.
Hollywood. Where dark, demented dreams do come true.
Jacob Tremblay was a surprise addition to Doctor Sleep, mainly because those who know the book understood that there was no role he really could play. Rumors speculated that he’d be young Dan Torrance in flashbacks, though we all knew he was too old for that.
As it turns out, Mike Flanagan cast the Hollywood child star as Baseball Boy, a cameo role with a significant part to play. He shows up briefly, is established as someone with a reasonable amount of Shine (he can read a pitcher’s thoughts and know what pitch is coming in his Little League games), and then falls victim to The True Knot in a scene so uncomfortable, Stephen King HIMSELF asked Flanagan to tone it down when he watched an early cut.
It’s the scene that almost every Doctor Sleep viewer has been talking about since the movie made its debut in November. And now that the movie is finding new life on home video and HBO, people are wondering about the behind-the-scenes facts for Tremblay’s brutal murder. They are FAR weirder than you even imagined. Flanagan came on our ReelBlend podcast recently to dive deep into Doctor Sleep, and all things Stephen King. And when we got to the Baseball Boy scene, he shared a number of amazing stories.
The cast and crew were excited to terrify young Jacob. It backfired.
Mike Flanagan worked with Jacob Tremblay before. After Room put Tremblay on the map, the two did Before I Wake in 2016 with Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane. Do Flanagan knew how good Tremblay was, and how professional he would treat a gig. He called the actor and offered him the Doctor Sleep role of Baseball Boy. He said Jacob was really excited to work with Mike again, and to see a lot of the same crew. But because he was busy on a different movie, he didn’t have to rehearse. So he practiced the scene at home.
Flanagan told ReelBlend:
Flanagan went on to explain that this is typical for younger actors. Their parents often will run scenes with them before they ever get to the set. And Flanagan says it makes his job a lot easier when the actor shows up uber-prepared. He remembers Tremblay being really confident heading into his death scene.
At this point, it’s expected that the adult cast is going to get the better of young Jacob Tremblay. The True Knot is about to drain his essence, and it’s going to hurt. But the tables were about to be turned. Flanagan remembers:
Traumatic, right? Deeply disturbing, right? You have to assume that young Jacob Tremblay needed time to recover from the horror he just endured. Well, not so much. In fact, not at all. As Flanagan explained:
You win this round, Tremblay.
The scene was filmed on Tremblay’s 12th birthday.
That fact amazes me. On the day he turned 12, Jacob Tremblay had to act out everyone’s worst fear: dying. And in horrible fashion. But according to Mike Flanagan, none of this fazed him, even though his performance devastated the rest of the cast and crew.
It took them a while, though. Ewan McGregor and Cliff Curtis didn’t share a scene with Jacob Tremblay, so they weren’t on set for the murder. They showed up after, genuinely curious how things had gone. They knew that the Baseball Boy death was important to the story, and believed in Tremblay. They just weren’t prepared for how devastated the Doctor Sleep cast was going to be. Said Flanagan:
Thankfully for the cast, Mike Flanagan had the perfect stand-in for Jacob Tremblay.
Jacob Tremblay’s body double on Doctor Sleep was named Fake-ob Tremblay.
There’s a scene later in Doctor Sleep where Ewan McGregor and Curtis’ characters drive to Iowa to dig up the baseball glove Tremblay’s character was holding. Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) knows that one of the True Knot held it, and if she can retrieve it, she can use her Shine to track the group down.
Mike Flanagan didn’t make Tremblay lay in the dirt so that they could recreate his corpse being unearthed (though, it sounds like Tremblay would have been more than game to do that scene). Instead, they created a dummy. And they named him Fake-ob Tremblay. Flanagan said:
It was incredibly cool. That’s easily the greatest story that has ever been told on ReelBlend. Want to hear the entire conversation with Mike Flanagan? Of course you do. Press play on this one.
And then look for Doctor Sleep, available on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as on HBO Max.
Managing Director at CinemaBlend. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.
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