“That movie ruined my life.” A surprisingly frank assessment from the star of one of the biggest movies to hit cinemas in the last 50 years. In this age, in this sad, throwaway culture, there are more child stars than ever who can’t take the fame, much less the subsequent plummet from fame, and proceed to go severely off the rails in the worst way imaginable. But Stuart Little appeared, from the outside, to have dodged many of the pitfalls that have plagued his peers. When one thinks of former child stars, you think of the Macauley Culkin types, a cautionary tale for everyone of Stuart’s ilk, a boy who had it all and threw his life away in a sea of drugs and deviant individuals, and the evidence is plain to see on Culkin’s face. But Little, in comparison, looks the very picture of health, his beady eyes as unbloodshot as ever, hands firm and unshaking as he reaches for his water. I comment upon this and Stuart gives me a kindly look; hands in his pockets, bashfully glancing up at me, the look that made him the biggest star of the early 2000s, that spawned a film trilogy, a spate of video game tie-ins and his own animated television series. “I think I’ve been blessed to avoid all the classic horrors that many people get lured in by, but what you never hear about is the mental toll this kind of notoriety can take on you.”
When Stuart Little first walked into our suite at The Ritz in London (the location was a condition he insisted on) I was first struck by his size. A lot has been made of it, but it’s the kind of thing you have to see to believe, at only a modest five foot ten inches, I towered over him. I was in awe of being in the presence of such a character, he had gained a reputation as almost a cryptid in the journalism circles that I run in. Try as we might, none of my colleagues, nor I, have ever been able to secure a one-on-one interview with him up until this point. But you wouldn’t believe it based on his manners. He was the height of courtesy as soon as he walked in the door, apologising for his lateness (only two minutes) and greeting me with a surprisingly firm handshake for someone of his stature. I offered him a cup of tea or coffee and he declined, “Water is quite enough for me thank you, one cup of coffee would have me bouncing off the walls all day.” He reached for the water jug, but I took up the mantel to save him considerable effort, I had heard how difficult normal household tasks could be for him.
My first question came quite naturally, “Why did you insist on The Ritz as our staging?”, I didn’t mean to sound accusatory, but his humble manner had disarmed me and I already felt like I was in the presence of a good friend. Truthfully, our room felt at odds with the modest character that had requested it.
“I know it seems silly. Trust me, I hate these places more than you, but it’s necessary unfortunately, when most hotels see my name on their guest list, I’m swarmed by all the hotel staff asking for pictures, I can hardly move. I could always use a fake name I suppose but I don’t feel like I’m famous enough to justify that!” He says with a chuckle. Ah, yes, the fame. It is a subject that interested me greatly in the run-up to this meeting, the whole process of securing this interview had left me dying to ask about it and I had hoped we’d come onto it early on.
“Yes, I understand you’ve been somewhat of a recluse since 1999, with good cause, I’m sure.” He nods in agreement, as I continue, “I’d love to know, what is it like for you on those rare occasions when you do step out? Am I right in thinking that any time you leave the house, you get a lot of admirers approaching you? I’m sure it can be tiresome, but it must be nice to feel appreciated, no?”
“I hardly ever get recognised on the street actually.” A surprising admission from the star of a movie so firmly embedded in the cultural zeitgeist, I mean this is Stuart Little for heaven’s sake! Would you not be surprised to see him in your local watering hole? “Maybe it’s because it’s been a while, but I can usually go shopping and whatnot without being harassed. It’s only when they hear my name that the problems come.”
It was at this point the penny dropped for me. I realised that this was not the Stuart Little that became the most famous talking mouse in the world after bursting onto the scene in 1999. But, to my astonishment, this was just a diminutive man who happened to have the name of Stuart Little as well, and, in fact, was born ten years before the first Stuart Little film even came out. I consulted my secretary and we both realised she had made the mistake of booking an interview with the wrong Stuart Little. Apparently a surprisingly common mistake, he laughs. “Don’t worry about it, this isn’t the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last.”
I pulled my phone out to look up some images of the famous Stuart Little to compare, and when you see them side by side, the difference truly was stark. Not one to pass up an opportunity for a story, I apologised for the mistake and insisted we carry on the interview, despite protests from my team. “If you aren’t actually a talking mouse, you just have the same name as one, what I’m sure most people would agree is quite a reasonable name, how is it possible that the Stuart Little movie could have ruined your life?”
“Well, it was an issue, right from release day. All the kids at school would call me Stuart Little, which wasn’t so bad, because that is my actual name, but when they pivoted to calling me Mouse Boy, that’s when it really started to hurt. It didn’t help that, as you can see, I’m not the tallest guy.” He was right, though I didn’t say it, while not being close to the size of a common mouse, as was clear to me now, he can’t have been taller than five feet four inches, not great for a human man. I held my tongue rather than suggesting how lucky he is to be able to pour water, shake my hand, etc. due to not being an actual mouse. But it appeared he could tell what I was thinking anyway.
“I know there are benefits to being a human rather than a mouse, I’m not stupid. But it seems to me that the perks of being a massive movie star and the only talking mouse known to man, far outweigh the negatives. Do you think the mouse Stuart Little actually has to pour his own water? And do you think I get anywhere near as many groupies for having the name Stuart Little as he does for being the real thing.”
“So, he is real then?” I ask, before explaining that there is a certain amount of scepticism in the media world and how no one has ever managed to secure an in-person interview with him. This, combined with the scarcity of paparazzi shots of him, have led some to question whether it was a real mouse in the movies or merely computer animated wizardry.
“Oh yeah, he’s real, I’ve met him!” Stuart Little says, and this really does pique my interest, the idea of being a fly on the wall of a meeting between those two Stuart Littles is a titillating one. He continues, noticing the obvious excitement on my face, “I’m sorry to disappoint you but it was only a brief interaction, and not one your readers will probably enjoy hearing. I was waiting outside a stage door at a press appearance he was doing, it was part of the promotion for Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild. And I had already had 6 years of grief about sharing my name with him at this point, I thought that if I could just stop him to chat and get a word with him, he might feel for me and in some way help me. Maybe I was a bit selfish thinking he would change his name, but I would have settled just for a public clarification and telling people to lay off me. He doesn’t realise the power he has over his fans, I think.”
So, what actually happened when they met? “Well, he came out the back, and, to be fair, I don’t think he was expecting fans out there. It wasn’t just me, there were a few dozens outside, mostly women. But as soon as he saw us he was head down, scurrying off to his car, faster than anyone could move. Except for me. I knew this could be my only chance to speak to him, so when I saw him running through everyone’s legs, I looked over at where he would end up, saw the car for him, and bolted over to it. The only problem was that I didn’t realise how quickly he would get there with his little legs, so I thought I had beaten him quite easily and could wait for him but… It’s horrible to look back on now.” I could tell from Stuart’s face that this was a difficult memory to recount, but he soldiered on. “I wasn’t looking where my feet were going… I didn’t step on him!” He added quickly, noticing the look of horror on my face. “But very nearly, my foot landed just at the end of his tail, I was a bit off balance as I tried to regain my footing but a security guard was already on me and tackled me to the ground. I looked up at Stuart Little as he was getting into his car, he looked fairly shook up. I just called to him, I said something like ‘Please, my name’s Stuart Little as well, I need your help’, he just looked down at me like I was scum and told me never to try that shit again. Then the tinted windows went up, the car drove off and my chance was gone. That was 16 years ago and he hasn’t been out in public since, as far as I know”
There you have it. I thought I was just going to be interviewing a talking mouse today, but what came out of this interview and the lessons I learned are far more poignant than a celebrity puff piece ever could have been. One man’s struggle against a famous rodent that, with the best will in the world, he was never going to win. My search goes on for the real Stuart Little. If, by some fateful chance, he is reading this: I hope you’re happy with yourself. I hope you can look yourself in that tiny teaspoon you call a mirror and say that you stood up for the little guy. Cos I can think of one very little guy that needed standing up for more than anyone, and his name is Stuart Little.
But Stuart, if you are reading this and are available for an interview, please get in touch so we can get your side of the story.