TODAY   |  April 07, 2014

Greg Kinnear: Child actor ‘shocked us all’

The actor tells TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie about his new film, “Heaven Is for Real,” based on the bestselling book, and about child star Connor Corum, who plays his son, who Kinnear says has a “natural gift” for acting.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the best-selling book "heaven is for real" tells the true story of a 4-year-old's near death experience and what he describes as a trip to heaven. now it's heading to the big screen with greg kinnear starring as the father who tries to understand his son's incredible story. take a look.

>> what about the hospital? how do you feel about that? does that scare you?

>> no. that's where the angels sang to me.

>> the angels sang to you?

>> yes.

>> when?

>> during the operation when mom was in one room talking on the phone and you were in another room yelling at god.

>> and greg kinnear is with us. good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> i was thinking, for some people, the religious aspect of this film will make them flock to the theaters, and for others, maybe it's a reason to stay away .

>> yeah.

>> did you have any trepidation about that part of it?

>> well, i thought that the -- i think you're right. i mean, there are some people who just are going to write it off immediately, but i think that there's a large audience of people in the middle, maybe not sure what they think, how they feel about it that might be open to the story. and i was really surprised. i mean, i definitely had some -- you know, it's not an ambiguous title, "heaven is for real." but i thought randy wallace, who is an excellent writer, he wrote "braveheart" and directed me in "we were soldiers", did a great way of finding his way in the story. the story doesn't get bogged down with what heaven looks like. it's not these clouds. i can tell you that.

>> well, good. because those clouds are fake.

>> whatever it is, let's hope it's not this. but it doesn't get bogged down with the specifics of what it is or what it looks like, and instead just focuses on this family, and this incredible kind of story that they went through and gives you a front row seat.

>> you have this wonderful little actor. i guess he's about 4 or 5 years old. he plays colton. he's so cute. how was he to work with? one of these actors that just stays in his trailer all day, sipping tea?

>> that's him. you know what, he's really -- you know, has no affectation. he's too young to have the cute child actor thing happening. it's all natural. he's kind of the best actor in that way. it's infuriating to work with. he's effortless in that sense. we lack looked at thousands of kids and he came in and auditioned. joe roth is the producer, we had a little audition in his office. little connor came in there from a little town in ohio and just shocked us all. he had this very natural gift and it was really great.

>> well, i know you and remember you, of course, from your talk show days. do you look around a morning show set like this and think gosh, what could have been.

>> the fried chicken smell emanating from the kitchen over there.

>> i walked in and i was saying, it does smell like chick in here. they're baking next door here.

>> maybe it is heaven.

>> well, don't you think i'll be the judge of that a little later on? i'll be checking that out. i don't know. this looks like serious television. i used to work at e. slightly different set.

>> you love it when we say what.