LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The 7-year-old boy who starred as mini Darth Vader in a popular Super Bowl car commercial will have open-heart surgery this week to replace a pulmonary valve, and his mother said he is coming to grips with his fears ahead of the procedure.
Young actor Max Page was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, according to a statement from Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where the surgery is to happen on Thursday.
The boy's heart valve has deteriorated over time, said Dr Vaughn Starnes, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the hospital who will perform the procedure.
"It has not grown very well, so it's creating a problem for the heart to empty out into the pulmonary arteries," Starnes said in a statement. "He needs a new valve and that's the planned operation."
The boy's mother, Jennifer Page, said in a statement posted on the website of Deutsch Inc, the advertising firm behind the Super Bowl commercial, that Max was told on Sunday he would need the surgery.
"Initially, Max was crying and repeating how scared he was," his mother wrote. "We unpeeled the layers by asking what exactly he was afraid of and tackled each issue as he could verbalize it."
Max's mother added in the statement that her son has since said he does not have a choice about the surgery, and that he "might as well go through it with a good attitude."
In the 2011 Super Bowl advertisement for the Volkswagen Passat, Max wears a Darth Vader outfit and resembles a pint-sized version of the famous villain from the "Star Wars" movies.
The boy tries in vain to use "The Force" to start a household dryer and get a pet dog to rise up, and to his surprise he is finally able to start the car - unaware that his father actually did it by remote control. The advertisement quickly gained a mass following on social media.
Max also has appeared in the soap opera "The Young and the Restless" and the NBC show "Prime Suspect," and has served as a junior ambassador for Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jackie Frank)