Patrick Fugit Joins Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson for We Bought A Zoo

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Patrick Fugit has been cast in Cameron Crowe’s upcoming movie We Bought a Zoo.

Fugit will join Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Haden Church in the film.

We Bought a Zoo is based on Benjamin Mee’s autobiographical account of his family’s decision to buy and manage a run-down zoo.  Damon has signed on to play Mee in the film, while Johansson will reportedly play either Mee’s dying wife or a zookeeper. Church will portray Mee’s brother.

Fugit’s role in the film has yet to be released.

You may recognize Fugit from his breakout, and arguably most high-profile, role in Crowe’s Almost Famous.

In Almost Famous, Fugit plays 15-year-old William, a Rolling Stone reporter who follows and writes about the fictional band Stillwater during its 1973 tour.

Although Fugit showed great potential in Almost Famous, he has largely escaped the attention of movie goers and casting directors since the film’s release in 2000.

Despite being 18 years old when Almost Famous was filmed, Fugit’s baby face made him a convincing 15-year-old—most likely cementing him as a child actor. Fugit reportedly grew three inches during the filming of Almost Famous, so at the time of the film’s release, Fugit began to look more like an adult as opposed to a child.

My guess is Fugit has not become a well-know star because he was pegged as a child actor when he no longer was one.

But just because Fugit is not a household name does not mean he has been completely out of the spotlight.

Over the past 10 years, Fugit has been developing his acting talent by taking roles in smaller films, such as White Oleander, Saved! and Wristcutters: A Love Story, which especially helped Fugit to push the envelope as an actor.

What makes Fugit such a good actor is that he makes an impact on screen without taking the entire spotlight. His work is understated and realistic, which I think many audiences take for granted—especially in a movie culture that is riddled with over-the-top performances.

Fugit’s career actually reminds me of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s path to stardom.

Gordon-Levitt got his big break as a teenager when he starred on the television sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. To distance himself from that role, Gordon-Levitt took parts in numerous smaller films, such as Mysterious Skin, Brick and The Lookout. Gordon-Levitt was able to reinvent himself as an actor through these films, so that when he starred in the hit (500) Days of Summer, he was almost unrecognizable as the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Fugit just needs his own (500) Days of Summer to remind moviegoers that he is an excellent actor, and I hope We Bought a Zoo will be it.

We Bought a Zoo is expected to be in theaters in 2011.