Being a child actor may sound like a dream to most kids, but it is an incredible amount of work. Not only do you have a full-time job while most children are playing catch in the park, but you have to keep up with school and a career. For one to truly excel in the craft at a young age, they need to have an extraordinary amount of innate talent, work ethic, and passion for what they do. David Kohlsmith understands this better than most. At only ten years old, he has starred in major blockbuster films and acclaimed television shows, and has been acting at an international level for over half of his life. Despite a hectic schedule, it is his love for his craft that keeps him so highly motivated, and why he has no plans on slowing down.
Kohlsmith’s impressive resume is decorated with career highlights, from being nominated for a Young Artist Award for his outstanding performance in DC’s box office hit Shazam! to taking home the Joey Award for Best Actor in the horror The Prodigy, but the greatest honor for Kohlsmith thus far is yet to come for audiences, with the highly-anticipated upcoming drama The Boy in the Woods.
“Not only is the film about one of the most important and personally fascinating parts of history for me, but it is based on a memoir of the man who this film is about, and he is still alive and hand-picked me to play the role of the boy who he credits as saving his life. This was an enormous responsibility for a 10-year-old boy, but also a huge privilege to be able to play Yanek. Rebecca Snow, the director, was amazing to work with and her faith and confidence in me helped make this one of the most memorable roles in my life. I also got to meet the author of the book, Maxwell Smart, and he gave me a very long hug and told me that I reminded him of his best friend, Yanek,” said Kohlsmith.
The Boy in the Woods tells the remarkable true story of a Jewish boy hiding and being hunted in the forests of Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. It is based on the best-selling memoir of the same name by Maxwell Smart and is set to be released late this year or early 2024. Smart is now a famous painter and artist, but has kept secret his story about surviving the Nazis alone as a 12-year-old child until his book was released in May of 2022, 60 years after the horrific events he lived through.
“I love learning about history and one of my favorite periods to learn about is the second world war. The way that the Nazis came to power and corrupted an entire nation, turning neighbor against neighbor and leading to the Holocaust is such an important thing that I feel everyone should learn these lessons and make sure they will never, ever happen again. This film is about one of the very few children who survived the Holocaust all alone, and my role is that of his only friend, a 10-year-old boy named Yanek,” said Kohlsmith. “I was really excited to audition for the role of Max’s only friend in the forest. I learned that Yanek is not only the same age as me, but we also are both really good at math and are very loyal. Yanek died before the end of the war, and I felt really strongly that I wanted to be the person to tell his story.”
Portraying such a pivotal role for both the story of the film and history was an enormous task for a ten-year old, but Kohlsmith is far from average. He spent a great deal of time researching WWII and The Holocaust to ensure an accurate portrayal of Yanek. Playing a person who truly lived rather than simply created from the author’s imagination was daunting, but he felt privileged to have been selected as the one to honor such a person. Yanek never had the chance to tell his own story, and Kohlsmith took that seriously. He worked closely with Director and Screenwriter Rebecca Snow, a Canadian Screen Award Winner, on every scene, careful to make sure he was properly dealing with the more emotionally heavy parts of the story.
“There are so many things I loved about this project. Being a tiny part of this huge time in history was just a phenomenal experience for me, and I will never forget it. Maxwell Smart told me that he has always wanted to give Yanek a voice, and that this film will help him fulfill this wish. Hearing how pleased he is with my performance as Yanek is the highest compliment I could ever hope to receive. He also gifted me an original painting that is now hanging in my bedroom and I will treasure for the rest of my life,” said Kohlsmith.
Kohlsmith has proven over the years that he is a formidable talent in the industry regardless of his age, and audiences can expect a moving and heartbreaking performance as Yanek. His care in telling such a story goes far beyond his years, and there is little doubt as to why fans all over the world are eagerly awaiting the film’s release.
“One thing that I think about a lot is something that Maxwell Smart shared with me when he visited the set during production: that he kept this story – his story – secret for 60 years before he found the courage to write his book,” Kohlsmith finished. “Max endured so much when he was only a few years older than me, and to know that Max feels that I was able to give his friend Yanek a voice, to tell his story, I am just so honored and grateful to have had this opportunity.”