LOS ANGELES — When the highly anticipated film adaptation of Jeannette Wall’s memoir,“The Glass Castle,” opens in theaters on Friday, local moviegoers will have an added reason to rush to the cinema. One of the cast members is area native Dominic Bogart, the third of four sons of Bob and Kathy Bogart, of Houston.
Now living in Los Angeles, Bogart is a 1996 graduate of Lehman Catholic High School, where he excelled both on the athletic fields and in show choir and musicals. After graduation, he followed older brothers Matt and Dan to the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. There he made what he called “a massive growth spurt” as he earned a BFA in Theater Performance.
“College was revolutionary for me as a person,” said Bogart by phone from L.A. “Matt and Dan majored in musical theater but concentrating on acting fit my skill set better. Performing for me is athletic, like training in the weight room, but with the addition of heart and soul. It is fun, high profile and exciting, and I love the idea of telling human stories.”
After graduation, Bogart moved to New York City to join his brothers in pursuit of theater roles. His first major part was Mark in the national tour of “Rent.” He also played roles at world class regional theaters including SoHo Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse and Portland Center Stage.
“I had the luxury of watching Matt and Dan doing theater and working so hard and I could see that life wasn’t for me, so I started looking for opportunities to work in film,” said Bogart. “I have more of a sensibility towards the microscopic subtleties of film, the smaller nuances of storytelling that are possible in front of the camera.”
In 2005, he moved to California, spending time in San Diego and San Francisco. Then, after a two-year stint in the musical “Jersey Boys” in Chicago, he settled in Los Angeles to concentrate on “learning the craft of camera acting.”
During his run with “Jersey Boys,” he had met director Destin Daniel Cretton, proof of the fact that networking with others in the business can be the key to success. Back in L.A, Cretton cast Bogart in an indie film called “I Am Not a Hipster.” The film received top honors at the Sundance Film Festival, opening the door for Bogart to explore other projects including several episodes of AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead,” and the indie films “Extracted,” “Sympathy,” “Said the Shark” and “The Birth of A Nation.”
All this led to “The Glass Castle.” When Cretton was named director, he asked Bogart to sit in on auditions for the young actors. He then suggested that Bogart make a reel of his own work to show to the casting team. “
I snuck into the party,” said Bogart with a chuckle. “For a big studio film, it’s like an exclusive club. You almost need a password to get in.”
But password or not, he was cast as Robbie, a small role but in the words of author Jeannette Walls, a “pivotal character.” Bogart says he is on camera for about 10 minutes, but (spoiler alert) he said that Jeannette’s encounter with Robbie propels her decision to leave home.
For those unfamiliar with the story, “The Glass Castle” is about a dysfunctional family mired in poverty. The father (played in the film by Woody Harrelson) is a dreamer, yet very flawed, who cannot keep a job and turns to alcohol as he keeps his family on the run. He entertains his children with the idea of building them a beautiful home – a glass castle – of which he even makes detailed drawings and blueprints. The mother (played by Naomi Watts) is an artist who pays much more attention to her painting than to raising her four children. Eventually, the children flee to New York where Jeannette (the author, played by Brie Larson) enters college and becomes a journalist. For years, she mentions her past to no one, even hiding when she encounters her homeless parents scrounging for food on the streets of the city. Finally, after her father’s death, she decides to tell her story.
Written in 2005, Walls’ book was on the best seller list for 261 weeks and has become a staple for book clubs and classrooms.
“The story makes you think about your own life,” said Bogart. “Family can be a complicated thing and sometimes it’s difficult. Reaction to the book has been very polarized – some people despise the parents, others embrace their struggles. Jeannette Walls visited the movie set several times and she is such a wonder of a person. Her ability to reconcile with those who should have nurtured and protected her but didn’t, leads to this awesome and beautiful story of hope.”
Bogart said that finding himself on set with well-known actors like Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts was challenging.
“They are veterans of studio pictures and this has been my first rodeo, so to speak,” he said. “I wouldn’t use the word starstruck, but I would say I felt awkward. I wanted to do a good job so there was a lot of pressure. What is riding on this for them is not the same as what it is for me. The buzz surrounding this film is a great opportunity for me as an actor.”
“They may be household names, but they are still hard-working professionals, just like me and everyone else on the set,” he said. At this point, Bogart quoted his older brother – Broadway veteran Matt Bogart, who just finished a seven-year run as Nick Massi in the Broadway cast of “Jersey Boys.”
“Matt says you never really ‘make it’; you just are where you are. No matter how many credits you have, you have to go out and perform every time.”
To that end, Bogart is continuing his work of connecting with filmmakers, reading scripts, and auditioning. This week, he is headed to Vancouver to reprise a recurring guest role in the season six premiere episode of The CW’s DC Comics superhero series “Arrow.” He said he has several other projects “cooking in the oven.”
Bogart said that there are days he wishes he was back in Ohio on the family farm.
“I love nurturing relationships with creative people, but sometimes I long for a simpler life,” he said. “Doing this film about family makes me miss my family. If I am giving up being around them every day, I definitely want to do projects that have meaning.”
Lionsgate Films’ “The Glass Castle” opens in theaters on Friday, Aug. 11.
The writer is a regular contributor.