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‘Jerry McGuire’ star all grown up and ‘Pitching Tents’

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An interview with actor Jonathan Lipnicki

Actor Jonathan Lipnicki, who stole the hearts of millions of movie-goers as six-year-old Ray Boyd, the son of Rene Zellweger’s character in “Jerry McGuire” (“Did you know that the human head weighs 8 pounds?”), feels that people are once again starting to crave story-movies. He can be seen in the new coming-of-age comedy “Pitching Tents,” set in 1984 in Oil City, Pennsylvania.

“I think people who love movies as funny as ‘Porky’s’ or as real as ‘Say Anything’ are really going to enjoy ‘Pitching Tents,’” Lipnicki told me in a recent interview.

In “Pitching Tents,” high school senior Danny (Michael Grant) and his merry-prankster pals, led by Scott (Lipnicki), head to the woods for a rite-of-passage fishing trip and a colossal blowout party to celebrate to the end of high school year and the arrival of summer. Assisting the underage revelers with their procurement of adult beverages for the party is Grandpa, played by Richard Riehle (“NCIS” “West Wing” “Columbo”).

“Grandpa likes to party,” Lipnicki laughs. “Everybody, when they’re younger, tries to find somebody who’s going to buy them booze, so we decided to bust one of the guy’s grandfathers out of the old age home.”

While partying in the woods, the guys hear an urban legend about a so-called “goddess camp” and set out to find it.

“The goddess camp is allegedly full of hot young girls who all go skinny-dipping together,” Lipnicki says. “A few guys hunt for it every year and there’s a myth that some of them actually found it. So, of course, we have to try.”

Lipnicki was busy working on shows like “Monk” and “Family Guy” when he was the age of the characters in “Pitching Tents” and he didn’t have much time for parties in the woods with his friends.

“The closest I came to it in real life was when I was a counselor at a kid’s summer camp. It was a lot different from the camp in this movie where everybody goes to have a last hurrah with their friends and they all get drunk. Growing up in suburban southern California, it was a little more subdued.”

During the filming of “Pitching Tents,” Lipnicki says that he and his castmates stayed together in a hotel near the set. Naturally, after-hours hijinks ensued.  

“If you put a bunch of dudes in their early to mid-20s in a hotel together, stuff’s gonna happen,” Lipnicki laughs. “We created this game called ‘Wiffle hall’ which was basically a modified version of Wiffle ball played in the hall of the hotel. It was great until we broke a light. The night manager came up on our floor and said ‘Could you just stop?’”

An overnight sensation thanks to his 1996 role in “Jerry McGuire,” Lipnicki credits his parents with keeping his feet on the ground at a very tender age.

“I was really lucky to have great parents,” Lipnicki told me. “There are a lot of things that happen to child stars that I didn’t have to go through and I thank them for that. Devoting a lot of time to martial arts also centered me. I did Brazilian jiu-jitsu for ten years and I do Thai-kickboxing now. It’s a huge part of my life and it centers me.”

Lipnicki says the experience of being part of “Jerry McGuire” was a big deal to him then and now.

“That movie taught me what I want to do for the rest of my life and I’m extremely grateful. There’s a great side to being in a movie like that in that it started my career.”

Lipnicki says he has glowing memories from that time but they have faded somewhat over the years. “I remember some things, but I was five when we filmed it and it’s been over 20 years. Luckily, my parents were there every day and they remember everything.”

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