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Diary of a Wimpy Kid

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Middle school can be scary, just ask Greg Heffley who keeps a diary — I mean, journal — about the world of sixth grade in the hit book series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Whether he’s finding out how to avoid bullies or the cheese touch, Greg jots it all down.

In the new movie, the animated elements from the original cartoon combine with live action, bringing the words from the book series to life. Greg learns how to survive middle school through funny scenes about learning how to wrestle and analyzing his popularity rank among the squiggly-drawn classmates he writes about. Based on the series written by author Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid stars Zachary Gordon as Greg.

Read exclusive interviews with author Jeff Kinney — who talks about what it’s like to take the movie from a cartoon, to a book series to the big screen and — the star of the film, Zach Gordon — who told us what it’s like to play Greg and survive his own first year of middle school in real life.

Think you are you a Wimpy expert? Find out in our quiz below.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

How much do you know about Greg and his life in middle school.

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What was it like being cast as Greg in Diary of a Wimpy Kid?

Zach: "Well, I had read the books before and of course I loved them. But, actually I told my mom I wanted to produce a film like this, direct it, write it and star in it -- do everything I could to make this movie. Then about four months later my agent called me and said, 'Zach I have this perfect role for you! It's for Greg in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.'

I was bummed because I wanted to make the movie, but I'm like, hey, I have a chance to get this role. I mean, I physically look like him, I might have a shot. After that, it was about eight months and I remember right after the callback I drew a picture of Greg from the cover of the first book and then drew all of the other characters around him. Then I said it was my birthday wish to get this part three days before my birthday.

Later during the process I slept with the books under my pillow for good luck and I asked my mom every single night, 'Mom, did you hear from them? Mom, do you think I'll get the role?'

Then about a month later, I think, they called me for a boot camp, which is where they cut my hair and dress me like Greg in really tight clothes. And, this is where I am now!"

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What made you want to be in Diary of a Wimpy Kid and why do you wish you could have directed the film?

Zach: "I thought to myself, Greg is a very unusual character, he gets himself into unusual situations and he deals with them like no regular kid would. And, I thought it would be a pretty cool process to audition some kids around the world for the role. I would just like to make a movie because it's an experience I've never had before and it's one of my dreams."

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How long have you been acting and what was your first project?

Zach: "My first project was Because I Said So." (Film was released in 2007.)

Who are some of your influences?

Zach: "Leonardo DiCaprio. He's a phenomenal actor. And he was also in one of my favorite films, Titanic. He's also environmentally friendly, which I love. He won the Kid's Choice Awards last year for being the 'Most Green Celebrity.'"

If you had to pick a teen celebrity you would enjoy working with, who would you pick?

Zach: "Probably, I would have to say, Selena Gomez because she's in one of my favorite shows, Wizards of Waverly Place. And, Taylor Lautner because he's just everywhere right now and everyone I meet is saying, 'Oh my gosh I want to work with him,' so I think it would be pretty neat to work with him too."

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What was it like working on the set of this film?

Zach: "It was an amazing and unreal experience. I mean, I got to have so much fun with everyone and make some friends I'll keep for a lifetime. I remember on my first day thinking, this isn't just fun and games, though. I had a lot of responsibility. This is my first true leading role and I had a lot of weight on my shoulders and I worked like 40-45 days on the shoot. A lot of people were counting on me and I wouldn't let them down."

What was it like seeing the words on the page, that you'd read, come to life?

Zach: "Well, it's just a feeling I've never experienced before. In other acting jobs I've had, I didn't copy a book, in this case, I'd read the book before so I was familiar with how the project would go. I was thinking to myself, 'How would I mimic Greg?' He's such an unusual kid and I'm the opposite of him. But, I sort of found a way to read the books and imagine how Greg would deal with his situations."

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Do you go to regular school? Do you have a tutor, or do you go to regular middle school?

Zach: "I go to public middle school now, but on set we had a tutor and she was amazing. Our tutor on this press tour is also awesome too. I've had two great teachers in a row. How good can you get it?"

Did you take some of your real life experiences from school and apply them to Greg's character, or did you feel like you were completely different from Greg?

Zach: "Well, I would say Greg is completely different from me, so I sorta had to read the books a couple of times, over and over again. I also have my friends who are experts at the books and they said, 'Just try to be a kid who is not quite fitting into middle school.' Greg is sorta still manipulative, but he wants to be accepted and have a lot of friends. I feel bad for him. Greg is everybody's worst parts most of the time, so everybody can relate to him. That's why the books are so popular."

Have you ever thought going to school was "scary?"

Zach: "I actually had to miss the first two months of school to film this project, so when it was over, I was freakishly scared because I'd just filmed what Greg's middle school is like, which is terrifying. Thankfully, on my first day it wasn't so bad. Lunches were pretty good, better than elementary school, I have to say, but I did see some kids get picked on which made me a little upset. Thankfully it wasn't me."

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Do you keep a journal?

Zach: "On set, on our first day, they gave us these leather books with our initials inscribed in them and it said 'Diary' with gold writing on it. And, I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm not going to write in this, I'm going to frame it.' It was an important part of my life and this is something I will keep with me forever."

So you didn't end up writing in it?

Zach: "No, but they wanted us to write in the journal. I did write some, not on the pages, but on regular notebook pages, but I realized that I was really tired and me and Robert were working ten hour days, so we were exhausted."

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Once the film premieres, how do you think the movie will affect your life at school?

Zach: "My life will change a little bit because people will walk up to me and try to be my friend, like what's happening to me now, but I know who my true friends are. People who hated me last year suddenly want to be my friend, but that's not right. They only want to be my friend because I'm in this movie."

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What advice would you give to a middle schooler, who is about the same age as you and is terrified of middle school and is having some of the same experiences as Greg?

Zach: "I would say, be yourself and be kind of funny. Be outgoing and don't act like someone who you aren't. Those kids who pick on others and bully are scared and nervous and want to be noticed as tough. You just have to stand up to them or walk away from situations like that. Like I said, be yourself and have a good time because you are only a kid once."

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