Six-year-old Max Page, Little Darth Vader in the VW Passat commercial, recognized the voice when he heard it Monday. He just didn't know it belonged to a real person.
Max, who plays a miniature Darth Vader in the commercial that has just about everyone in the world talking, met James Earl Jones -- the real voice of the Sith lord -- in New York when he visited the stage of the Broadway production of "Driving Miss Daisy," in which Jones stars.
"It was very cool," Max said Wednesday on the telephone. "I never knew he was going to have such a deep, DEEP VOICE."
Max's mom, Jennifer, said Max told her he thought the Vader voice in the movie was a special effect and not someone's real voice. Jones gave Max an autographed Vader helmet and posed for pictures.
The visit to the Broadway theater was just one stop for Max and his family. Page said the family came to New York from California, thinking they would appear on just the "Today" show. By Wednesday morning, though, they had done more than two dozen interviews for shows such as "Entertainment Tonight," "Inside Hollywood" and "Morning Joe."
Max also talked with reporters in Hong Kong and called in to his uncle's radio show in Roanoke, Va., she said.
"That was really fun for him," she said. "He called in and in his Darth Vader voice was like, 'Uncle Dave, I am your nephew.'"
On Wednesday morning, Page said the family -- father Buck, younger brother Ellison, 5, and stepsister, Madyson, 24 -- was waiting to be allowed into Dylan's Candy store in New York.
"They are opening up early for Max and his brother. They are going to get a tour and a spree, and then we head out to the airport and head home and then start the LA version of all of this."
Max Page, 6, played a diminutive Darth Vader in a Volkswagen commercial that has received national attention through YouTube and the NFL Super Bowl. (Photo: Business Wire)
Max said he has enjoyed doing the interviews.
"They just keep happening. I get one and then I get one and then I get one. I did 14 one day."
He is hopeful he can land at least one more, however.
"I want to be on 'Oprah,'" he said. "My mom said if I get on 'Oprah,' she will open a bank account for me."
He repeated that account during a TV interview, but Page tells a different version of the conversation.
"That little stinker," she said. "He threw me under the bus on 'Access Hollywood' with that one."
Page said she made the comment after the family realized they had grabbed a tiger by the tail.
"We thought we were just going to do the 'Today' show, and it became this whirlwind," she said. "What I actually said was, 'If you get on 'Oprah,' I'm going to go ahead and start your presidential campaign.'
"He caught me off guard with the bank account thing, but I just laughed. We'll see what happens," she said. "This kid makes lots of things happen that I never thought would happen."
And he's done it all despite having started out behind the eight ball when it comes to his health.
Max was born with a congenital heart condition and, since undergoing surgery at the age of 3 months, he's had a pacemaker. Page said she has been pleased with the way his condition has been talked about in the media this week.
"We feel like it is coming out in our voice and not happening to us," she said.
The family has worked with Children's Hospital in Los Angeles to help frame how they wanted to present his condition.
"He does have (doctor's) appointments to keep, but nothing that holds him back," she said.
The VW ad with Max features a 2012 Passat -- the model that will be made at the new VW plant in Chattanooga. The ad was created by VW's ad agency, Deutsch LA, and was shot over a two-day period in December in Los Angeles, according to VW brand communications manager Mya Walters.
Max got the part in the commercial through an open casting call. Because of his age, he was allowed to be on the set for 81/2 hours each day, and was paid scale wages for those two days, his mother said. She said she has no idea what he will be paid when all is said and done. Cable rates, social media rates, national rates and a whole host of other factors come into play, she said.
A bloopers version of the commercial is now online and all versions have been viewed more than 30 million times.
"I asked the agent to give us a ballpark [on the money] and she couldn't," Page said.
She also said they were not aware that it was going to be a Super Bowl commercial until midway through the shooting.
"Watching it being filmed, it was hysterical. We laughed for two days, so we knew it was going to be good."
While she never expected that Max would receive as much attention as he has this week, she also never worried that he would be forever unrecognized behind the Vader mask.
"I wasn't because people who understand acting know how hard it is to make that helmet come alive," she said. "That is what everyone has been telling us, is that he did such a good job of making it come alive. You felt the surprise when the car starts and you feel how bummed out he was with the sandwich."
For now, she said the family will ride this wave as far as they can. She is not aware of any plans for a follow-up commercial, but said Max's agent has been fielding calls for new jobs, although nothing has been confirmed.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...