It’s always inspiring when someone is able to use their public image and status for good. It’s even more inspiring when that someone still qualifies to order off the kids’ menu at most restaurants.
11-year-old Max Page is most widely known for his role as Darth Vader in the 2011 Super Bowl commercial for Volkswagen’s Passat. Dressed from head to toe to resemble the evil character from the ‘Star Wars’ movies, Max attempts to work ‘The Force,’ as the commercial is named, on everything from the family dog, to a doll, with no avail. That is, until he comes to the family’s Passat in the driveway. Little Vader begins to use ‘the force’ on the car as Dad starts the car from the kitchen with the remote, leading his son to believe his power worked.
The commercial has been shared on social media more than any other Super Bowl ad ever. Quite an accomplishment for Max, who was only six years-old when the ad first ran. However, the success of that commercial, along with Max’s other acting work – he’s also been on ‘The Young and the Restless,’ and ‘I Didn’t Do It’ among others – isn’t the biggest attention seeking detail about him.
Max was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect which constitutes a combination of abnormalities of the heart. He had his first surgery at three months old, and to this date his surgery count stands at 11.
His entire life he’s been a patient at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which is how he got connected with the LA Kings, who are major supporters of CHLA.
Typically, Max visits CHLA every six months or so for routine checkups, but this past summer he had two surgeries, so his visits as of late have been more frequent. The first procedure was to place a Melody valve inside his pulmonary valve, which he had replaced at the age of seven, while the second was to replace his pacemaker.
“There are incredible doctors [at CHLA],” said Max. “CHLA does a great job of having your friends and family right there by you. They allow them right into the operating room. Your family is going to be there and it’s going to be okay, all because of the tremendous support of CHLA.”
Between his commercial success and his health issues, Max has carved himself quite an identity. In 2013, as a junior ambassador for CHLA, he helped raise over $75,000, and he represented the hospital on Family Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. where he spoke on Capitol Hill.
Speaking at the Kings Annual Golf Tournament on October 20 may have been a walk in the park by comparison, but the avid golfer, who also spoke at the Kings golf tournament prior to the 2012 Stanley Cup win, says that nerves are something he just deals with.
“It’ll go away once I’m on stage,” Max said confidently just before the start of the program.
Amidst his on-stage thanks to those who have supported him and CHLA, Max had this message for the Kings players, including his favorite, Dustin Brown, who allowed him to drink from the Cup in 2012:
“When you’re out there winning the Stanley Cup and you’re playing for your families and your coach, you’re also playing for all of us at home on the couch who are stuck on the sidelines.”
The inspiration behind this sentiment comes from the fact that, although he is a big hockey fan and watches games whenever he can, Max can’t actually play ice hockey, due to the risk the amount of physical contact would pose on his heart.
Max instead keeps himself active by golfing and playing baseball. While inside he plays guitar, and his favorite song to play is ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ Max enjoys reading and is already in sixth grade because he skipped fifth.
“At our school you can move up if you’re really smart academically and socially,” Max said.
His future plans are already in the works, as he has many ideas about what he wants to do when he grows up, President of the United States, professional baseball player and actor being among them. Considering he’s already spoken on Capitol Hill and has one of the most successful commercials ever, one could argue he’s making great strides. First though, Max has plans to go to college, preferably a school with a football team so that he can have the tailgating experience.
He may only be 11, but those who know him well would certainly agree that he is 11 going on 30. His maturity level, speaking ability and charm would lead anyone to believe that they were speaking to a full grown adult stuck in a child’s body.
“He’s an old soul. He’s the one that really champions and leads this. It’s his life, we’re all on the outside of it,” said Buck Page, Max’s dad. “He’s the one that’s having to live this. He is the one that is most committed to working with CHLA, the LA Kings, and anything that we can do collectively, because it’s his story and he’s the one that’s being asked about his heart, and ‘how sick are you,’ ‘how well are you’ and he has the courage to face that and only someone much older than 11 has the capabilities to do that.”
Kings forward, Tyler Toffoli, who had the opportunity to meet Max on the golf course, noticed that Max isn’t an ordinary kid.
“If you heard the way talked, he talks a lot better than most of us would in front of a group like this,” said Toffoli. “It was pretty impressive. He’s a great kid and he’s a guy that you for sure would want to get to know better and for what he’s been through it’s pretty incredible.”
Toffoli, who is one of the most active players in the Kings’ community outreach efforts, enjoys meeting kids that the Kings organization seeks to help.
“I love doing things like this and helping out as much as I can,” Toffoli said. “Some people just aren’t as fortunate. To see what he’s been through is pretty incredible, and the type of kid he is and what he’s going to be, it’s going to be really fun to see.”
Max admitted to being scared of Darth Vader before his Volkswagen commercial, but he has since seen all the movies and is looking forward to the next one. This is probably the same mentality that he uses to face his medical issues while still having the enthusiasm to plan for his college tailgate parties.
It’s also a mentality that doesn’t come from a kids menu or a commercial – but a force from within?