Scene stealer

Young ac­tress So­phie Nélisse is ready to make her mark with

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - By SHARMILA NAIR en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

AN OLYMPIAN or an ac­tress, ei­ther way, So­phie Nélisse was des­tined for fame. The young Cana­dian ac­tress who is the star of Brian Per­ci­val’s lat­est of­fer­ing, The Book Thief, was ini­tially a cham­pi­onship-level gym­nast com­pet­ing for a spot in the 2020 Olympic Games when the peo­ple be­hind the movie made an of­fer she could not re­sist.

“Mak­ing the movie would have meant four months away from a daily train­ing regime. And then I thought, ‘I can’t not ac­cept this, it’s such a big deal,” said the 13-year-old ac­tress. “So I chose not to con­tinue with gym­nas­tics. (It) will al­ways be a part of me, but this is much more fun to do, and it’s less hard on the body.”

And judg­ing by the rave re­views Nélisse has re­ceived for her role in The Book Thief, an adap­ta­tion of Markus Zusak’s novel of the same name, one could only as­sume that the ac­tress did in­deed make the right choice. She is ab­so­lutely en­gag­ing in the movie as Liesel Meminger, a 10-year-old or­phan sent to live with her fos­ter par­ents in a small Ger­man town dur­ing the Nazi era.

She shares her prized pos­ses­sion, a book she found at her young brother’s fu­neral, with her fos­ter fa­ther Hans Hu­ber­mann (played by Os­car-win­ner Ge­of­frey Rush) who teaches her how to read and even­tu­ally finds so­lace in words and lit­er­a­ture.

“She’s a fighter, a bit like me. I won’t re­ally give up when I want some­thing. She’s courageous and she never gives up, which is most like me,” said Nélisse on the char­ac­ter she plays in the pe­riod film.

The Book Thief also fea­tures English ac­tress Emily Wat­son, who plays the strict and foul-mouthed fos­ter mother Rosa who even­tu­ally finds it in her heart to have some feel­ings for the child who is try­ing to make sense in a sense­less world dur­ing the war.

“They’re so good be­cause they’re pro­fes­sional and I can learn so much from them,” said Nélisse on the ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing with the two Hol­ly­wood heavy­weights. “They’re in­spir­ing in how they work, how they act and their prepa­ra­tion be­fore­hand. Some­times they give me ad­vice, which is re­ally good. It’s so fun to get the chance ev­ery­day to be sort of spoiled to be with them.”

The ac­tress, who made her de­but in the crit­i­cally-ac­claimed 2011 movie Mon­sieur Lazhar for which she won the best ac­tress in a sup­port­ing role tro­phy at the 32nd Ge­nie Awards, also said that she learned more from Rush and Wat­son by just watch­ing them pre­pare for their re­spec­tive roles.

“Most of the days, they don’t give me ad­vice by talk­ing to me but just by be­ing there, so I can learn how they pre­pare men­tally.”

Al­though Nélisse’s ca­reer in the movie in­dus­try has only just be­gun, the ac­tress – who re­ceived a Spot­light award at the Hol­ly­wood Film Fes­ti­val last year as among the three emerg­ing tal­ents to watch – has al­ready set her eyes on her pos­si­ble costars.

“I re­ally like Johnny Depp be­cause I think he’s hi­lar­i­ous in Pi­rates Of The Caribbean. Maybe Jes­sica Chastain (as well), I think she’s good. There are a lot of good ac­tors. Most of the ac­tors I’d like to work with, all of them have so much to give me.”

How­ever, as much fun as it would be to work along­side Hol­ly­wood’s A-lis­ters, Nélisse has another rea­son to stay in the movie in­dus­try; her love for act­ing.

“I just love to play a role that’s not mine and to try other things that I never tried be­fore. It’s amaz­ing to go into other char­ac­ters and to re­ally be like that char­ac­ter. It’s hard – it’s a job – but it’s so fun, and then you can look at your­self and say, ‘I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced that,’ and it’s fun to do.”

So, with that said, does she con­sider her­self as an ac­tor for life now?

“Yes. Un­less peo­ple stop lik­ing me and won’t hire me. But as long as I have an op­por­tu­nity, I’ll keep go­ing.”

The Book Thief opens in cine­mas na­tion­wide on Thurs­day.

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