FAM­ILY BUSI­NESS

MOR­TAL EN­GINES STAR LEILA GE­ORGE TELLS WHO WHY SHE WAS ‘A LIT­TLE BIT EM­BAR­RASSED’ TO FOL­LOW IN HER FA­MOUS PAR­ENTS’ FOOT­STEPS

WHO - - The List - By Gavin Scott

For a long time, Leila Ge­orge re­sisted the act­ing pro­fes­sion. The daugh­ter of two ac­tors – her fa­ther is Law & Or­der: Crim­i­nal In­tent star Vin­cent D’onofrio and her mother is Aus­tralian ac­tress Greta Scac­chi – she grew up be­ing asked if she would fol­low in their foot­steps and, partly out of teenage re­bel­lious­ness, she in­sisted she wouldn’t. In­stead, Ge­orge, 26, pur­sued di­rect­ing.

“I wanted to di­rect be­cause I wanted to boss them around,” she re­calls with a laugh. “I was sure that I was go­ing to put them both in a movie, like, ‘Stand there, stand there, do this, do that.’ I ac­tu­ally went to film school to study di­rect­ing and loved it, but I ended up act­ing in all my friends’ the­sis films in­stead.”

When it came time to face her in­evitable call­ing, Ge­orge re­mem­bers be­ing “a lit­tle bit em­bar­rassed”, say­ing, “I’d al­ways said no, and you never want to go back on what you’ve said. As soon as I ad­mit­ted it, they were both re­ally ex­cited be­cause they never pushed it on me at all. My mum and I went out for a drink, and she was like, ‘Wel­come to the club.’ “

Ge­orge’s high­est pro­file role to date is in big-bud­get “post-post-apoc­a­lyp­tic” ad­ven­ture Mor­tal En­gines (in cin­e­mas now). Based on the novel by Philip Reeve, it is set in Lon­don, but it’s a ver­sion of the English city that’s never been seen be­fore on film. For one thing, it rolls across main­land Europe on mas­sive wheels.

In the film pro­duced by Peter Jack­son and di­rected by his pro­tégé Chris­tian Rivers, Ge­orge plays Kather­ine Valen­tine, the daugh­ter of one of Lon­don’s most prom­i­nent and re­spected lead­ers, Thad­deus (Hugo Weav­ing). When Kather­ine dis­cov­ers Dad is not all he’s meant to be, it sets her off on a jour­ney in which she ques­tions – and chal­lenges – ev­ery­thing she’s ever been told.

“It’s tough for Kather­ine,” Ge­orge says. “It’s a brave thing to do to stand up to a par­ent in that kind of way. To know that you ac­tu­ally

know bet­ter – not to just act out – and to know you may not be able to change that per­son. That takes a lot of courage and strength.”

When it comes to her own re­la­tion­ship with her par­ents, Ge­orge couldn’t be hap­pier, say­ing, “They are my two big­gest sup­port­ers and I feel it. They’ve never forced tips on me but if I need help, they’ll help me. I call them a lot, like, ‘Oh my God, what am I do­ing?’

She’s also worked with both of them, even if she didn’t get to boss them around. In 2014, Ge­orge made her stage de­but along­side Scac­chi in Perth’s Black Swan State The­atre Com­pany’s 2014 pro­duc­tion of The Seag­ull, and she will be seen in 2019 in The Kid, a film di­rected by and star­ring D’onofrio, as well as Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt. “That was amaz­ing – one of the best ex­pe­ri­ences of my life, be­cause I trust him com­pletely,” she says of be­ing di­rected by her fa­ther. “I don’t think I will trust a di­rec­tor as much as I will trust my dad. It was an op­por­tu­nity that I was so glad to have got­ten, es­pe­cially so early on in all of this. And I would do it again in a sec­ond.”

As Ge­orge’s ca­reer heats up, she’s hop­ing to give up her day job – she works as a wait­ress in her home of Los An­ge­les. But she has al­ready had her first taste of the at­ten­tion that fame brings, hav­ing pre­vi­ously been linked with ac­tor Sean Penn and pho­tographed with him on a beach hol­i­day ear­lier this year. “That’s never fun,” she says of the pa­parazzi at­ten­tion.

Again, her par­ents’ ex­pe­ri­ence with fame will serve her well. “They haven’t had that much of a hard time with it,” she notes. “They’ve also dealt with the pub­lic very gra­ciously and been re­ally grate­ful of their fans as op­posed to fight­ing back at it. Grow­ing up around them, I’ve been watch­ing and learn­ing, and I hope to be as

grace­ful with any­thing that comes my way.”

“I feel at home in Syd­ney,” Ge­orge says. “I land and smell the air and I just want to live here for­ever.” so “I re­lated to her in says many ways,” Ge­orge of Kather­ine. “Mainly I loved the fa­ther­daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship.” “It was ex­hil­a­rat­ing and ex­cit­ing, and it gave me goose­bumps and it ter­ri­fied me,” Ge­orge says of work­ing on Mor­tal En­gines.

Ge­orge with dad Vin­cent D’onofrio in 2000. With mother Greta Scac­chi in 2013.

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