Sophie Nélisse Chats The Book Thief!
Sophie Nélisse stars in the film The Book Thief, a war drama based on the book by Markus Zusak, which tells the story of a girl named Liesel Meminger who living through the beginning of World War II.
We spoke recently with the young actress about her experience filming The Book Thief and why the message in the film was so close to her heart.
Before The Book Thief, Sophie Nélisse acted in the film Monsieur Lazhar and starred in some local shows in Montreal.
When she read the script for The Book Thief, Sophie was initially drawn to her character, Liesel.
"I just really loved the character, and I felt like I had to do it because I felt really close to her," Sophie explained. "And also I was attracted to the part because I knew if I did the role I would have to do some research, which was interesting to me."
In the film, she costarred alongside veteran actors Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush, who played her adoptive parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann.
"I didn't really have any expectations because I didn't know them personally, but I was a bit stressed because I thought, what if they think I am a bad actress or they judge me in any way because they are such big stars?" Sophie admitted. "But it was great because they were always taking care of me and acting like my parents on set!"
The film begins in 1938 in Germany and continues through the onset of World War II. Liesel must deal with the emotional toll of the death of her brother, loss of her mother and the many other agonies of the war.
Sophie walked us through her process of acting out these emotionally intense scenes.
"I don't really prepare myself," she said. I just think of something sad and then it makes me cry. But for me, sometimes you can get a little depressed because you think of everything that happened and it gets a little sad. But it's hard to be depressed next to Geoffrey because he is always making jokes."
It also helped her to make sure to go back to being Sophie after she finished these scenes as Liesel.
"I also try to always get out of character and be myself and not think too much about it and think of my sister and friends and do homework to kind of 'get out of' the scene," she said.
Sophie, who is from Canada, also explained the process of learning a German accent for the film.
"It's a bit hard because you have to practice a lot," she said. "I had to take some classes with a dialect coach, but it was really fun because I get to be someone else. I liked it because I got to practice with my friends and family when I was talking to them at home."
She even tried out her accent when chatting with her friends over Skype.
"They were like, 'Wait, what are you doing? Why are you talking like that?' It was fun to do – and I still remember how to do it so it stays for your whole life," Sophie said. "Sometimes I still practice it. Once you know the different little words, it was easy."
One major theme of The Book Thief is the importance of reading. At the beginning of the film, Liesel is illiterate. Her stepfather Hans helps her to cope with her new life by teaching her to read.
"Reading is a great escape because you can feel things and you can imagine your own circumstances and it kind of gets you in this other dimension in a sort of way," Sophie said of her own experiences. "There you can think or do whatever you want and you can kind of escape reality – so that is why it is important. And reading can give you hope like it does for Liesel in the movie."
Sophie told us that she too is an avid reader, when the right book comes along.
"For me, reading is great when it's something I am interested in," she said. "I read quite a lot but one book at a time or it gets confusing to me. With a series, I try to wait 'til it comes out so I can read it all at once and not be like "wait, what character is that?" and it is confusing."
In the film, Hans, creates a word bank wall in the basement where each letter of the alphabet is written, and where Liesel can write down each new word she learns.
We asked which words Sophia would personally add to the wall based on her own experiences on the set of The Book Thief, and she told us they were "learning," "experience," "fun," "interesting," "discovery" and "practice."
She urged other aspiring actors to seek out their own experiences and always keep trying.
"Don't give up and always do your best even when you think you're never going to make it or you haven't gotten something lately – always keep working and always be yourself – don't' change to be a 'better' actor or someone more famous – always be yourself!"
The Book Thief is now out on DVD and BluRay! Sophie said that she hoped that both fans of the film and people who have never seen it would watch the new release.
"When I watch a movie I always want more and not just the movie, so with Blu-ray and DVD, you can see the behind-the-scenes – like how it was made, how they cast everyone, how they found the set, and also some little sneak peeks and experiences – like me goofing around and my first audition for people who want to see how I did it – it's really interesting!" she said.
For even more on Sophie Nélisse, be sure to follow her Twitter account @Sophie_Nelisse. Also join us at SweetyHigh.com to tell us which big celebs you'd like us to interview next!