Monday, August 5, 2013

First look at The Book Thief

An international open casting call was held last year to find the young girl to star in 20th Century Fox's The Book Thief, the Michael Petroni-scripted adaptation of the best-selling Marcus Zusak novel.

It was announced back in February that 12 year old French-Canadian youngster Sophie Nélisse landed the role and with filming now complete, the film is scheduled for release in November.

Director Brian Percival described the casting search to USA Today. He  knew it was crucial to find the right actress to play Liesel Meminger, but after seeing "thousands" of actresses from around the globe, Percival was stuck as he prepared for the film.

"Some were good in different ways but nobody was actually Liesel," he says. "And it was key that we found someone who didn't have to act it so much as just be Liesel."

When he received the audition tape of 12-year-old French Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse, Percival knew he had found the perfect person to play the vibrant girl mired in Nazi Germany.

"It was quite uncanny, this kid. I was taken right away," says Percival. "It was this mixture of naive innocence but at the same time she's actually quite ballsy. You feel that you can get kneed in the groin at any point."

Sophie stars alongside Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, who play the two play German foster parents who care for Liesel before hiding a young Jewish man (Ben Schnetzer) in their working-class home. Liesel discovers the joy of reading to such an extent that she resorts to stealing ever-scarce books.

"It's a big ask to have someone that age carry such a key role. If Sophie didn't get it right, everyone else would have struggled around her, fortunately, she just nailed it." said Percival.

Even though she starred in 2011's Monsieur Lazhar, Oscar-nominated for best foreign film, Nélisse described accepting the Book Thief role as daunting.

"There were so many big actors (already cast) I thought they'd say, 'Oh, she's not very good.' " said Nélisse, who turned 13 during filming. "But after the first week they found that I was not that bad!"

12 year old German actor Nico Liersch plays Rudi Steiner,  Liesel's best friend described as having a heart of gold and a lust for life.

Ben Schnetzer, and American actor trained at Guildhall drama school in London, stars as the refugee Max who Liesl befriends.

The Book Thief is due for release this November.

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