2013 was full of great movies and one that really captured our hearts was The Book Thief.
The film is based on the beloved bestselling book of the same name and tells the story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany. The film stars veterans like Geoffrey Rush & Emily Watson, but the breakout of the film was 13-year-old Sophie Nélisse.
In honor of the film hitting shelves on Blu-Ray and DVD tomorrow (March 11), we chatted with the rising star about how she prepared for the role, what it was like working with Rush & Watson and what’s next.
Q: How did you first start acting and what was the first role you booked?
Sophie: I was a gymnast since I was 4 and when I was 7, my brother wanted to join an agency. So I decided to join with my sister because we wanted money to pay for gymnastics. I think my first role was in a commercial for IKEA and we shot it in Toronto.
Q: The movie is mainly based in the late 1930s, early 40s, so how did you learn about the history before you started filming?
Sophie: I watched a lot of movies. I watched “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” “The Reader,” “Life is Beautiful,” “Schindler’s List,” and “The Pianist.” And I went to a lot of museums. When I was in Berlin I saw some bomb shelters and walls, the Berlin Walls, and read stories and stuff like that.
Q: Did your friends see this movie and do you think they learned from it?
Sophie: Most of my friends did, and some of them said they didn’t really understand what was happening in the movie. So I told them you can go on Google and type in Holocaust and you can learn more about what happened. So a lot of them did learn a lot about watching the movie.
Q: What was your favorite part about playing Liesel?
Sophie: I thought it was great because during the movie I could learn so much about the Holocaust and it’s a subject I’ve always wanted to learn more about. And just getting to work with Geoffery Rush and Emily Watson. And I like that Liesel and I have a lot of things in common. I could relate to my character easily. It was also fun being in a different time period and wearing all these old clothing was really fun.
Q: You got to work closely with Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. Did they teach you anything you will remember forever in your acting career?
Sophie: They didn’t really teach me anything. I think just by watching them acting you can learn so much. I really learned that there are two different types of actors. Geoffrey can get more in and out of his character really easily. So one minute he could be completely in character doing a scene, and then other minute he could be doing a magic trick. And Emily is just really focused and always stays in character and it’s amazing how intelligent she is.
Q: There is one scene where everyone’s hiding and Liesel starts to tell a story to keep everyone’s mind off of what’s going on. For you, personally, what is your escape? What do you do when you want to get your mind off of things?
Sophie: Most of the time I dance. I think that’s really fun and when I’m mad I’ll just go in my room, put on some music and start dancing. Or I’ll watch TV or go play with my sister.
Q: What was the most challenging scene you had to film?
Sophie: I think it was the ending scene because it was a lot of crying and I had to kiss Nico and so I think that was the hardest scene to do. It was a really emotional scene.
Q: What was your favorite scene to film or the most fun?
Sophie: I think it was the snowball fight scene because we had a lot of fun and it was actually real snowballs. There was a dare with the guy that plays Max that I would get paid every time I shot someone in the face. I was supposed to get money but he never paid me.
Q: What other projects do you have that you’re working on?
Sophie: I’m shooting a movie soon called “The Great Gilly Hopkins.” It’s with Glenn Close, Octavia Spencer, and Kathy Bates and it’s a story about, well, Gilly. It’s a girl that goes from different foster homes and she always messes up everything and she always has to move. Then she gets this new family and things happen and you have to watch the movie!
Be sure to pick up a copy of The Book Thief when it hits stores tomorrow. The film is fantastic and perfect for audiences of all ages. Plus, we have a feeling big things are ahead for Sophie and she’s a name you’ll want to remember!