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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Sophie Nélisse the scene stealer in 'Book Thief'

Posted: 10 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

Young actress Sophie Nélisse is ready to make her mark with The Book Thief.

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.

Sophie Nelisse as book-loving Liesel Meminger in The Book Thief.

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 co-stars.

"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.

Chris Pratt on the way up

Posted: 10 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

Chris Pratt is a leading actor in the making.

IT is not often that you hear a Hollywood hunk talking about his embarrassing problem with "boob sweat".

Then again, Chris Pratt, the 34-year-old actor best known for playing goofballs and sidekicks, is not your typical hunk, even as he positions himself to become one of Hollywood's newest leading men with a string of high-profile movie roles.

Still, he spends much of a recent press conference for The Lego Movie, his biggest project to date, cracking jokes about how thoroughly average he is and being a bit of a class clown – hence the unprompted confession about boob sweat. And this despite the fact that he gets more than his fair share of admiring glances when he walks in.

In the animated feature, Pratt is the voice of Emmet, a Lego construction-worker minifigurine who realises just how unremarkable he is when he is suddenly called on to save the world.

The actor, best known for his role on the Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated television comedy Parks And Recreation, is asked whether it is hard to play a character who is supposed to be utterly bland.

"Well, maybe for someone else, it would be difficult playing someone completely average. It was not much of a stretch for me," he says, deadpan. "There's this guy who's very average, very dim, but given the opportunity to do something extraordinary. I felt like they couldn't have cast a better person."

He points good-naturedly to directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. "I think when they were creating this guy, they were like, 'Who's kind of totally forgettable and the least likely person to be a hero', and went, 'What about Chris?'"

Miller quickly jumps in to say that "we picked Chris because he's super funny, charming, hilarious and warm".

Yet in his career, Pratt has not exactly stood out from the crowd thus far. He has had a series of supporting roles in films such as Her (2013) and The Five-Year Engagement (2012), as well as the television drama Everwood (2002-2006), in which he played variations on the same character - the dumb jock or lovable idiot.

But the actor - who is married to The House Bunny star Anna Faris, 37, and has a one-year-old son with her - is slowly breaking out of that mould with more dramatic roles, playing a washed-up baseball player in the 2011 sports drama Moneyball and a Navy Seal in the 2012 Osama-hunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty.

And he has landed a plum part in this year's upcoming Marvel superhero movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy, in which he gets top billing, ahead of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. He was also announced as the lead in 2015's Jurassic World, the long-awaited fourth instalment of the Jurassic Park franchise.

Still, while these seem to be teeing him up as the next chiselled action hero, Pratt says one of the things he enjoyed most about doing The Lego Movie is that he did not have to worry about how he looked on camera.

"You're allowed to shed all your vanity," says the actor, who lost weight and buffed up for his role as Star-Lord in Guardians Of The Galaxy. "You probably shouldn't care about how you look, but if you're making these big faces and sounds on camera, I'd be like, 'I think I'm overdoing it; reel it in.'"

Alone in a sound booth pretending to be a Lego action hero, Pratt could get as animated as he wanted. "You get to go as big as you want, you get to be drenched in sweat, and there's not somebody embarrassingly mopping all your sweat off.

"Because that's the first thing that will start ringing that bell of insecurity in me - I don't look right, my hair's messed up or I have, like, boob sweat."

Pratt has fellow cast members Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks and Morgan Freeman in stitches by this point, but presses on with even more lurid details.

"I have two 'smiles' of boob sweat on my T-shirt, and now someone has to give me a new T-shirt, and take a hairdryer to my boobs, and I have to do another scene.

"It's very embarrassing, you know, acting. So to not have anyone recording what you look like when you're making sounds is very helpful." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

> The Lego Movie is currently playing in cinemas nationwide.

'Grandmaster' leads race at Hong Kong Film Awards

Posted: 10 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

The Grandmaster leads with 14 nominations, followed by Unbeatable and Rigor Mortis.

THE Hong Kong Film Awards will be a three-way fight among dapper pugilistic masters, buff mixed martial arts fighters and zombies.

In nominations announced on Wednesday, Wong Kar Wai's lush actioner The Grandmaster led with 14 nominations, including Best Film, Best Director for Wong, Best Actor for Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Best Actress for Zhang Ziyi and Best Supporting Actor for Zhang Jin, said Ming Pao Daily News.

Dante Lam's gritty boxing drama Unbeatable followed with 11 nominations, including Best Film, Best Director for Lam and Best Actor for Nick Cheung. Close behind, Juno Mak's unexpected horror hit Rigor Mortis had nine nominations, but none for Best Film. However, Mak, a singer turned writer and director, was named for Best New Director.

Besides The Grandmaster and Unbeatable, the Best Film nominees were Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons, Stephen Chow's epic return to his 1994 cult classic A Chinese Odyssey; The White Storm, Benny Chan's thriller about an anti-narcotics operation; and The Way We Dance, a little movie about street dance.

The Best Director nominees included Johnnie To for Drug War, a Hong Kong-China crime drama starring Louis Koo and Sun Honglei, and Derek Kwok for As The Light Goes Out, a firefighting drama starring Hu Jun and Nicholas Tse.

It has been a big year for action and, once again, Ip Man movies. Ip Man, the film starring Donnie Yen in the title role, had dominated the box office and the 2009 Hong Kong Film Awards.

This year, there are two actors playing Ip, Bruce Lee's teacher, in the Best Actor category: Leung in The Grandmaster and Anthony Wong in Ip Man - The Final Fight. They will fight for the prize with Cheung for Unbeatable, and Louis Koo and Lau Ching Wan for The White Storm.

Besides Zhang, the Best Actress nominees are Tang Wei for Finding Mr Right, Cherry Ngan for The Way We Dance, Sammi Cheng for The Blind Detective and Paw Hee Ching for Rigor Mortis.

The awards will be handed out on April 14. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

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