At the movies

‘Book Thief’ actress prepared for sadness in role

Nelisse and Rush
Nelisse and Rush
Christopher Polk / Getty Images for DCP

When Sophie Nélisse read the script for The Book Thief, she was so touched that she cried. But ironically, she couldn’t muster up the same tears on camera.

“I didn’t know how to cry,” Sophie, 13, said in a sit-down interview at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach Hotel. “I’ve never cried before, like on demand.”

After shooting the first scene when crying was called for, she figured it out.

“I just think about sad things,” she explained. “I think of my sister dying or some member of my family getting hurt.”

In The Book Thief, which opens locally Friday, Nélisse plays Liesel, a foster child living in World War II Germany. The movie, an adaptation of Markus Zusak’s 2006 New York Times bestselling novel of the same title, pits Liesel in a time where Hitler sought world domination.

In one scene, throngs of Germans happily toss books into a growing fire. The young girl cannot read but wants to learn. Liesel even grabs a book from the fiery pile.

Nélisse “stole” books to get into character from an actual store in front of her hotel when the camera wasn’t rolling.

Or so she thought.

“I later learned that my mom had paid for the books and called the store [beforehand] so I didn’t get arrested and end up in like, The New York Times or somewhere saying, ‘Actress in The Book Thief stole some books,’ ” Sophie said with a grin.

For Sophie, taking on a subject like the Holocaust involved heavy research. She watched movies like The Reader and Schindler’s List.

Working with Academy Award-winner Geoffrey Rush, who plays Liesel’s foster father, helped her performance, too. Sophie welcomed his shift in character on and off the set.

“He’ll be doing a random thing downstairs and then when they say ‘Action,’ he’ll come up and do the scene perfectly every single time, and then, when they say ‘Cut,’ he’ll do a magic trick,” she said.

Critics are calling The Book Thief a dark horse for at least one Oscar nomination. The good buzz doesn’t faze Emmy-award winning director Brian Percival, who directed key episodes in each of the first three seasons of the PBS hit Downton Abbey.

“That’s really not on my radar,” Percival said.

What is on the director’s radar: Making younger people aware of the Holocaust. Percival said that he was surprised “how little” the younger generation, including some child actors who worked on the film, knew about that time in history.

But that’s OK.

“What’s the point in preaching to people who believe they already know about this subject?” Percival said. “If I make a film that appeals to all ages and attracts a youth audience, then I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

Anthony Cave

Read more People stories from the Miami Herald

Michael Franit

    In concert

    Michael Franti & Spearhead bring Soulshine Tour to Boca Raton

    Usually, when lead singers of rock bands shout to the crowd “Are you feeling good?!” they don’t mean it in a holistic or spiritual way. But that might change at the Soulshine Tour Featuring Michael Franti & Spearhead, which hits Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton on Tuesday.

Javier Mascherano of Argentina looks on during the National Anthem prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    Scene in the Tropics

    Soccer stars spotted in Miami

    Argentine soccer star Javier Mascherano was seen with friends Friday at the Wynwood shop Toys for Boys, where they enjoyed a bottle of Dom Perignon while talking to the owners and browsing the luxe items. As far as we know they didn’t buy anything.

  • Radar

    Hot stuff celebrities love

    Donny Osmond is on a hot streak. The child star turned teen heartthrob turned Vegas entertainer just came out with a rustic-chic interiors line with wife Debbie. The couple picked up ideas for Donny Osmond Home through their travels. Want music? There’s that too. His 60th album, “Soundtrack of My Life,” is set to drop in January. The real-life American Idol, 56, proves he’s Web savvy, too, launching an app that offers stories and previews of the songs.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category