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From The Making of The Piano

Miro Bilborough

Campion charged the New Zealand casting agent Di Rowan with finding The Piano's fourth protagonist, Flora. After a country-wide search and a stack of audition tapes, Campion finally set eyes on her -- a young girl called Anna Paquin:

CAMPION: I remember when I first saw the audition tape. Anna came on and there was this tiny little girl, probably the smallest of all I'd seen -- and extremely shy. I almost turned it off. I thought this girl was never going to be able to cope with this huge speech. I just looked into the camera and never blinked. She told this long, extremely impassioned story of how Ada lost her voice, and you totally believed her. It's a remarkable experience to see someone so young with such an instinct for performance.

The relationship of Flora to her mother was scripted by Campion to be one of mirror-like closeness, a kind of symbiosis. As Andrew McAlpine comments: 'The complicity between Ada and Flora is frightening, like a Diane Arbus photograph. Beautiful, too, because it's so tender -- and Holly and Anna turned out to be extraordinary people together.' Campion was particularly delighted at the parallel complicity that grew between the American actor and girl, whose 'glorious instincts' Hunter praised. According to Campion, 'Anna never really crashed as we were told that children do in movies over long periods of time. I think the great thing was she had Holly -- and they adored each other from the first. They were an incredible team -- Anna would use all Holly's mannerisms of performance.' Faced with a script that gives her a mysteriously silent mother Anna comments:

ANNA: Some of the time I think Ada's a bit weird. Like, what happened to her that she doesn't speak? She hasn't spoken since she was 6 years old! I even liked Holly the first day I met her -- because of the way she was told by Jane not to talk on set, so I could get used to having a mother who does not talk.

Asked whether she felt there was a likeness between her and Flora, she claims there is only 'a wee bit. Actually, she tell more lies than I do.'