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A Breath of Fresh 'Eyre'

Tom Green

LOS ANGELES - An indelible memory of then-11-year-old Anna Paquin is the night she won the supporting actress Oscar for The Piano and was struck speechless.

"Why don't you try being up there with 9 pounds of trophy in your hand when you're completely not expecting it and see how well you can talk," chides Paquin, now 13 and much more at ease with the fame that engulfed her.

Since then, she has made two more films, including just-opened Jane Eyre. In the fall she'll be seen opposite Jeff Daniels in Flying Wild.

But mostly she has stayed home in New Zealand. "I just do normal stuff," she says. "What most teen-age girls do - talk on the phone. Heaps!"

That Oscar trophy is in a drawer, Paquin says. "I don't want to look at it. When you have people over they feel they have to ask about it and be polite, and I don't want to make any more differences between me and other people than there already are. . . . I am different from other people, but I don't want to be."

Paquin didn't grow up wanting to be an actress, it just happened. She heard of an open audition for the part of Holly Hunter's daughter in Piano and went. She remembers being in a room of 20 girls. One by one they were dismissed; she was one of three who could pass as Hunter's child.

The next week she was screen-tested, then invited to audition for director Jane Campion. She had the part.

She has still never seen the whole R-rated film: "Some bits I don't really want to see."

Paquin's parents separated while she was making Flying Wild; her father, Brian, accompanied her to the USA to promote Jane Eyre. She also has an agent. But she says the decisions about what films she makes are hers.

And no, she says, there's no boyfriend. "Considering that I go to an all-girls school now, it's not that easy," the eighth-grader says. She considers her predicament: "The idea of not seeing any guys for the next five years - that's kind of weird."

USA TODAY April 15, 1996