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Mother Goose?...Not me!

Marianne Ruuth

Submitted by Kerry Du Pont in New Zealand

In Ontario, Canada there is a gaggle of geese that think Anna Paquin is their mum. The geese were Anna's co-stars in her new movie, Fly Away Home, and during the months of filming they became deeply attached to the young Kiwi star.

Tapes of Anna's voice had been played for the goslings before she arrived in Canada so they would be familiar with it.

"I then had to spend time with the geese, talking to them and getting them to trust me," says Anna. "At one stage, a gosling hatched in my hand - I was holding one egg for about half an hour while the gosling wriggled out of the egg."

"It wasn't particularly cute - kind of wet and pathetic - but luckily it improved quickly."

Anna became very attached to her new feathered friends, but says the bond didn't stretch as far as her wanting to bring a goose home. "I have two cats and a dog and I didn't think they'd appreciate it. Geese are quite messy and noisy and you can't predict what they're going to do next."

In Fly Away Home, a 14-year-old Anna plays a girl whose mother has been killed in a car accident in Auckland.

Her estranged father, an artist and inventor, (played by actor Jeff Daniels) takes his daughter to his farm in Ontario. Lonely and hurting, she finds some orphaned wild goose eggs, nurtures them until they hatch, and, since geese imprint on whoever they see first, Anna quickly becomes their mother.

The geese are doomed unless they learn to and are shown the way to migrate to a warmer winter home. So the motorised hang-gliders her father has invented become the girl's wings. With courage and determination, she learns to the aircraft and, followed by her father and 15 geese, flies off.

Anna didn't need to think about her own pets to conjure up a love for the geese. "But that's because I was busy thinking about where I was sitting down in case there was something nasty there!"

The birds had other disadvantages, too. "They bite," explains Anna, "but it's not malicious or anything. It's friendly - love bites, you know."

The geese clearly left an imprint on Anna, so what happened after filming was over and she left them? "They weren't specifically attached only to me, so it wasn't an issue for the geese," she laughs. "I don't think they're going to need therapy or anything!"

Anna says she didn't base her movie role on her personal experiances. "My life isn't like that. I have a mother and a father and I've been with them both my life, so I had nothing to go by from my personal experiance. I could only imagine what it would be like to lose your parents."

Since finishing Fly Away Home, Anna has completed another film, The Member of the Wedding, in which she plays an American girl. "I was supposed to be from Georgia so I had to learn the accent. It was no different from learning a Scottish accent for The Piano or an English accent for Jane Eyre. It's kind of like putting on a costume - it's no big deal really."

For that role, Anna's beautiful long hair had to be replaced by a snappy, short haircut. "It wasn't traumatic," she says with a laugh. "Frankie, my character, needed short hair. I wanted the part, they wanted the hair cut. That was that. I like it. It was hot and humid in North Carolina where we were shooting, so short hair was preferable."

As for the furute, it seems Anna has put aside thoughts of being a lawyer and is now warming to the idea of an actor's life.

"I might stay with acting when I'm older," she says. "It's a possible career for me."

In the meantime, she has no definite plans. "When good projects come up, I do them. We'll be looking at stuff and meeting people and reading scripts, doing that kind of normal stuff you do."

Anna still finds the publicity and attention surrounding her "a bit silly," but she now accepts it's to entice people to see her movies. She prefers to lead a "normal life" when she's in Wellington. "Normal doesn't have to be dull, you know."

New Zealand Women's Weekly, September 15, 1996