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Anna Paquin!

Jose Martinez

Who could forget loveable, eleven-year-old Anna Paquin Standing onstage at the 1993 Academy Awards? Winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her debut film, The Piano, Paquin stood speechless. hyperventilating for nearly twenty seconds as Hollywood was taking notice of shining new talent.

Five years later, Paquin is turning heads again with her latest role in Fine Line Features' Hurly Burly. All grown up at age sixteen, the Canadian-born charmer plays "Donna," a runaway nymph who trades sex for shelter. Gone is famed bonnet of The Piano. As Donna, her attire consists of mini skirts, halter tops, and high black boots. Starring alongside Paquin as unsavory Hollywood movers-and-shakers are Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, and Gerry Shandling. "It's always fun to fo something different," the actress muses about her departure from good girl roles.

Raised in Wellington, New Zealand, Paquin answered The Piano's Open casting call ad on a lark. Now Paquin, the youngest of three children, is excited to get her driver's licence. At age sixteen, she's not even old enough to see her latest film, but that doesn't faze her. Smart, sexy, and razor-sharp, young Anna Paquin is here to stay for as long as she wants.

Was is difficut to get into character for your role in Hurly Burly?

Whenever you act you have to get into character. It wasn't harder to be any of the other characters I've been than this one in Hurly Burly because one of them are me. "Donna" is just a little more different than any other things I've done.

Did you purposely want people to see you in different role?

Not really. It's not that conscious a thing. I just read the script and really loved it, and there were some really amazing people attached, and I really wanted to do it. I just thought it would be a really good experience, and it was. What more could you ask for?

Were you at all put off by the violence or drug use in the film? The scene where Chazz Palminteri head-butts you is pretty intense.

A lot of people ask about that, but I didn't think it was a big deal. It's hard to be so detached from what you've done for it to be shocking. I knew it was coming and I knew he hadn't head-butted me.

What did you like about your character in Hurly Burly?

She knows who she is and lives her life the way she wants to. She takes care of herself and is a strong person. That's adrmirable. She hadn't had an easy life and she cans till look out for herself. That was a very attractive quality. I thought she would be a very interesting person to know, and so it would be interesting to be her for awhile.

What was it like working with all these great male actors?

It was brilliant working with all of them. They're all really talented guys and good to work with.

How hard is it for you to find a good part? Do you have to say "no" to a lot of projects before you accept a role?

It depends on what moves me a the time. I only do things that I want to do. I tell stories that I think will be interesting to tell. I don't want to be a character that I don't find interesting.

You've managed to keep your private life quite private. Has that been difficult?

Not really. Maybe it's because I'm fairly young, but people don't bother me in a mean or rude way. People are very good about that. I guess it's because of the kind of work that I've done. I'm an actor. I'm sixteen and people don't really harass sixteen year olds.

What was it like on Oscar night when your named was called? You seemed genuinely shocked.

I was genuinely shocked. I honestly did not expect to win. It's a bit of blur really. It's surreal and slightly strange that all this was happening to me.

Did you ever go back and watch your acceptance speech?

No (laughs). That doesn't really interest me that much. Okay, that happened, life goes on. It means I get to do what I like to do more often, but that's about it, really.

Can you believe it was only five years ago ot does it seem like a lifetime away?

It seems like a really long time ago. Five years, that's a large percentage of my life (laughs.)

Are you comfortable with seeing yourself on-screen?

I've never been bethered seeing myself on camera, but on the other hand I only watch a film I've done once, because basically I know exactly what is going to happen. I don't want to sit through it heaps of times. I don't have a particular desire to see myself. It's seems like sitting in front of the mirror for hours and hours, but I do want to see how it turns out.

How about films that your role isn't that big in, like Amistad. Are you more comfortable watching those?

I was hardly in that. That was a day of fun and getting to dress up and be silly and play with dolls and wear beautiful clothes and work with Steven (Spielberg). That wasn't really work. It's always nice when you're watching because I think, okay, it's going to be my bit next. I can handle that.

Is it hard going to school while you're making a movie?

Well, I've been doing it for quite a while so it seems normal to em. I know it's not normal, but I'm pretty good at going to school today and working tomorrow. I like having both things in my life. I think I would be missing out on something if I was just doing one thing.

Who were your influences before you auditioned for The Piano?

I had no influences at all. None. I didn't really know what making a movie was. I never thought about how that all worked. I never even watched that much TV before either.

What other projects are you working on?

There's A Walk on the Moon (directed by actor Tony Goldwyn). It's been through a few title changes. I just finished She's All That about a month ago with Freddie Prinze Jr. I'm just about to start working on a film called All the Rage, an independent film with Joan Allen, Gary Sinise, and Jeff Daniels.

How was it working with Tony Goldwyn as your director?

He's so lovely. I love Tony. He's the nicest guy. He's such a good director and really great to work with.

Have you been polishing your basketball skills after your appearance on David Letterman? (Paquin made a shot worth $10.000 which she donated to charity.)

I didn't play basketball (laughs). It was such a joke. I don't understand why people made such a big deal about it. No one ever said that if I made the basket I would get money. They asked if I wanted to shoot a basket and I said, okay, I'll give it a go. I've never made a basket in my life, but I did on national television.

Do you want to keep acting, or have you found a subject that you're studyng that might interest you more?

I really like acting and I know I want to do it quite a while longer. I can't say what I'm going to feel like or what kind od person I'm going to be when I'm a lot older or if I would necessarily want to do it then. Right now, this is what I like going.

Venice, January 1999