New stuff

All About Anna







Other Stuff



Child Superstar Anna Paquin's Vampish Turn

Akin Ojumu

Anna Paquin has got something tucked away in her closet: an Oscar. The now 17-year-old actress picked it up for The Piano in 1994, and it's been nestling among her clothes ever since. Modesty aside, it's a smart move. Putting the little gold man on prominent display would only tempt fate. After all, who knows what her future career holds? However, Paquin did it for another reason, 'It would be awkward and uncomfortable for my friends,' she says.

Becoming the second-youngest Academy Award winner is a tough act to follow. As Holly Hunter's watchful daughter in The Piano, she made a startling screen debut. On the big night, she gasped and spluttered through an impromptu acceptance speech, which is now a feature in all good Oscar highlight videos.

Fast-forward six years. Now she is a runaway teen waif who gets intimate with Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey in Hurlyburly a savage tale of Eighties indulgence and Hollywood misogyny. It's a pivotal supporting role. More important, it should help banish perceptions of her as that spirited little thing in a bonnet.

It follows a similarly vampish turn in weak teen romance She's All That, and one as a rebellious hippie chick in Sixties-set Walk on the Moon. Paquin has had quite a career makeover. If the key to thespian kudos is versatility, then Paquin who still looks eligible for a child-rate bus pass is currently going through her lascivious stage. Like the teenage Jodie Foster, she is experimenting with her image in public.

The most surprising thing about Anna Paquin is that she has never had an acting lesson. To use a cliche, she is a natural. She grew up in Wellington, New Zealand, the youngest of three children of teacher parents. At nine, she went along to the open audition of The Piano because all her friends were going. Three call-backs later and she had won the part. Director Jane Campion later noted that she seemed to be the smallest and shyest girl in the room but was impressed by her colourful improvisation.

Paquin followed up The Piano with three years of screen silence. She re-emerged in two family films, Fly Away Home and Jane Eyre in 1996, moving to Los Angeles with her recently divorced mother. She now attends advanced classes at an LA high school. In between lessons and making movies, she likes alternative rock, visiting thrift markets and photography. Later this year she aims to follow Claire Danes and Natalie Portman into Ivy League education, scaling down her acting work. She wants to study psychology.

Before college, she has significant roles in two eagerly awaited films. She plays Rogue, a genetic mutant, in the big-budget adaptation of superhero comic book X-Men, directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects). In Cameron Crowe's provisionally titled Stillwater, she is a soulful groupie infatuated with Jason Lee's Seventies rocker.

She won the role after the Jerry Maguire director was bowled over by her wave during the audition. 'I asked her to say goodbye to a hotel room she'd stayed in for a few days, where stuff had happened, and I must have watched that tape a thousand times. It was so great,' he said. So, there you have it, she gives good waves and intriguing performances.

Five things you should know about Anna Paquin

1 Her character in Stillwater is the bizarrely-named Polexia Aphrodesia.

2 Her favourite television show is Dawson's Creek and her favourite movie is The Wedding Singer.

3 On acting, she says: 'None of the characters I've played are really like me. That would be boring. It wouldn't be acting.'

4 When she was younger she wanted to be the Prime Minister of New Zealand, a lawyer or an astronaut. Why no train driver?

5 She beat more than 1,000 girls for the role of Flora in The Piano.

The Observer, March 5, 2000