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New Girl: Sophie Nelisse of The Book Thief

Meet the breakthrough star joining the ranks of Elle Fanning, Kiernan Shipka, and Hailee Steinfeld.
by Dyan Zarzuela, Council of Cool 9, Entertainment & Features Editor, TV & Movie Columnist
PHOTOS 20th Century Fox, INTERVIEW Joe Utichi/20th Century Fox

February 3, 2014 08:00 pm

You may not be familiar with Sophie Nelisse yet, but she is bound to steal your heart in The Book Thief. The 13-year-old Canadian actress beat a thousand other girls (!) for the lead role in the much-awaited adaptation of the beloved book. She will be playing Liesel, a young girl who "steals" and salvages books in Nazi Germany, turning to the power of words during the dark period. Critics have been raving about her performance, so naturally I had to cyber-stalk her. Here are six reasons why she's the new girl you need to know about. 

  1. She's the one. Book author Markus Zusak, who spotted Sophie in a movie, tells writer Joe Utichi, "When you look at her, you can't imagine anyone else playing Liesel." Director Brian Percival agrees: "I felt there was something quite special about her when we saw her. She's got this incredible spirit."
    The Book Thief 
  2. She's a winner. She didn't make it to the Oscars short list like some critics predicted, but she has already won in Canada's version of the Oscars, the Genie Awards. She was only 12 years old when she was named Best Supporting Actress for Monsieur Lazhar, the movie where Markus Zusak chanced upon her.
    The Book Thief 
  3. She was training to become an Olympic gymnast. Before Hollywood came calling, she was working to win a spot on Canada's gymnastics team a few years ago. A double injury forced her to the sidelines, but you know what they say about doors and windows and opportunities. "Gymnastics will always be a part of me, but acting is much more fun to do, and it's less hard on the body!"
    The Book Thief 
  4. She could be a J-Law in the making. The charmingly candid actress had no problem admitting to the press that she knew nothing about her big-time co-stars prior to filming. On Geoffrey Rush: "I'd heard that apparently he was a good actor." On Emily Watson: "I have to say, the first day, I thought I was shooting with Emma Watson." Haha!
     The Book Thief
  5. She’s a book thief IRL. Sort of. On a dare, she went to a bookstore with her mom, grabbed the smallest books she could find, and scurried away. Little did she know that her mom had told them about the dare. "When I learned that she paid for them I was like, 'What?'" She tells Elle, "But I'm glad she did because I don't steal."
    The Book Thief 
  6. She knows what's important in life. "Some people think it's annoying that we keep making these (Holocaust) movies, but I don't think so," she tells Hollywood Reporter. In a hundred years, when the survivors are no longer around to tell their story, she hopes that people "remember what happened, remember the people that died, and remember the people that fought for them."
    The Book Thief 


The Book Thief opens on February 19. 

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