the book thief

At a reception Monday for “The Book Thief,” Geoffrey Rush smiled that he’s trying to figure out Fox 2000: “They did ‘Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Life of Pi’ and now our movie, so I can’t quite figure out the ‘house style’ — except that they’re all bold movies.”

So perhaps bold movies — often based on books — are Fox 2000′s house style. “The Book Thief” opens Nov. 8 in a platform run and has entered the awards race almost below the radar; at the late-morning reception, it was receiving praise for its performances, the score by John Williams and its unusual twist to the Holocaust theme, all of which make it potential kudos fodder.

The film, based on Markus Zusak’s best-selling novel, is bold because it’s literate (both in origins and theme) at a time when the importance of books isn’t necessarily a hot topic at the multiplex.

Sophie Nelisse plays refugee Liesel, who’s sheltered by a German couple played by Rush and Emily Watson. At the gathering at the Four Seasons, Rush said about his character, “What appealed to me was how ordinary he was. But underneath that normalcy, he’s complicated. He’s a maverick, and he and Liesel find a private common language through reading.” He also liked the fact that the film depicts people in Germany who were deeply troubled by the Nazis, a POV often ignored in films.

Director Brian Percival (whose credits include “Downton Abbey”) said he’s embarking on a monthlong promo trek in the U.S. tied to the film’s opening, after which the team goes to Europe, where it bows early next year. He’s especially curious about the German reaction to the film. (It was shot at Babelsberg Studios and on Berlin locations.)

Elizabeth Gabler said author Zusak spotted actress Nelisse in the 2011 film “Monsieur Lazhar” and suggested her to the director.

The Canadian-born Nelisse, who’s now 13, said at a certain point she had to choose between acting and intensive gymnast training for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The actress, a little shy but poised and intelligent, chose showbiz, but still does some gymnastics — and added with enthusiasm that her favorite new sport is playing hockey.

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