Sophine Nelisse Variety International Star
Alex Hoerner

Teenage Canadian actress got advice from granddad in prepping for 'The Book Thief'

CLAIM TO FAME

The Canadian actress — who was 12 years old at the time — won a Genie Award, the equivalent of a Canadian Oscar, for her performance in French-language drama “Monsieur Lazhar.”

FAMILY BUSINESS

Nelisse started acting to pay for gymnastics lessons, but it turned out she was a natural actress. Seems talent runs in her family: Her 9-year-old sister, Isabelle, is also an actress in film and TV, and Sophie says that playing coach is a part of her big-sister duties. “(Isabelle) doesn’t really like it, but I love (telling) her, ‘Oh, try this!’ ” Sophie laughed. “It makes me learn at the same time, by watching her.”

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE

“The Book Thief,” in which Nelisse plays a Jewish child being sheltered by adoptive parents in WWII Germany, premiered Nov. 8. The pic is already earning her national attention, including a Spotlight kudo at this year’s Hollywood Film Awards. Initially, she says, the gig seemed a bit daunting. “Working with Geoffrey Rush — he’s such a big actor. I was scared (he’d) think I’m bad.” Her fears were allayed almost immediately, and she adds that she and Rush shared an easy rapport when the cameras weren’t rolling.

LISTENING TO GRANDPA

Nelisse prepared for “The Book Thief,” a historical piece adapted from the book by Markus Zusak, by, among other things, listening to the stories of her grandfather, who survived a concentration camp.

STAYING CENTERED

Nelisse’s short time in the biz has already given her perspective. “You have to stay natural and be grounded,” she says. “Just because you’re famous (doesn’t mean) that you’re any different.”

TESTIMONIAL

“When you talk to Sophie, you have the impression that you’re talking to an old soul,” says “Monsieur Lazhar” director Philippe Falardeau. “That feeling is certainly captured by the camera, and it gives depth to the character she’s Playing”

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