×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Summer Bishil

'Nothing is Private' starlet living the dream

Summer Bishil’s road to a starring role in a major Hollywood film feels awfully like a Hollywood dream.

After some TV work in soaps and “Hannah Montana,” she hears from an Oscar-winning scribe-producer who’s offering the lead. Except the filmmaker is Alan Ball — and what the teenagers in his “American Beauty” went through is nothing compared with what he has in mind for Bishil.

Ball found the material for his directorial debut “Nothing Is Private” — which was bought by Warner Independent at the Toronto Film Festival and is scheduled for release in 2008 — in Alicia Erian’s “Towelhead,” an unflinching coming-of-age novel about Jasira, a Lebanese-American girl who’s desire for suburban acceptance brings her face-to-face with racism, sexism and, ultimately, abuse.

“I saw people from all over the world” in the hunt for a leading lady, says Ball, creator of HBO skein “Six Feet Under,” “but then Summer walked in and that was it.”

Bishil, 19, was born in Pasadena, Calif., but moved to the Middle East with her family at the age of 3. They returned to the U.S. five years ago, and Bishil quickly found her look wasn’t very popular among casting directors.

When the script for “Nothing Is Private” arrived, she was determined to get the part.

And when she did, her parents were remarkably supportive, especially when it came to scenes in which Jasira is molested by her neighbor (Aaron Eckhart).

Ball’s intention was to focus on expressions, not body parts, and shot the scene entirely above the shoulders. It’s Bishil’s performance, in close-up, that carries it — bravery and honesty mixed with fragility and pain.

“There were these long notes in the script of how it was supposed to be handled,” recalls Bishil. “That character was so complex and I worked on it so much. I didn’t identify with her life, but I felt connected to her. I understand her solitude and loneliness and displacement.”

Since “Nothing Is Private,” Bishil’s Hollywood story has gone more to script. Next up is a major role in Wayne Kramer’s “Crossing Over” with Harrison Ford and Sean Penn. In it she plays a Bangladeshi immigrant and devout Muslim.

While the character is different, Bishil says some of the themes are the same, namely how the desire for acceptance can lead to a deeper isolation.

MOVIE MUSINGS

AN ACTOR SHOULD ALWAYS: “Try to be honest with themselves. I think that every time you lie to yourself, you shrink and erase a little bit of who you are. It leaves a person vacant, and you can’t build a character out of nothing.”

I’M INSPIRED BY: “Architecture. There are some exceptional minds out there building and conceptualizing close to or completely self-sufficient homes and buildings, and the aesthetics are astounding.”

FAVORITE FILM CHARACTER: “Nathan Landau, played by Kevin Kline in ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ His performance knocked me off my feet. I was still thinking about that character long after the film had ended.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Nina Wu Midi Z Un Certain

    Chinese Indie and Indian Films Dominate Pingyao Festival Lineup

    Chinese indie and Indian films dominate the lineup of the Pingyao International Film Festival. The main selection for the festival’s third edition will include 28 world premieres, organizers revealed on Monday. The event will screen 52 films from 26 countries and territories, with all of them having their China debut. The opening film is set [...]

  • 'Sound of Metal' Review: Riz Ahmed

    Toronto Film Review: 'Sound of Metal'

    “Sound of Metal” is a film with a potent, searing hook. It stars Riz Ahmed, who is such a sensational actor (just watch him in “Jason Bourne” or “Nightcrawler” or “The Sisters Brothers”), as Ruben, a punk-metal drummer, heavy on the tattoos and peroxide, who has been thrashing away as part of a caterwauling noise [...]

  • David Goodman

    WGA West's David Goodman on Agency Strategy: 'We'll Start Meeting as Soon as Possible'

    David Goodman, who was resoundingly re-elected president of the Writers Guild of America West on Monday, said the guild plans to meet with several talent agencies soon in an effort to ease the impasse over packaging fees and affiliated production. “Many agencies had indicated that they wanted to wait to see the results of the [...]

  • Australian Outback

    Legend Media Seeks Trio of West Australia-China Co-Productions (EXCLUSIVE)

    Perth, Australia-based production company Legend Media is preparing a slate of three feature films to be produced with partners in China. The company styles itself as one that recognizes the opportunities for Asian engagement that have fallen to Australia, through geography, trade and culture. The company aims to make use of the bilateral film co-production [...]

  • David Goodman

    David Goodman Re-Elected President of Writers Guild of America West

    David Goodman has been convincingly re-elected to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America West, beating Phyllis Nagy in a bitter contest that became a referendum on the guild’s ongoing battle with talent agents. Goodman received 4,395 votes to Nagy’s 1,282 in an election that yielded record turnout among the WGA [...]

  • Issa Rae Portrait

    Issa Rae Developing Re-Imagining of Crime Thriller 'Set It Off'

    “Insecure” star and co-creator Issa Rae is in early development on a re-imagining of New Line’s crime thriller “Set If Off,” which starred Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica Fox and Kimberly Elise. Rae will produce with plans to star in the project. Syreeta Singleton and Nina Gloster have been hired to pen the script. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content