×
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.”

More Film

  • Film Constellation Boards Werner Herzog's Japan-Set

    Film Constellation Boards Werner Herzog's Japanese Film 'Family Romance'

    London-based sales house Film Constellation has boarded Oscar-winning director Werner Herzog’s Japanese-language film “Family Romance,” which will have its world premiere in the special screenings section at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Herzog, the movie was shot last spring and summer in Tokyo and Aomori, Japan, with non-professional actors (Yuichi Ishii, Mahiro [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Box Office: Can It

    'Avengers: Endgame' Expected to Shatter Box Office Records

    “Avengers: Endgame” has its sights set on world domination. Disney and Marvel’s upcoming superhero epic should light the box office on fire when it launches this weekend, with the hopes of setting domestic, international, and global records. In North America alone, “Avengers: Endgame” is expected to earn between $250 million and $268 million in its [...]

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million on [...]

  • Reed Hastings seen on day one

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' Compensation Jumps 48% to $36.1 Million

    Netflix chief Reed Hastings is being handsomely rewarded for calling the shots at the streaming giant. His compensation package, which is largely in the form of stock options, climbed 48% in 2018 to $36.1 million. That’s up from $24.4 million in the previous year. Hastings’ salary is a relatively modest $700,000, but his stock options [...]

  • Emma Thompson to Star in Extinction

    Emma Thompson to Star in Extinction Rebellion Climate-Change Satire (EXCLUSIVE)

    Emma Thompson will play a climate-change activist in “Extinction,” a timely satirical short film that will include footage of the Extinction Rebellion group’s ongoing wave of action in London. Two-time Oscar winner Thompson has herself been involved in the high-profile London-based protests. She addressed crowds over the weekend from Extinction Rebellion’s signature pink boat, which [...]

  • First Look at Cannes-Bound ‘Diego Maradona’

    First Look at Cannes-Bound ‘Diego Maradona’ Feature Documentary

    Diego Maradona waves to raucous Napoli fans before heading into a media scrum and press conference in the first clip from the feature documentary about the soccer superstar. “Diego Maradona” is the third film from the team behind the award-winning “Senna” and “Amy,” with Asif Kapadia directing and James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin producing. They [...]

  • Raising Hell: The Life and Times

    Film Review: 'Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins'

    One of the more entertaining as well as insightful political commentators of the past half-century is paid a suitably entertaining tribute in “Raise Hell.” A long tall Texan too amusingly outrageous to draw real resentment from most of her targets, Molly Ivins nonetheless aimed stinging criticism at political figures both national and in her native [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content