December 20, 2005

New film makes star of 15-year-old “Pocahontas”

By Arthur Spiegelman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The new film's reclusive director
is happy to let his movie speak for itself, since he doesn't
give interviews. The male star would be happy to promote the
film, but he's in rehab.

So this leaves a 15-year-old former street singer, who
worries whether she will be working at age 16, to bear the
burden of promoting "The New World," a $30 million tale of the
founding of Britain's colony in early 17th century Virginia.

The movie opens on Christmas Day in New York and Los
Angeles, and elsewhere in the United States in January.

If anyone can lift director Terrence Malick's new movie out
of art-house obscurity, it is fresh young actress Q'Orianka
Kilcher. She is the real star of "The New World" and to hear
the producer tell it, deserving of an Academy Award nomination.

Kilcher appears in almost every scene as Indian princess
Pocahontas, who saves the British colonists from starvation and
destruction after they cross the Atlantic to settle on land
ruled by her father.

She has a starry-eyed romance with explorer Capt. John
Smith, played by Irish actor Colin Farrell, and later marries a
stolid English planter, John Rolfe, played by cinema's new
Batman, Christian Bale. She gets banned by her own people for
helping the English survive and travels to England to meet the
king as a reward for her services to the crown.

Producer Sarah Green says there is no reason why Kilcher,
whose father is a Peruvian Quechua Indian and whose mother is
Swiss, should not be the spokeswoman for Malick's latest film.
"This is really Pocahontas's story," Green said.


But it is also a Terrence Malick film -- meaning it is long
and lyrical, heavy on lush or menacing scenes of nature and
bound to split the critics into two camps, one that calls him a
filmmaking genius and the other that thinks that he it is so
over the top that he gives pretension a bad name.

Malick is a Hollywood legend since his first film -- 1973's
"Badlands" told the tale of a serial killer and his girlfriend
and their flight cross the country. His four films spread over
32 years include the Oscar-nominated "The Thin Red Line."

Green says Malick is really a nice guy who is "very relaxed
and very funny," even if he shuns publicity, acts like a
recluse and forbids people to photograph him.

Cast members declare themselves impressed with his ability
to improvise a scene.

"Terry is a spur-of-the-moment kind of director," Kilcher
recalled recently of a scene that featured her dancing in a
field of high grass.

"We would not rehearse anything. We would not repeat a
scene over and over again because that would make it dull and
unreal and you had to be ready for anything, because he could
(find) inspiration from seeing a bird flying and land in a
field of fennel," she said.

"He would say 'Orianka take off your shoes and run through
that fennel and I would run through it and it would hurt like
crap ... but I would do it again because I loved it."

Malick had her walking through a box of leeches and
fighting off spiders and tics for the role. The other actors
made similar sacrifices as Malick recreated the world of early
17th century Virginia -- a land of pristine purity about to be
engulfed by Old World savagery.

Farrell acts the role of conflicted explorer John Smith,
who worries that the Old World's greed will destroy the
innocent native peoples -- called "naturals" in the movie.

Farrell had to miss the film's opening because he entered a
rehab program for treatment of an addiction to a prescription

Kilcher, who is just starting out in the movie business and
has now new roles lined up, said she owed Farrell a lot for
helping guide her through the movie. "He was like my older

But she drew coy when asked if she preferred love scenes
with the "bad boy" John Smith or with the mature "John Rolfe."

"You know I am still kind of young for that and think love
comes in many forms ... I'll get back to you when I can
distinguish those things."