Role of a lifetime

Q’orianka Kilcher stars as Pocahontas in "The New World." The epic adventure is set amid the encounter between European and Native American cultures during the founding of the Jamestown Settlement in 1607.

The Associated Press
Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 10:56 p.m.


Will the real Pocahontas please stand up?

In "Pocahontas": Small waist, Asian eyes, toned legs, big breasts. Basically, Barbie in buckskin. As Mel Gibson-voiced John Smith puts it: "She's a babe." She looks to be at least 20.
In "The New World": As played by newcomer Q'orianka Kilcher (who was 14 during filming), Pocahontas is a beautiful child of nature, luminous, full of lip, full of heart.
In reality: Pocahontas was between 10 and 12 when she met John Smith. Her name, translated, means "playful, frolicsome girl."
John Smith's appearance In "Pocahontas": Blond hunk. Voiced by Mel Gibson. In "The New World": Colin Farrell. In reality: John Smith was short, had a full beard, wore puffy pants and was, by many accounts, a disagreeably "ugly" man.
Love at first sight? In "Pocahontas": She tracks him; they accidentally come face to face, and it's love at first sight.
In "The New World": She stops her father, Chief Powhatan, from executing him.
In reality: Smith's account of Pocahontas sparing his life is questionable. Some historians believe he simply misunderstood what was actually happening at the time.
Bridging the gap In "Pocahontas": The colors of the wind help the two listen with their hearts and bridge the cultural gap that separates them. For Pocahontas, John Smith is the Mr. Right of her dreams.
In "The New World": Ethereal, mostly wordless longing as Smith and Pocahontas approach each other with the curiosity of cultures whose collision is inevitable.
In reality: Romance very unlikely. Pocahontas later married Englishman John Rolfe after being captured and held hostage by Jamestown colonists.

Three years ago, Q'orianka Kilcher was serenading shoppers in Santa Monica, singing songs like "My Heart Will Go On" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and clearing $2,000 on a good night.
Today the 15-year-old Kilcher (first name pronounced Core-ee-AHN-ka, and if the last name sounds familiar, her second cousin is singer Jewel Kilcher) doesn't need to sing for her supper, having snagged the role of Powhatan princess Pocahontas in Terrence Malick's "The New World."
It's Kilcher's first movie, and given the singularity of both the part and the project, she might never have it so good again. (Think of Patrick Fugit in Cameron Crowe's memoir "Almost Famous.") Or it could be an auspicious beginning for an ambitious teen who'd also like a career in singing. (She promises no more Celine Dion covers.)
Finding Kilcher - whose father is Peruvian and mother is Alaskan/Swiss - was tricky. Malick and producer Sarah Green conducted the usual scour-the-earth casting search, needing to unearth a young woman who could convey both the innocence and vitality of the fledgling Pocahontas and the heartbreak that came later in life. After meeting Kilcher and spending a couple of weeks with her to surmise whether she could withstand the pressure of a long shoot, they offered her the part.
"They were asking her to embody the spirit of America, so you don't put that on somebody's shoulders lightly," says Colin Farrell, who plays John Smith in the film. "Having watched her, I think she can do anything. She has soulfulness that goes way beyond her years."
Adds producer Green: "When we saw her on film, moving silently, we saw the mystery that we always envisioned in Pocahontas."
We recently unraveled a few mysteries with Kilcher, whose film opens nationally today.
  • How to be happy living in a motor home for a year:
    "When my family moved here from Hawaii, we bought a motor home with the idea of driving to Oklahoma. On the way out of Los Angeles, the whole steering wheel shaft flew across the freeway, and our car just stopped. We had them tow us back to downtown, and that's where we lived for a year.
    "It was me, my mom, my mom's boyfriend and my two brothers, one of whom was a baby at the time. It was a big adventure and a gypsy thing in a way. We'd go on the bus to the Third Street Promenade and come back and all snuggle up together, watching TV until the battery ran out."
  • How to work with Terrence Malick and go through adolescence at the same time: "It was definitely an emotional roller coaster. It would be 6 in the morning, and Terry would tell me to go out and splash freezing cold water on my face to put me in the right frame of mind. Or go to a fennel field and run barefoot where there were all these prickles and things. Yeah, I would love to do it again because I feel like I lived an entire life already just to portray Pocahontas."
  • How to make your first - and second - kiss a memorable one:
    "What 14-year-old wouldn't want Colin Farrell as their first kiss and Christian Bale as their second? It was fun. It was exciting. It was scary. I admit, on the day of that kiss, I was like, 'Oh my God!' And it's there on film."
  • How to keep perspective during awards-season insanity: "I don't want to walk around in a $10,000 dress because I could start a school for that amount of money in Peru, where my people are, a music school or computer school where they could learn how to be lawyers and learn how to protect their land.
    "So I just started sketching and making my own clothes with my mom. If I see something I like, I make it myself. I made my own dress for the premiere tonight. Actually, I made four of them. I can't decide which one to wear."
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