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A Conversation with Sophie Curtis

After honing her craft in smaller roles in such films as Arbitrage (with Richard Gere) and The English Teacher (with Julianne Moore), rising star Sophie Curtis takes the lead in the eerie coming-of-age teen thriller, Innocence. Based on the popular novel by Jane Mendelsohn, the film explores the internal struggles of 16 year old Beckett following the untimely death of her mother in a surfing accident. Along with her father, novelist Miles Warner, Beckett moves to the city to begin a new life as a student at the exclusive Hamilton preparatory school in Riverdale. New friends and first love are counter-balanced by a startling student suicide, and the possibility that the school might actually be a front for a coven of beautiful and seductive women who pursue eternal youth by drinking the blood of virgins.

Kelly Reilly as Pamela
Kelly Reilly as Pamela
© 2014 Scion Pictures
Sophie Curtis as the virgin sacrifice in "Innocence."
© 2014 Scion Pictures

Mike Parker – Press materials call your new movie, Innocence, a “chilling allegory of the precarious state of an American teenager that explores themes of loss, the human condition, and a society torn between purity and narcissism.” That’s a lot of stories to tell in 96 minutes. As the lead actress, what story were you most interested in telling?

Sophie Curtis – At its core Innocence is a coming-of-age story, but that core story has been exaggerated to include witches and magic. I want viewers to focus on the real story, but to do that you sometimes have to set the story in a fantasical realm. Sometimes, particularly with young people, it helps them understand the underlying emotions that are there. It allows kids to have fun with the fantastic, but to also see the real story behind the allegory. The story I’m most interested in telling is Beckett’s struggle between trusting herself and trusting others.

Parker – There is a pervading moodiness, almost an oppressive sadness that attached itself to your character, Beckett. Was it a challenge to portray that, and how did you manage to shake it off after the shooting was finished for the day?

Sophie – This was a different challenge for me. I’ve never played a lead role in a feature film before, and I’ve never filmed for 15 hours per day. That kind of responsibility and workload takes a toll. While I don’t think you have to become the character in order to play the role, I do think you have to at least relate to that character in some way. Beckett has an inner strength that she draws on, and that was something I could relate to. It helped me learn how to manage your emotions.

You do have to give a piece of your soul to a film. Hopefully at the end of the day, the film gives that piece of your soul back to you.

Parker - You were surrounded by some seasoned actors on this film, including Kelly Reilly (Heaven is for Real, Sherlock Holmes) and Linus Roche (Law & Order, Batman Begins). What that a challenge or a blessing for you on your first leading role?

Sophie - I couldn’t have asked for a better cast to work with. I think they understood that every actor has to start somewhere. They commended my efforts and served as both friends and mentors. It would be easy to be intimidated by their talent, but I had to focus on the story I was telling. If I had focused on their talents as seasoned actors I would have lost the story. We were all part of the story and we all worked together to tell the story well.

Parker – What’s next on your agenda?

Sophie – This is an exciting time for me. I start college at UC Berkeley tomorrow, where I’ll be majoring in film and psychology. But there are also some other great opportunities presenting themselves. Nothings written in stone yet, so I can’t talk about them.

Parker – Last words?

Sophie – I think one lesson I learned during the whole Innocence experience is to embrace the experience. During the filming, I didn’t think about other people’s opinions. Now that the film is coming out you hear all kinds of comments and criticisms. It is easy to lett that stuff get into your head. It’s important to realize that not everyone is going to get it. I’ve learned to remember the joy of the process.

Innocence opens in theatre September 5, 2014

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