You may remember that a month-ish a go, I talked about going to meet some of the actors from The Book Thief and that I had more to talk about (mostly meeting the director+producer) later. Well...today is that day.
When Brian Percival, the director, and Karen Rosenthal, the producer, entered the room, we had been discussing how the film managed to work for all ages and how it met with the idea of death. One blogger directly mentioned that, and Brian replied, saying, "That was the time that it really didn't go too hard and too real. I wanted this to go to as wide an audience as possible because the disparity of the book is the most wonderful thing about it. That would understandably limit what it had to show, but I never wanted to show it that way anyway, because the feeling was that it might just be another part of life, passing on into another state."
Karen expanded on this, by explaining that the producers and people at Fox supported Brian's vision completely, especially as death narrates the book. "What was unique to the telling of this, which Brian immediately recognized, was that it was told from the point of view of death, and that in telling from the point of view of death, it's also extremely life affirming. We have a young girl who goes from age ten to age 90 and has learned how to live and embrace life through tragedy."
The next question was if death was always going to play some role in the film, which was a quick yes. They both agreed that death was too important to the story to leave out, though they also didn't want to do entire voice overs since younger audiences can stop paying attention when that happens.
Equally important to the story is Liesl, a complex character who ages several years over the course of the book. The movie had to pull this off somehow. The search for someone to play Liesl took them all over the world until Markus Zusack suggested checking out the movie Monsieur Lazhar. Sophie Nelisse's performance in the movie won them over.
As Brian put it, "A lot of children that we auditioned or other people auditioned all around the world fell into one camp or the other. They were either quite feisty or didn't have that vulnerability or were too vulnerable. And Sophie's got both sides to her."
The Book Thief is probably out of most theaters at this point, because I suck, but if you haven't seen it and it is in your theaters, you really need to. It's incredible and Sophie really does captured Liesl so well. All of the care they put into this movie is obvious. And if it's not still in your local theater? Go ahead and pre-order a DVD and a box of tissues.