The Newcomer: Q’orianka Kilcher

Photo: Jean-Paul Aussenard/Wireimage

Pocahontas has always been the embodiment of innocence, so who better to play her in The New World—Terrence Malick’s fourth film in 32 years—than newcomer Q’orianka (core-ee-AN-kuh) Kilcher? Part Huachipaeri and Quechua Indian, part Swiss, and part Alaskan, the 15-year-old, who used to sing for money on a Santa Monica sidewalk, beat out thousands of actresses for the part—even though she’d never heard of Malick or her co-stars, Christian Bale and (just-off-to-rehab) Colin Farrell. She spoke to Jada Yuan.

No familiarity with Colin—don’t you watch movies?
Sometimes, but mostly I like camping or reading or kite surfing. Watching movies is a little bit of a waste of time.

Then why make them?
So I could have a bigger voice and bring about positive changes in the world. Like, I’m arriving to my premiere in a fuel-cell car. I didn’t start in show business to wear $10,000 dresses. Me and my mom have been making my clothes since I was 5.

Have you always been homeschooled?
I went to school once when I was 11, and I left after nine months. I’m not an easy crier, but I came home every day crying. There was the popular group, the unpopular group, and then the very, very unpopular group.

In the film, you have very few lines, and of those, very few are in English. What direction did Malick give you?
All the silent things [originally] had huge amounts of dialogue. In the morning, Terry would sometimes come to me and Colin and give us each three pages of dialogue. So we would fry our brains trying to learn it. And then we’d be about to do that scene and he’d come up to us and be like, “Um, yeah, uh, Q’orianka, um, Colin, um, you know, just maybe, uh, just maybe say this one line, and everything else, uh, just say it silently. Okay?”

What did your parents think about you doing a love scene with a 29-year-old?
My parents loved Colin to death. He likes camping. Besides, historically, it was a bigger age difference. [John Smith was 27, Pocahontas 11.]

Malick didn’t want you and Colin to meet before your characters met onscreen. Ever break the rules?
No! The poor A.D.’s [assistant directors] did everything in their power to keep us apart. This one time I was walking to set and Colin was leaving and I guess we were fifteen feet apart because suddenly I hear screaming and Colin is being pulled behind this tree, and I’m being picked up and brought over to a bush. And Colin is muttering, “Oh man, can’t we just stop this? I can see her.” So he starts saying, “Hi, hi,” over and over again. But Terry told me, “Never say hi to him.” So I just kept walking.

Colin apologized for kissing you—your first kiss ever—right after smoking a cigarette. Was the apology necessary?
No, I was so scared I was half-there and half-not-even-there.

The New World
December 25

The Newcomer: Q’orianka Kilcher