Liesel Matthews: (Taken from the official
A Little Princess Press Kit and various articles)
Months before cameras were set to roll, the filmmakers embarked
upon a search for Sara Crewe. Says director Cuaron, "We
understood from the very beginning that this script has a
soul, and this soul is Sara Crewe. So we knew that no matter
what we did, the movie was not going to work if we didn't
have a great Sara."
The filmmakers conducted a talent search that encompassed
cities in the United States, Canada, and Europe. They saw
tapes and photos of nearly 10,000 young girls. Their search
ended in Chicago with 10-year old Liesel Matthews.
"When we looked at the tests, we all picked Liesel independently
-- not because she was so much better that everyone else,
because many were terrific," remembers producer Johnson,
"but she had qualities that worked perfectly for Sara
Crewe. Looking at her on film, we could see that she had an
inner life and a strong sense of imagination and contentment."
Director Cuaron concurs, "Liesel is very complex; she
can be very funny or very emotional; she has her own mind.
Sometimes she can be like a character taken out of a book
of adventures, and that reflects in the movie. "The script
for 'A Little Princess' made me cry," says Liesel Matthews.
After the screening of "A Little Princess" at Chicago's
Webster Street Theatre, Liesel stood in the lobby surrounded
by squealing young fans. Returning a signed notebook to a
girl about her age, Matthews, 11, giggled and said "Are
you sure you really want this?" Matthews considers acting
a hobby. It's "embarrassing," she says " when
all the attention is on me."
Matthews is not new to the actor's life. Her mother is a
former member of the drama department at Chicago's Roosevely
University, and her stepfather is an attorney who has produced
local shows. In 1989 her mother cast her and her brother Matt,
then 7, in a university production of "Macbeth."
By 1993, Matthews was often working in the Chicago stage
at night. Last year a talent scout saw her in "To Kill
a Mockingbird" and invited her to L.A., where she won
the Princess role. "I wanted someone who wasn't worried
about technique," says director Alfonso Cuaron. "Liesel
was more interested in having fun than establishing a career.
After a three-month shoot in L.A., Matthews is still not
committed to an acting career. "We don't want her to
feel limited," says her mother. Matthews will take a
year off, then think about her next project. "If I leave
school to make a movie," she says, "it's bound to
affect my education. My entire life will change. I'm not ready
for that. I'm just a little girl."
Also see: News Article (October