Searching for The Book Thief: casting the role of Liesel

Posted on 13 November 2013
By Becky Baker
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Markus Zusak’s award winning novel The Book Thief – set for release this January – tells the story of Liesel and her journey through the power of words in Nazi occupied Germany.

Liesel is an innocent and courageous character whose passion for preserving books and helping her foster family, overcomes the dramatic events that are happening around her.

Her role falls on the shoulders of newcomer Sophie Nélisse whose determination won her over with the film makers.

Auditions started in the UK and spread across Europe, searching for a girl who could embed Liesel’s headstrong qualities.

With over 1000 candidates who were seen director Brian Percival had some bigger shoes to fill then he expected.

By chance, Zusak attended a screening of Canadian motion picture Monsieur Lazhar and fell in love with Genie Award winner Sophie Nélisse.

Before Zusak had a chance to suggest this rising star, the film makers had her already booked in for a screen test.

As an accomplished gymnast, Nélisse understood the will power of her character.

Producer Karen Rosenfelt said: “Liesel is a difficult character to cast. We were looking for so many qualities – she had to be accessible, real, curious, spirited, innocent and intelligent.”

“When she’s with her books she manages to forget all the difficulties in her life. Reading allows Liesel’s imagination to blossom and helps her lead a better life.”

“I’ve never come across a child with that much raw talent, instinct and an awareness of everyone’s emotions around her.”

The Book Thief is set to make and break hearts, as Sophie Nélisse leads fellow cast members Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson through a troublesome time.

Set to John Williams’s powerful score Zusak’s creation will be nothing short of breath taking.