Urban Suburban Mommy

Talking to Sophie Nélisse

There are some great books – stories that you just connect with. There are books on my shelf that I like to visit, like old friends. I’ve got a few of those from my childhood, and The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson is one of them.

I love the characters and the story. Do you remember it? If you need a refresher, grab the book off your shelf – or sit down and enjoy the movie!

Recently released by Search Engine Films, the film adaptation stars Kathy Bates, Glenn Close, Julia Stiles, Octavia Spencer, Bill Cobbs and Sophie Nélisse as Gilly.

At 16, Nélisse is an award-winning seasoned actress. She took on the role of Gilly Hopkins and made the character come to life. If was fun to get a chance to sit down with this talented actress and hear about taking on a role of such a well known and well loved character.

“It was an amazing experience, an amazing cast,” Nélisse told me when I asked what it was like to work on this movie. “I love the character. I realize how fragile she is. You think she’s tough, but you realize it’s a front. I try not to judge people and understand what they’ve been through before judging them.”

Nélisse gave the character of Gilly some true dimension, and says that, instead of first reading the book, “I followed the script and followed the director,” and really connected to the story. It’s clear she did a fabulous job with the overwhelming emotion of the character.

While shooting in The US, she was happy to find that even though it was a large production, it was a small set so she could get to know the cast and crew. Working with big names, Nélisse hung out watching hockey with Glenn Close (who she loved from 101 Dalmatians) and found that her co-stars were all very down to earth – so that’s what it’s like to work those stars!

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I asked Nélisse if anything funny happened to her on set, and with a laugh she told me the story about a dinner scene that actually took a whole day to shoot. Nélisse started out hungry, and so digging into the food was easy – she had to be eating in the scene. But it wasn’t long before she was full and it wasn’t so tasty. And after 8 to 10 hours of eating, she wasn’t feeling so well at all. “So many shots, so many angles!” she says, “By the end I had a spit bucket. I didn’t eat for 2 days.”

The hardest part of making a movie? “The saddest part was leaving and not seeing them,” she says of the cast and crew that had become close. But Nélisse is back at home in Montreal, going to school, hanging out with friends. Her friends just treat her like a normal person. She’s an incredibly talented but very well-adjusted young woman who has done a fair bit of growing up in front of the camera.

If you loved the book, you’re going to love Nélisse’s portrayal of Gilly, she does it justice. If you haven’t read the book – grab a copy, the movie is a must-see. It’s a perfect family movie and a great way to have a family movie night.


Photos: IMDB Sophie Nélisse