When 7-year-old Onata Aprile entered the hotel conference room for press interviews for her new movie What Maisie Knew, she was more concerned with resuming her doodle of a "crazy town" than the fact that Alexander Skarsgard was sitting right next to her. I mean! He might as well have been the janitor for all she cared, scribbling away, head down.
Okay, granted she's 7. But meanwhile it was all every other woman in the room could do to keep themselves together being just mere feet away from such a stunning specimen of manhood. But Skarsgard did not hesitate to make clear that Onata, with her perfect pout and eyes that pierce your soul, was the real star in the room.
The directors of this film, Scott McGehee and David Siegel, explained that finding the right actress to portray Maisie, an only child in the middle of a bitter custody battle with the worst parents you could possibly imagine, was "harrowing" -- to the point that it was three weeks before filming started and they still did not have their lead.
Maisie is a story that is told through the eyes of a child -- it's not so much about the storyline or what happens next as it is about making the audience feel like they are living the experience with her.
The filmmakers had gotten permission to scout elementary schools to find the perfect fit, but it wasn't until a casting director called them about Onata, a public school kid who had recently started to dabble in acting, that they knew they found her girl. "We really felt we had to have a child whose face ... as you're watching her, you're getting into her head somehow, without her being able to speak," Siegel said.
"We were excited the first time we saw her," he continued. "Avi Kaufman, famous for casting Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, calls us and says you've got to come down right now. We feel like we found it with her."
But there was still one little detail to X out. The "chemistry" between Maisie and Skarsgard's character Lincoln could make or break the film. They had to make sure it would work.
So, as Skarsgard put it, he and Onata "went on a date." They met for a dinner at Seigel's house. "We sat down and starting drawing," he said. "What did we draw, Onata?"
"A castle," Onata said. Just like their two charactres did in a scene from the movie.
"It took about three minutes together," Skarsgard said. "And I knew we were good."
And it's so true. Skarsgard and Onata act in real life just like they did onscreen -- hanging out, eating lunch, joking around. The funny part of that is she is totally oblivious to the fact that nearly every woman in the world would give anything to be sitting on Alexander Skarsgard's lap right now. But she just wants to draw. Oh, sweet innocence. Sigh.