In some ways, starring in a big-budget Hollywood movie hasn't changed
Q'Orianka Kilcher's life. She still lives in a Santa Monica apartment with
her mother and brothers. She still likes to go camping. But in other ways,
the life of the 15-year-old star of Terrence Malick's new film "The New
World" has changed dramatically.
"In a way, I feel like I've already lived an entire life," Kilcher said.
"Playing Pocahontas was such an emotional roller coaster."
A home-schooled ninth-grader who enjoys history and making her own clothes,
Kilcher has a talent for performance. Already, she has played a choir
member in the 2000 release of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." She's
performed on television, placing second in the Young Singers category of
"Star Search." She's even been known to turn out a mean Brazilian dance on
the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
But none of those roles has taken -- or given -- as much as her latest.
When Kilcher began rehearsing for her role, she started at square one.
"Like everyone, I just knew the cartoon," she said.
But as she learned more about the history of the famous Powhatan girl, and
started acting out her struggles, she suffered along with her character.
"I was very emotionally raw," she said. "I would go home and sometimes cry
for four or five hours straight."
Unfortunately, Kilcher said, many of those scenes -- where Pocahontas is
grieving for her lost family and lover Capt. John Smith -- were cut from
the final edition of the film. She hopes they'll reappear on the DVD
But the work did help Kilcher reconnect with her Native roots. Her father
is a Quechua Indian from Peru. After filming, she traveled to South America
to connect with her paternal relatives for the first time since she was a
Now the actor, singer, dancer and teenager has a new dream. Once she's
finished working on a CD she's made of original songs she wrote during the
filming of "The New World," she wants to start a music school in her
father's native country.
"To see my father's family, it filled a hole inside of me," she said.