||Keisha Castle Hughes
|Date of Birth
||24 March 1990
|Place of Birth
||Donnybrook, Western Australia, Australia
"Definitely not what I expected it to be. All I ever saw were famous people getting what they wanted when they wanted it and I was shocked at the fact that I actually had to work." Keisha Castle-Hughes (when she was asked if acting what how she expected it to be).
Being completely new to acting and even never appearing at school plays, Keisha Castle-Hughes, whose idols are Julia Roberts and Johnny Depp, was totally “speechless” when she was selected among thousands of girls in her school to play the female lead for the 2002 movie Whale Rider. She was discovered by the casting director and the casting assistant who visited her primary school in Mt. Wellington, New Zealand, and by the same agent who discovered Anna Paquin, the second-youngest Oscar winner in history.
"I was just speechless, I didn't know what to say. About two hours later I was running around the hotel just screaming. I was so overwhelmed!" Keisha Castle-Hughes (recalling the moment she got the starring role for Whale Rider (2002)).
Whale Rider, director Niki Caro's adaptation of a 1987 book by New Zealand Māori author Witi Tame Ihimaera, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2002. Keisha portrayed the lead role of Paikea Apirana (Pai), a headstrong 11-year-old single ancestor of a patriarchal New Zealand tribe who bravely defied male tradition by becoming clan leader. Keisha, who has never starred in a movie before Whale Rider and confirmed that she did not even know how to swim before starring in the movie, managed to deliver a heartbreaking performance and eventually earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. And at age 13, she became the youngest female ever nominated Oscar’s Best Actress. She also received a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
"I think we're both strong willed and independent, and Pai has a great unique quality about her. She's an 11-year-old girl who's confident about who she is and knows exactly who she is. Not many 11-year-old girls are like that. She's a great role model for young girls. I think I'm like that too." Keisha Castle-Hughes (on her Whale Rider character).
Following her first success, Keisha went to star as Queen of Naboo in George Lucas' final Star Wars saga, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). She appeared briefly in the popular space fantasy, as she said: "I was on for 10 seconds and if you see me you're lucky."
Keisha will soon be seen playing Virgin Mary in director Catherine Hardwicke's upcoming film, The Nativity Story, alongside Oscar Isaac and Shohreh Aghdashloo. The film, which follows the life of the Virgin Mary and Joseph over the two-year period immediately prior to the birth of Jesus, is set for a December 2006 release.
"When I got the part, it didn't hit me at first. But on the plane over here, I was writing in my diary, and then it hit me: Ohhh! I'm playing Mary! The biggest thing, you never think that she was just 14 and carrying a child. She was just a girl, and then the next day, she's a woman and married, and the next she becomes like the mother of the world." Keisha Castle-Hughes (on playing Mary in the Nativity Story).
Keisha is currently in Australia filming her new film, Hey, Hey, It's Esther Blueburger, by first-time writer-director Cathy Randall. She will play Sunni, the best friend of a 13-year-old Jewish girl who attempts to navigate the pressures of family, school and her impending bat mitzvah (played by newcomer actress Danielle Catanzariti).