Pint-sized tween beauties have been spearheading the indie market’s mainstream success as of late. From Elle Fanning to Chloe Grace Moretz, high school starlets with a taste for atypical roles and a flair for raw acting are upping the ante in their age bracket. While some of these talents are fresh on the scene, there is a certain young Hollywooder that audiences will instantly recognize as the endearing star of one of this decade’s breakout independent films. Nominated for an Oscar (in addition to various other award wins and nominations) for 2006’s sleeper hit, Little Miss Sunshine, Abigail Breslin was already then — at 10 years of age — something of an industry maverick. Today aged 15, crowned with the honour of being the fourth youngest actress to receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actress by the Academy (though technically the youngest if based on her age, 7, during production) and a steady and even mix of indie gems like the recent Janie Jones and blockbuster successes such as Zombieland under her belt, the actress has solidified her spot on Hollywood’s A-list — notably, without feeding tabloid fodder.
Breslin’s latest film, the holiday box office giant New Year’s Eve, is proof enough of the celebrities she ranks amongst. Cast opposite Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays her overprotective mom in the film, and playing alongside a lengthy roster of stars including Hilary Swank, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro, the actress lacks nothing when it comes to keeping up with her veteran co-stars. In the role of Hailey — an independently-spirited, at times pigheaded (in that harmless teen angst sort of way) high school student that desperately wants to make it to Times Square in time for a midnight kiss, Breslin is young in comparison to the bulk of this A-list ensemble cast.
One would think it safe to assume that Breslin might have felt a touch more pressure on set than normal, but, as she shares, she felt quite the opposite. “The set was incredibly relaxed and fun. [Director] Gary Marshall makes everyone feel special.”
A poised interview subject and an exhilarated fashion model, Breslin is simultaneously a cultivated young lady who answers questions with meditated, no-frills honesty (asked if working primarily with adults has sped up her maturity she replies, “What maturity? Seriously, I don’t see myself as any more or any less than my friends.”), and a giddy teen who gets excited when she talks about the mall — “any kind of mall.” Hardly the eccentric and quirky Olive we met on screen in 2006. “I think of her now as my little sister,” says Breslin of her past character.
A glimpse at Breslin, hair elegantly pulled away from her face, in her stunning Marchesa party dress, at the opening of New Year’s Eve, affirms that our Little Miss Sunshine is a grown up — well, growing up — verified starlet.
FILLER caught up with its favourite bright young talent prior to the rush of promotion for her festive blockbuster. Here, Breslin talks about the trick to dodging typecasting, her potent tear ducts, and her love of all things music.
As an actress, certain roles you play in your career become almost synonymous with your own name and identity in the eyes of the viewing public. Do you feel like that has happened to some degree with your Little Miss Sunshine alter ego?
I am really lucky that I got to play Olive in Little Miss Sunshine. I am really happy that so many people have embraced that character and she will always be a special friend to me.
Since that film, each role you’ve chosen has been diverse and different from the last, is that a conscious choice to avoid being typecast?
I started acting when I was too young to know what typecast meant. I do try to not repeat a character because I am still learning the craft of acting and want to explore as many characters as I can.
The exploration has been pretty extensive already I’d say! Through your various parts — many being dramatic roles — you’ve mastered the ability to cry on demand. Has that skill made it easier for you to control your emotions even while the camera is off?
Absolutely not. In real life I am always surprised when I start crying and since it is over real issues I don’t think I would want to be able to control.
When on set, it must be draining to exert so much emotion.
It can be very draining to do a lot of heavy scenes. It is surprisingly physically demanding to have to cry on demand. I try to shake it off when I leave set.
Did you get a chance to flex your tear ducts while shooting New Year’s Eve?
A few of my tear ducts may have been involved [says laughing] …
How was it working opposite Sarah Jessica Parker? Was she the picture of style?
Sarah was great to work with. She is very easy going and friendly we bonded over American Idol, and of course she is beautiful.