Anna Paquin Talks About Filming The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler

April 1, 2009 by  

annaasirenaAnna Paquin took time out of her busy schedule while filming The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler to be interviewed and talk about her experience on the set and getting the role of Irena Sendler.

QUESTION:  When the script first came to you, what made you want to play this part, and help tell this story?

ANNA PAQUIN:  “I hadn’t heard of Irena Sendler before I got the script, and as I read it I thought, She sounds so incredible she can’t actually be real.  But of course, she is real.  The fact that she saved thousands of lives during the war, got nominated for a Nobel Prize, and lived to be 98 – it seems almost unreal that one person could’ve done so much in one lifetime.”

“After the initial “Wow!” I thought, “lease, please let me get this part! I also thought, ‘You don’t hear a lot of women’s stories from World War II.  The story of this remarkable woman and the dozens of women in her underground network is one that needs to be told.  They are role models for us all – tough, brave, strong. The more I read about Irena Sendler, the more research I did, the more fascinated I became.”

Q:  What did your research tell you about Irena’s character?

“She was extraordinarily strong.  And she was extraordinarily modest.  She had no sense of being in any way special or heroic.  She was angry about what was happening to the Jews she knew personally, and the thousands more she didn’t know.  She said the only way she could live through that terrible time was to do something.  She felt she had no choice.”

“When she was asked years later, “Weren’t you scared?” she answered, “Yes – but my anger was stronger. It speaks to her sense of mission and her sense of humility that for the rest of her life, looking back on those war years, she felt she hadn’t done enough.”

Q:  It’s winter here in Riga [Latvia] – what’s it been like filming, especially the exteriors?

“It’s been freezing cold, with snow blizzards, but I love being part of something that feels so real.  I’ve seen photographs of Warsaw and the Warsaw Ghetto in the 1940s, and this looks very real.  Sometimes it’s a little depressing, recreating that sad history here – but the fact that we’re doing something important counterbalances that. When we shot the scene where I’m smuggling my best friend’s daughter out of the ghetto, Nazi soldiers with their dogs are chasing people and grabbing them and throwing them into trucks. Yes, you’re “just” making a film, but it’s still frightening.”

Q:  You’re working with a lot of children in this film.  What’s that been like?

“We are so lucky, we have so many naturally talented young people in this cast.  Some have acting experience, like Rebecca Windheim, from Montreal.  She’s only 10, but she’s incredible.  When I’m doing scenes with her it feels completely real. The casting people have done an amazing job finding all these young people, many of whom have never acted before, and our director, John Kent Harrison, has done a great job coaching them and capturing heartbreaking images of them on film.”

Q:  What do you hope viewers will take away from this film?

“From my research into Irena, I can tell you that she didn’t take no for an answer.  If someone said, “That’s not possible,“ she’d say, “Okay, but if it were possible, what would I need to do?”

“If you really believe in something, you’ll figure out how to overcome the obstacles.  I think that’s a powerful attitude to have toward life.”

On Sunday, April 19, 2009 the Hallmark Hall of Fame pays tribute to Irena Sendler’s quiet courage, compassion and heroism. Don’t miss the world premiere of this inspirational motion picture only on CBS.

SOURCE:  Hallmark Hal of Fame)

(Photo credit: Hallmark Hall of Fame)