By Kimberly Horg-Webb / photography by D.M. Troutman
Pacific Grove Middle School student Amara Miller is similar to most girls her age; she likes to hang out with friends, listen to music by Lady Gaga, swim, and read mysteries. However, this pre-teen has a hidden talent that recently landed her a role in the Golden Globe winner The Descendants.
Amara had no acting experience when she auditioned for the film. Originally under the impression that she was auditioning for a bit part, Amara later discovered that Director Alexander Payne was considering her for the role of Scottie King, the daughter of the main character (Matt King) played by George Clooney. “I thought it was for a background role so I was really excited when I found out I got the part of Scottie,” she says.
Most casting is completed a year before the movie is shot but director Alexander Payne had a hard time finding the right 10-year-old to play Scottie. He viewed hundreds of audition tapes but had difficulty finding the raw talent that he envisioned in the role. He went to a friend’s house for a barbeque where he spoke with the Miller’s family friend, Kerri Randles. The next day, Amara’s face popped in Randles’ head, so she called her friends. “This came so out of left field,” Amara’s mom, Ahnalisa Miller says.
Asked to read five scenes from the movie, Amara read through the lines only a handful of times before she was ready to audition. Her mom couldn’t believe she was ready but let her do her thing, which is exactly what the director was looking for; a child that was not coached. The Millers sent the recording of Amara and a week later she found out she got the part. Five days later, Amara and her mom were off to Hawaii where the movie was filmed.
The Millers stayed for three months until filming was complete. Amara worked nine-hour days and would sit down with a tutor during breaks. “It was a fun experience,” she says. “It was not like I thought it would be. I thought it only took about four people to make a movie.”
Rehearsing her lines the night before and in her trailer the next morning, she would then meet with Payne to go over the scene and film it.
Amara’s character is a girl who did not get attention from her family, unlike her real life, in which her parents give Amara and her two brothers, William, 6, and Kane, 13, the emotional love they need. “I have always encouraged my kids to approach adults with questions and I don’t talk for them when they are asked questions. I think that kind of exposure to adults has helped their self-esteem,” Mrs. Miller says.
Amara admits that even though she can’t relate to Scottie, she can be a bit of a smart aleck, and hopes to land a comedic role next. Eager to pursue her acting career, she also wants to save the money she makes for a college education. “It has opened an opportunity to a great acting career. I am very fortunate and grateful,” she says.
The child actress says she loved the experience. The director and other cast members were patient and supportive, and it was wonderful to work with Clooney. “There were no other kids, so I would bug everyone a lot but they would go along with jokes and games like wet willies and face slaps,” she says.
The Millers attended the Golden Globes in which the film won Best Motion Picture Drama. “It was such an amazing night,” Amara says. “It all is so cool!”
-Spring 2012 Issue-