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Casting director Priscilla John had to rustle up a bilingual preteen girl with excellent martial-arts skills to play Laura, a.k.a. X-23. Simple, right?

Can’t a morose mutant warrior simply sail off into the sunset with his surrogate father? As Logan, the latest X-Men movie opens, all world-weary Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) wants to do is buy a boat so he and an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) can spend the rest of their days at sea. But boats don’t come cheap, so Logan reluctantly agrees to escort a young girl named Laura—a pissed-off tween with powers not unlike his—to North Dakota for $50,000. Thus begins the final Hugh Jackman–Patrick Stewart X-Men installment (both actors have said this is their last superhero movie)— and the impressive film debut of newcomer Dafne Keen, who plays Laura.

Keen’s wild-eyed, charismatic Laura is memorable not only for her slice-and-dice adamantium-claw action scenes—shredding burly cyborgs with ease—but also for her ability to convey the young heroine’s feral yet innocent nature. (The latter is highlighted by a unicorn T-shirt and pink-and-blue floral sunglasses.) And she does all this without uttering more than two dozen words throughout the entire film.

While Keen makes playing a rage-filled mute mutant look easy, casting the young actress to play her was not. Initially, director James Mangold tasked U.K. casting director Priscilla John, with whom he’d worked on The Wolverine, with finding a 12-year-old girl with martial-arts, tumbling, and acrobatic skills who spoke both English and Spanish. But after scouring England and Ireland and seeing more than 500 kids, John was coming up short. When she expanded her search to younger girls and those living in Spain, her associate, Francesca Bradley, remembered Keen, who lives in Madrid with her British actor father, Will Keen (The Crown, Wolf Hall), and her Spanish actress mother, Maria Fernandez Ache.

John asked Will, whom she knew, to put Keen, then a 10-year-old acrobat and gymnast who’d already appeared alongside her dad in the Spanish TV show The Refugees, on tape. John was knocked out by what she saw: the four-foot-two-inch girl clambered up and down a huge bookcase in the Keen’s Madrid sitting room while picking up and assessing objets d’art. Once back on the ground, she did a tumbling run across the floor. In another sequence, she wordlessly gobbled down crackers without looking at them. “She’s looking all around her . . . and [in her eyes] you could see she was devouring everything in that room,” John remembers. “She had an innocence and a vulnerability, and I said to James, ‘People are going to fall in love with her.’

Some notes from Mangold, and a second audition tape later—“My job was made much easier having Will look after her,” John says—and Keen and her parents were on a plane to the States so she could screen test with Jackman. Though some other American girls were also in the running, John, who previously discovered future X-Man Nicholas Hoult when casting About a Boy in the early aughts, was pretty confident Keen would snag the role: “I had a good idea that this child was extremely special, and I would have been surprised if she hadn’t gotten it,” she says. Still, since anything can happen in Hollywood, when the test was done, John told Keen to go back to school and get on with her life.

Of course, now that Logan has opened, Keen’s life will be drastically changed. Look for plenty more to come from this newly minted child star, whom John suggests is already signed to Fox (the studio releasing Logan) for future projects. Though the veteran casting director believes Keen’s parents will continue to focus on her education and keeping life as normal as possible, she has no doubt the now 12-year-old could be at the beginning of a long career along the lines of former child actresses Natalie Portman and Jodie Foster. “[Keen] has got such powerful presence,” John says. “She’s got extraordinary charisma. She’s either going to be heading a huge international company, or she’s going to be a big star when she grows up.” Whatever she ends up doing, it will likely involve a lot less glowering and a lot more talking. And if nothing else, she’ll have the best 2016 summer-vacation story about filming a superhero movie.

Then again, maybe Keen should keep her summers free. While promoting Logan, Mangold has said he’d love to see another film that centered on her character: “That’s certainly something I’d be involved in,” he told We’ve Got This Covered three weeks ago. A girl heroine taking over for Wolverine? That’s a story we can get behind.

Source: vanityfair.com

Step aside, Millie Bobby Brown — there’s a new badass child star in town.

Dafne Keen is causing a stir with her film debut as female Wolverine clone Laura Kinney (aka X-23) opposite Hugh Jackman in the latest Wolverine stand-alone spin-off Logan.

Just over four feet tall and incredibly dangerous, Laura comes under the guardianship of Jackman’s Logan while being hunted in the violent R-rated flick.

Here’s five things you should know about Keen before (and after) watching Logan this weekend:

1. It took an extensive casting call to find her

While casting the young actress to take on the role of Laura, Logan director James Mangold tasked U.K. casting director Priscilla John to find a 12-year-old girl with martial arts, tumbling and acrobatic skills.

After searching through England and Ireland and seeing more than 500 kids, John told Vanity Fair she was coming up short. When she broadened her search to include those living in Spain, one of her associates remembered Keen and asked Keen’s father, Will, to put the then 10-year-old acrobat and gymnast on tape.

She’s looking all around her . . . and [in her eyes] you could see she was devouring everything in that room,” John said of the casting tape. “She had an innocence and a vulnerability, and I said to James, ‘People are going to fall in love with her.’

Soon enough, Keen was sent to the States to screen test with Jackman—and the rest is history.

2. Acting is in her blood

Keen is the daughter of British actor Will Keen, whose credits include playing Michael Adeane on Netflix’s The Crown and Thomas Cranmer in Wolf Hall. He also appeared alongside Natalie Dormer in the BBC Drama The Scandalous Lady W.

Keen’s mother, Maria Fernández Ache, is a Spanish actress, writer and director. In 2015, she co-starred in the Brit gangster flick Anti-Social, which also featured Prince Harry’s girlfriend and Suits star Meghan Markle.

3. The bilingual actress was only 11-years-old while shooting

Growing up between the UK and Spain, Keen is fluent in both Spanish and English—a skill which helped her land the role of the pre-teen Latina mutant.

She’s a remarkable kid,” Mangold said in an interview with Digital Spy. “It was a huge risk for Fox to allow me to make a movie where the third point of the triangle was built upon someone so young.

4. She has only one other credit to her name

Keen’s impressive film debut comes with only one other credit to her name.

In 2014, Keen played Ana “Ani” Cruz Oliver alongside her father in the UK/Spain television series The Refugees, which ran for a single-eight episode season. The series centers on the story of the Cruz family after the arrival of a mysterious refugee with a mission that changes their lives.

5. A spin-off of Keen’s very own may be in the future

With the studio seemingly positioning Laura to take over Wolverine’s role and Mangold’s keen desire to work with Keen again, a spin-off centered on Laura looks like it could be a possibility down the road.

I think Dafne is incredible in the film and I would love to see another film about that character and that’s certainly something I’d be involved in,” Mangold told We’ve Got This Covered while promoting Logan. “For me that was one of the big additions I brought to the table, this decision to try to make the film about family and to try to insert Laura.

Source: people.com

   

With just a few weeks left until Logan hits the big screen, stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart got together with director James Mangold for a Facebook Live Q&A session. During this Q&A session, the filmmaker was asked about the new young star Dafne Keen, who plays the integral character X-23 in this story. While there is still much mystery about the future of the X-Men franchise, James Mangold thinks that we’ll see X-23 again in a future X-Men movie.

The 30-minute Q&A was streamed through the X-Men Movies UK Facebook, which featured Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and James Mangold picking questions that had been submitted by the fans. At one point, James Mangold was asked about whether or not we’ll see X-23 in a future X-Men movie, and the filmmaker has no doubt we’ll see her again. Here’s what he had to say in response to this fan’s question about an X-23 spin-off movie.

Expect is a big word. I think Dafne is a remarkable actress and I think she does an incredible job with this role. Personally, I would be shocked if we don’t look into trying to develop that character further.

The inclusion of Dafne Keen in the X-Men universe may be tricky though, since this movie is set farther in the future than any other X-Men movie. The story is set in the year 2029, which is five years past the prologue in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the farthest point in the future fans had previously seen in the X-Men universe. Still, a stand alone spin-off could be possible, following X-23’s adventures after the events of Logan, but it hasn’t been confirmed if that is in development or not. When asked about how he found Dafne Keen for this pivotal role, James Mangold had this to say.

When I started working on the script, Scott Frank and I got to a pass on the script around a year and a couple months ago, where I sat and I could see the whole thing beginning to end and I knew we had a movie. It was like a three-legged stool. It’s not a big movie, it featured three characters. Two legs of the stool, were these two gentlemen (Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart). I knew that already, so I had tremendous confidence. I knew each of them was up for it, I knew each of them would leap at it, I think both of them exceeded any expectations I had in the movie, in terms of the level of risk and boldness of their performances, but the mystery, the really terrifying thing getting into this film, was the question mark of the third leg of that stool. I remember explaining to casting directors that I needed to find a Spanish-speaking, Latin heritage young woman between 10 and 12 years old who was excellent at tumbling and martial arts and who could also act up a storm at a moment’s notice and shoulder a role that would be one of the three major roles in a tentpole film. As you can imagine, a lot of names didn’t come back in, meaning you say all that, there are very few people who pass through those filters. One day, I was sitting in my office and this tape came over of a young woman named Dafne Keen and I remember showing it to each of these gentlemen. We looked at this tape and, I’ll have to put it on the Blu-ray or something, but it’s Dafne climbing around the bookshelves of her house and jumping on the floor and tumbling, and then, delivering scenes from the movie, all shot with her dad’s iPhone. She was amazing in this tape. She comes from a family of actors, her mom is a Spanish actor and her dad is a British actor, and I think she has a great sense of what it is, but I also think she has a great sense of her very own. She was a remarkable find and I hope you’ll agree when you see the film.

When Logan hits theaters on March 3, going up against The Shack and Before I Fall, it will mark the last time Hugh Jackman plays Wolverine. There have been hints and rumors that he may some day return to team up with Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), but Hugh Jackman is still adamant about walking away from the role. Take a look at the full Q&A with Logan stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart and director James Mangold.

Source: movieweb.com

   

   

February 17th, 2017
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