Q'Orianka Kilcher Talks About Playing Pocahontas in "The New World"

Q'Orianka Kilcher stars as Pocahontas in
Q'Orianka Kilcher stars as Pocahontas in "The New World". © New Line Cinema

Newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher still pinches herself to make sure it’s all not just a dream. After a worldwide search that lasted eight months, Malick chose the beautiful 14-year-old Kilcher to take on the pivotal part of Pocahontas in "The New World." Kilcher had thought the odds were stacked against her because she was younger than the other actresses who auditioned for the role. But Malick wanted someone young and Kilcher got the nod, which meant her first big feature film role would be opposite handsome hunks, Colin Farrell and Christian Bale.

Q’Orianka Kilcher Admits She Knew Just the Fundamentals of the Story Before Getting Cast as Pocahontas: “Like everyone, I just knew the cartoon. But when I went to Virginia for pre-production things right before filming, they had a very great research team. They had been doing research for like a year prior to that and looking through every book possible. They gave me a whole bunch of books to do research in. I was reading all those books, reading Terry’s script so I was making sure I was still thinking of the way that Terrence Malick wanted to tell the story of John Smith and Pocahontas. I’m still doing research on Pocahontas today.”

Q’Orianka Kilcher on the Toughest Aspect of Preparing to Play Pocahontas: “I would say learning a perfect British accent. And then I learned the entire script in a perfect British accent. Then, strip that away for the first 60 pages and learn Algonquin, and I actually made myself learn Algonquin because that’s her native language so I really would know what I was saying.

And then strip half of the Algonquin away and then do different stages of Algonquin mixed with English. So that was definitely very challenging. Then in some of Pocahontas’ lowest points in her life where she goes a little crazy…Unfortunately you’re not allowed to see too much of those times because, the length of the film that’s 2 hours and 15 minutes, I think.

But that was very emotionally challenging. I thank my mom for being there afterwards, because when I would go home sometimes, I was just so wound up.”

Q’Orianka Kilcher Reveals Her Preparation Process: Her father is Peruvian but she didn’t speak to him or her family in Peru before starting work on “The New World” simply because they don’t have phones. “You know, I would just go camping, sleep under the stars...listen to powwow music, if I listened to music. Then going on the sets that… I applaud Jack Fisk that designed the sets because he really made it so realistic and very authentic. And just being on the sets really threw you back into the 1600s as well as wearing the clothes, the wonderful clothes that Jackie West designed, because she handmade all the clothes the traditional way right down to the copper beads. Being on set with everybody that was so passionate about the work and really putting their whole heart and soul into it, it really, really helped you to just be lost.”

Q’Orianka Kilcher on Her Onscreen Lover – Colin Farrell: “You know, I didn’t know who he was before. When I got on set of course everybody was like, ‘Oh my god, you’re working with Colin Farrell and Christian Bale!’ He was really wonderful, a very giving actor and he was like my older brother in a way.

He took me under his wing and he taught me so much in acting and very supportive. And Christian Bale and Wes Studi and Augi Schellenberg, they were all so good at what they did and it was such an honor for me. I felt so lucky just to be on set being able to watch all these actors work.”

Asked about Farrell’s recent decision to check himself into rehab instead of doing the promotional tour for “The New World,” Kilcher said, “You know, I was kind of sad to find out about that, but I was very happy for him because that’s the first step in the right direction. The fact that he’s taking it is very good. And my entire family’s hearts are with him and we just wish him the best of luck. And he’ll make it through it though—he’s very strong.” Kilcher said Farrell was very professional on the set and she had no idea he had any problems.

“No, no, he was very dedicated. Very serious about his work so we had no idea.”

Kilcher enjoyed working opposite Colin Farrell because he surprised her by going with his instincts. “He follows his impulses. He’s such a free spirit. He finds beauty in the simplest, cutest things, like the trees and the river and stuff, and it’s so gorgeous to see. And, I don’t know, just his free spirit and the way he was willing to take risks in his acting and just everything.”

Kilcher may not have been overly aware of who Colin Farrell and Christian Bale were prior to filming “The New World” but her friends were. Kilcher recalls they said to her, “You lucky little chicken. You get to kiss Colin Farrell and Christian Bale!’” Laughing, Kilcher added, “I don’t think I did too bad with having them as my first two kisses.”

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Q’Orianka Kilcher on the Affect “The New World” Had on Her Attitude: Did the movie make her think differently about her native roots? Kilcher said it definitely had a positive affect. “It made me love it even more. It made me even prouder of who I am and of my roots. I just want to learn even more about my culture and about the Algonquin culture, because I fell in love with Pocahontas and the Algonquin Tribe.”

Q’Orianka Kilcher on Terrence Malick’s Editing Choices: After seeing the film, did she feel there were big pieces of her performance missing from the theatrical release cut? “Yeah, but all the actors, we just went on set, we gave the best of our ability and after that it’s up to the way the director cuts it and does the editing. And there’s also a time limit of how long the film can be so, unfortunately, lots of the scenes were cut out. But I’m very excited that there’s going to be an extended version on the DVD.”

What can we expect of the extended version? Kilcher said, “Lots of stuff that I was kind of very bummed not to see in the movie. Like some of Pocahontas’ lowest points in life that were taken out. ...You know the part where John Smith [Farrell] is chopping wood in the back and this is after Pocahontas is kidnapped and she’s brought back to the James Fort? She comes to Smith and he’s chopping the wood.

Pocahontas actually, that day, I had a knife and I was going to stab him and that really showed that she was going to kill her heart. Because in the beginning, Powhatan tells his daughter, ‘You need to put your people before your own heart,’ and he’s referring to Smith. And so that really showed Pocahontas was about to kill her own heart.

And then she gets really confused and then you see her gradually start to fix herself until Smith leaves. It was also missing some of the more, happier times. More of the Indian village. Like we were once dancing around this huge bonfire—everyone. It was so gorgeous. They told me that a lot of the scenes that I was missing were going to be on the DVD so I’m excited. It’s going to be somewhere.”

Q’Orianka Kilcher on Scenes She Was Happy to See Survive the Editing Process: “I was excited to see that they kept most of the scene with John Smith when he comes to London and Pocahontas is there, and her torment in seeing him again and her final realization of loving John Rolfe [played by Christian Bale]. I was really glad because they didn’t really cut too much out of those scenes and I was really glad to see that.”

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Murray, Rebecca. "Q'Orianka Kilcher Talks About Playing Pocahontas in "The New World"." ThoughtCo, Feb. 17, 2016, thoughtco.com/qorianka-kilcher-talks-playing-pocahontas-2431308. Murray, Rebecca. (2016, February 17). Q'Orianka Kilcher Talks About Playing Pocahontas in "The New World". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/qorianka-kilcher-talks-playing-pocahontas-2431308 Murray, Rebecca. "Q'Orianka Kilcher Talks About Playing Pocahontas in "The New World"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/qorianka-kilcher-talks-playing-pocahontas-2431308 (accessed October 17, 2017).