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Meets TIFF’s Rising Star: Montreal’s Sophie Nelisse

If you watched the Academy Award nominated film Monsieur Lazhar, you likely already know who Sophie Nelisse is. This Canadian teen spent her early childhood training in gymnastics with her sights set on the 2016 Olympics, signing to a talent agency to help pay for her training, but after landing a few major parts, her focus naturally shifted to acting. She’s won a Genie Award and a Jutra Award for her performance in Monsieur Lazhar, as well as a Young Artist Award nomination as Best Leading Young Actress in an International Film. She’s starred in the 2015 film The Great Gilly Hopkins, and in 2016 walked the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival to present the film Mean Dreams.

Catch Sophie in Mean Dreams, playing at TIFF Tuesday, September 13 and Wednesday, September 14th.




What is TIFF Rising Stars?

TIFF picks four Canadian actors every year who maybe aren’t as well-known as they should be, and we don’t necessarily sell ourselves, but we get to meet a lot of really great people. We got to go to Toronto and meet our little team and met some people we looked up to.

Has being Canadian inspired or influenced the films you’ve chosen to be involved in?

I think it has. When I read a script I don’t look at where it’s from first. I read the story, I look to see who the director is. So it doesn’t have a direct impact on what I choose. But when I see there are Canadians involved or that it’s going to be shot in Canada, it’s a little more fun and enthusiastic because it’s my home.

Could you give us a snapshot of the Canadian film community?

I love shooting in Montreal and in Canada. Canada’s film community is small and personal. Every time I shoot in Quebec it’s a lot more comfortable and intimate. I love working in Canada because people know what they’re doing and are really well-organized. There is always a plan-b if things don’t work out. American sets are bigger and there are a bigger budget and bigger stakes. If something goes wrong it can take awhile to get things sorted…it sort of just feels like a big family.


If you had a few days off to spend in Montreal, what’s the first thing you would do?

I’d go to this amazing Spa called Bota Bota in Old Montreal. It’s right in the harbour and you can see the boats coming in and feel the water from the other boats coming in.

If a friend came to Montreal, how would you show them a good time?

To see, I’d bring them to Belvedere Mount Royal, which is on top of Mont Royal. It’s a really beautiful view and you can go up there by car and just see everything. During the winter there’s this place in the woods and everything is ice. You can skate around trees and whatnot. You can skate for an hour without reaching the end. To eat, I’d get someone a poutine. Montreal makes the best poutine. You can’t get anything like it anywhere else. Even Toronto doesn’t do a poutine quite like Montreal. I’d take them to Saint Laurent for that. Then a dessert place called Chez-Katou. You can have lunch there, and you can have crepes and whatnot. It’s really good.

What makes a movie Canadian?

First of all, we have some beautiful landscapes here. In Canadian movies, there are usually some amazing shots because of that. In addition to that, Canadian movies don’t have as many stereotypes or happy endings. The films are not necessarily more dramatic, but they tend to be more authentic and about the people. We have a lot of diversity in our films and on our film sets as well. Not to mention the fact that we have winter and can have winter shots. All of that goes into making a movie Canadian.

Canadian movies are different than a lot of other movies because there aren’t as many stereotypes or happy endings.

Can you name a Canadian actor/actress that inspired you?

There are so many. There is so much talent in Canada. But I’d have to say Xavier Dolan. He’s so young and he took all of the money he had to make his first film and it went so far. He’s made these really amazing movies. They don’t always have this clear storyline, but they just have these amazing shots and all of his actors are so on-point in his movies. My sister has worked with him, and I’ve met him and he’s so, so, nice and present and devoted to his actors.


Sophie on the carpet at TIFF 2016. Photo: The Canadian Press / Michelle Siu

What’s your favourite place in Canada that you’ve travelled to?

This summer I went to New Brunswick with a friend for a wedding and I really loved it there. Everyone was so nice over there, and so kind to each other. Driving up and down the mountains with and seeing the ocean. It was just really beautiful. We went to this amazing waterfall with a swimming hole underneath the falls.

If you could spend a week anywhere in Canada, where would you go and what would you do?

I think I’d go to Banff. My friend recently went to Banff and Lake Louise and she got to do all this great stuff. She did this three-day hike where she saw all of these alpine lakes. I’d definitely go there and ski or snowboard with some friends and ski and see those alpine lakes. It looks beautiful.

Like this post? Check out Why Midnight Madness Is The Very Best Part Of TIFF and 10 Canadian Creatives From 10 Canadian Cities, too.

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