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HOLIDAY SNEAKS | STAR TURN

Crossing over to the actor's life

November 06, 2005|Susan King

FLORA CROSS is quite cosmopolitan for a 12-year-old. Born in Paris, she's lived in New York, Panama and, currently, Argentina. She also speaks fluent French and Spanish.

A shy sixth-grader who is home-schooled in Buenos Aires, where she lives with her father, a journalist who writes about boxing, Cross makes her acting debut as the spelling-whiz daughter of Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche in the drama "Bee Season," which opens Friday.

"I had done nothing before 'Bee Season,' " said Cross. But she says her father knew she would land the role of Eliza, the quiet 11-year-old who competes in the National Spelling Bee championship.

"My father said, 'If you like a script you are going to get it.' And I loved the script. I liked all the characters."

On set, Cross also bonded with Max Minghella, the 20-year-old son of Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, who plays Eliza's rebellious brother, and Gere -- "He made me comfortable."

She also felt a real kinship with Eliza, though she doesn't share her character's spelling prowess. "She is very sensitive, and in that way I am too. She doesn't have a lot of friends in school, and I didn't have a lot of friends. I used to go to different schools all the time. It was kind of complicated, but I am in Argentina now for nearly three years and I do [have friends]."

Cross caught the acting bug by watching her older brothers' films. (Harley Cross and Eli Marienthal are both actors.) "I just wanted to do the same thing," she said.

Though she hasn't worked since "Bee Season," Cross quickly adds: "I am going on auditions. I want to do this full time because it's really fun!"

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