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Sundance 2013: Discoveries include actress Kaya Scodelario

January 20, 2013|By John Horn

PARK CITY, Utah -- The Sundance Film Festival is rightly famous for launching the careers of eminent filmmakers — directors Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Steven Soderbergh and Bryan Singer, to name just a few, all were discovered in Park City. Yet the Utah festival also can help establish heretofore unknown actors; a lineup of discoveries from past gatherings includes Brad Pitt (“Johnny Suede”), Carey Mulligan (“An Education”) and Ryan Gosling (“The Believer”).

Could Britain's Kaya Scodelario be one of this year’s breakouts?

The 20-year-old actor stars in “Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes,” a tale of a suburban American high school girl who develops an unusual relationship with a single mother (Jessica Biel) who moves in next door.

SUNDANCE: Full coverage

Scodelario plays Emanuel, who is haunted by strange dreams involving water and the fact that her mother died giving birth. An only child, she lives with her father (Alfred Molina) and a struggling stepmother (Frances O'Connor). When Linda (Biel) arrives in town, Emanuel is entranced by her new neighbor’s exotic looks, which remind her of her late mother, and Linda’s curious relationship to her newborn daughter, Chloe. Emanuel soon volunteers to babysit, drawing her into an unusual bond with Linda.

Writer-director Francesca Gregorini originally intended that the part would be played by Rooney Mara (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”), who starred in the filmmaker’s “Tanner Hall” four years ago. But it took so long to finance “Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes” that by the time cameras were ready to roll, the 27-year-old Mara was too old to play a teenager. So Gregorini cast Scodelario, a model who had a recurring role on the British television series “Skins” and acted in 2009’s “Moon” and 2011’s “Wuthering Heights.”

The film has attracted mixed early reviews, but some critics have singled out Scodelario’s lead performance for praise.

“Being here is obviously been the top so far,” said Scodelario, who grew up outside of London and is not professionally trained. “It has been a wonderful experience but absolutely terrifying. It’s going to take me a long time not to be terrified of this whole thing. Where I’ve grown up and where I come from, this doesn’t really happen to people like me.”

Scodelario has yet to decide what her next movie will be or whether she will move to the United States, but for right now anything and everything seems possible.

When Scodelario on Saturday walked down Park City’s Main Street with some of her “Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes” cast members, the paparazzi mobbed Biel, completely ignoring Scodelario. In a couple of years, she was told, she might be the object of the photographers’ attention. “That,” she said, “would be interesting.”

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