Sophia Lillis is an American actress, best known for her portrayal of Beverly Marsh in the 2017 supernatural horror film ‘It’; the film was an adaptation of Stephen King's 1986 novel of the same name. Starting with a role in her step-father’s short film at the age of seven, she went on to work in the NYU student film ‘The Lipstick Stain’ in 2013. In 2014, she had a short role in Julie Taymor's live theatrical adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic comedy, ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream’, which was also released as a film. Her other theatrical credits include ‘The Music Man’ and ‘Kids on Strike’. In 2016, she appeared in the feature length drama film ‘37’ and the short mystery film ‘The Garden’. She is all set to appear alongside Amy Adams in HBO’s TV adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s ‘Sharp Objects’, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, which is scheduled to air later in 2017.
The Meteoric Rise to Stardom
Sophia Lillis started her acting career at the age of seven, when her step-father selected her for a role in his film class project, ‘Virgil’s Day Off’, a short film based on Dante’s ‘Inferno’, which is still available online. Her step-father later encouraged her to take acting classes at Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Manhattan. While studying there, a teacher recommended her for a role in a NYU student film. She then signed a deal with an agent and started auditioning for roles. Landing her breakthrough role in the horror film ‘It’ was not an easy task for her, as she had previously auditioned for the role once more without success, at a time when the film was to be directed by Cary Fukunaga. However, after Andrés Muschietti took over as director, she auditioned again and got a callback, even though the producers were hesitant about her short stature and tomboyish look with short hairs. She auditioned again in Toronto with long wig and feminine dress, but Muschietti eventually kept her previous look during the filming.
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Experience on the Sets of 'It'
Sophia Lillis is often asked about her experience of being the only girl in ‘Losers’ Club’ in the film ‘It’, which, according to her was not weird at all, as with her short hair, she became the androgynous kid in the group. The rest of the cast members were not allowed to see Bill Skarsgård, who plays Pennywise the Clown in the movie, to keep the suspense. But the young actors bonded well on the set. Two weeks before the shooting, they were brought together in a room by an acting coach to go through various acting exercises, as well as trust exercises, for hours. They had to stare into each other’s eyes for two minutes and perform trust falls. They also hang out together all the time and had sleepovers at costar Wyatt’s house.
During the filming of the movie ‘It’, she developed a new hobby. As the cast was not allowed to use phones to simulate the 1980s environment, she borrowed her step-father’s Leica monochrome camera, which she used to take black-and-white pictures of the cast on the set. Many of those photos she later posted on her Instagram account. Thanks to her step-father, she also watched a lot of old movies, which made her well-aware of the 1980s culture.
While acting in a remake of the much loved Stephen King horror novel put tremendous pressure on many of her co-stars, she didn’t feel burdened by that pressure as she was not a big fan of the horror genre, and did not know about the huge fan base. Also, perhaps as a defense mechanism, she has the tendency to laugh at horror scenes, which helped her portray the fearless tomboy Beverly Marsh.
On Portrayal of 'Dark' Characters
Starting with one of her first roles in a NYU student film, in which she played a young girl abandoned by her mother and forced to live with her father’s funeral house, she has played a number of characters who had bad childhood experiences. Asked about her portrayal of a implied sexually abused teenager in ‘It’ and her upcoming role in ‘Sharp Objects’ in which she has a abusive mother, she said that she doesn’t mind being cast in dark roles.
Behind The Curtains
Sophia Lillis was born on February 12, 2002 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Her parents are separated, and her mother Juliana later remarried Christopher Mellevold, a photographer and indie filmmaker. She has a step-brother named Philip. She taught herself to play the piano, took ballet lessons for three years, learnt fencing and roller-skating, and is an intermediate/advanced level swimmer. She is currently in her sophomore year in school. She often misses classes because of her filming schedules, but is determined to focus on her studies.