At the age of nine, Liesel Pritzker was spotted by a talent scout while acting in the play To Kill A Mockingbird.
She didn’t need to be spotted to find fame and fortune. She already had it. She was one of the youngest members of one of America’s 10 wealthiest families, who had made part of their fortune through Hyatt hotels.
Her father, Robert Pritzker, had met her mother, Irene Dryburgh, while she was working at a Hyatt hotel in Australia.
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But the talent scout saw something special in Liesel, and thought she could be the right girl to star as Sara Crewe in A Little Princess. Ten thousand girls were considered for the role before Liesel was chosen.
"When I first saw her... I realised she had a strange and wonderful energy I could rely on," the movie’s director, Alfonso Cuaron, told the Toronto Star.
Liesel, whose parents had by then divorced and were involved in a bitter court battle, flew from Chicago to Los Angeles to film A Little Princess.
She took on the stage name Liesel Matthews, because her father didn’t want her to use her new stepfather’s name.
"This was really new for me, and I was sort of bewildered and excited that I was able to be in a film," she told The Chicago Tribune in 1995, when the movie was released.
"She carries the film effortlessly," wrote Todd McCarthy in Variety.
Liesel took on one more big movie role: on-screen daughter to Harrison Ford’s president in Air Force One. Ford compared her to Jodie Foster.
"Liesel is just so real, it’s like a breath of fresh air," he said.
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