4 Feb 2018

Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie: the newest Kiwi star

From Standing Room Only, 12:15 pm on 4 February 2018

The young New Zealander making waves overseas with her latest film didn’t want to act at first, she says.

Thomasin Mckenzie Harcourt and Ben Foster

Thomasin Mckenzie Harcourt and Ben Foster Photo: Supplied

 Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, of the Harcourt acting dynasty, gave what Vanity Fair called a “breathtakingly natural” and “star-making” performance in Leave No Trace.

The film, directed by Debra Granik, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last week.

The father-daughter drama centres on Tom, a teenage girl whose war veteran father Will (Ben Foster) is so affected by post-traumatic stress that the only way he can cope is to live isolated from the rest of the world.

Living in the Oregon wilderness, Will teaches Tom self-sufficiency and survival skills as they forge a life together.

“It really is a love story between a dad and a daughter,” McKenzie says.

She was nervous about being able to make that relationship work on screen.

“The first day of filming we [she and Foster] did a hongi together, touched noses and exchanged breath, and that helped with the intimacy … helping us feel comfortable around each other.”

Granddaughter of Kate and Peter Harcourt and daughter of Miranda Harcourt, the 17-year-old might seem to have acting in her genes.

But in the beginning she didn’t want to act.

“I was really dead set against it -  and then I did a film called Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story, which was really intense.

The film, about Ms Nicholas's personal history as a survivor of rape “made me realise that through acting you can tell a proper story and teach people things.”