Child actress impresses without even speaking

In War For The Planet Of The Apes, Amiah Miller plays Nova (above), a girl who suffers from a virus that robs humans of their power of speech.
In War For The Planet Of The Apes, Amiah Miller plays Nova (above), a girl who suffers from a virus that robs humans of their power of speech.PHOTO: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

While War For The Planet Of The Apes feels like a war movie spliced with a biblical epic, it also contains elements of fairy tale.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the character of Nova, a young girl who is taken under the wing of the travelling apes.

From Goldilocks to Little Red Riding Hood, there is a tradition of stories about small girls in the woods who interact with dangerous animals, notes Mark Bomback, who co-wrote the screenplays for War and also 2014's Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

He says: "That's part of the inspiration for Nova. And the name Nova, of course, is a bit of an Easter egg from the original 1968 film."

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Fans of that first Planet Of The Apes film might well recall the character of Nova, played by Linda Harrison. She also featured in the 1970 sequel, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes.

In the latest film, the 12-year-old newcomer Amiah Miller features throughout the movie and yet does not say a single word as her character is suffering from a virus that robs humans of their power of speech.

 

"For seven months, I had to act with only facial expressions," says Amiah, who had a supporting role in last year's Lights Out and will be seen as the lead character in the forthcoming indie film House By The Lake.

"I've always been super expressive, so while it was challenging at first, I really got used to it. And now, I can do so many different expressions."

Her performance impressed the adults she worked with.

Actor Steve Zahn, who plays Bad Ape, says: "Amiah was brilliant. It is a very difficult job to be a part of everything in that movie and to not speak."

War's director Matt Reeves says: "Amiah is such an intuitive young actor. When she came in to audition, we threw away the script and I just asked her to relate to the apes.

"It was clear right then that she was special and had a talent way beyond her years. She has a bright future ahead of her and I can't wait to see what she does."

In her downtime, she practises muay thai and jiu-jitsu at her father's mixed martial arts gym in Los Angeles. So this probably means she is a big-screen action heroine in the making.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline 'Child actress impresses without even speaking'. Print Edition | Subscribe