When Ms. Zengel recently spoke about Zoom, she was a lot more giggle and talkative – that is, a lot more like a normal 12-year-old – than her recent roles suggest. She said that, like most children in Germany, she spent most of this year at home and was currently quarantined because classmates had tested positive for the corona virus.
Before she was cast in the film, she had never heard of Hanks. “I think I had seen ‘The Da Vinci Code’ before, but I didn’t know who it was,” she said. “I thought it was just an actor.”
In an email, Hanks praised Zengel’s ability to perform “with no build, no apprehension, and no confidence” and said he wished he had “the same ease, their simplicity.”
Zengel said she has never taken an acting class “because I’m not sure I can learn much more.”
“I’m in front of the camera, I know what I want and I’ll do it,” she said matter-of-factly.
This focus and willpower, explained her mother Anne Zengel, has been her daughter’s trademark since childhood. Her earliest attempts to act at age 4 were largely a result of parental frustration, she said, because her daughter was “three times as intense” as other children and would act when denied what she wanted.
“It had to work in society, so we had to figure out how to redirect its energy,” she said.