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Kiwi Caren Pistorius’ Hollywood coup

The Kiwi actress opens up about her Hollywood success
Caren Pistorius, Rachel Weisz

Caren Pistorius can still recall the exact moment she found out she had a role in upcoming Hollywood period drama The Light Between Oceans. “I was in a hut in Guatemala with my boyfriend,” smiles the South African-born, New Zealand-raised Offspring actress.

“There was definitely a squeal and we went out for a meal to celebrate.

“We’d been travelling for five months, road-tripping America before heading to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico and Cuba. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on and we were having a blast. We were thinking it was nearly time to come home and then I heard I had the part!”

The movie is a reunion for Caren, 31, and Irish-German star Michael Fassbender, 39, who also worked together in 2015 western Slow West, which was shot in the South Island, as well as the Scottish Highlands.

Photo: joshwinger.com

The Light Between Oceans – a romantic tear-jerker set in windswept, isolated Australia in the early 1900s – was partly filmed in Marlborough Sounds and Otago.

“It was great getting to work with Michael again and in such a different capacity,” enthuses Caren, who also starred in local TV drama The Blue Rose. “He’s fantastic. He’s such a talented actor, incredibly giving, with a great sense of humour. He always keeps the set atmosphere light and the energy jovial.”

Much has been made of the fact that Michael and his Oscar-winning co-star, Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, 28, fell in love during the making of the movie. But Caren insists the real-life couple were “so professional in every way” – so much so that she didn’t have a clue they were falling head over heels!

“I didn’t twig at all,” she laughs. “Also, because I was on and off set, I didn’t see them much in a non-working capacity. I flew in from Guatemala to do wardrobe, back to Auckland and then to the South Island to shoot. I was so jet-lagged.”

Caren has come a long way since her family moved from the small city of Rustenburg, South Africa, when she was 12. She also happens to bear the same surname as another well-known South African – infamous Paralympic champion and convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius.

“I get asked a lot if I’m related to him,” admits Caren. “It doesn’t annoy me – I think it’s understandable that people are curious, but in South Africa, it’s a really common name. And no, we’re not related!”

Like many expats, Caren and her family relocated from South Africa because of the increasingly violent tensions in the country.

“It was a great move,” asserts the actress. “I’ve got really good memories from my childhood, but the year we left, a few things happened and my parents said, ‘We’ve got to get out now.’ Apparently it has got a lot worse over the years.”

Once in Auckland, the shy teen took up drama classes at school and was soon bitten by the performing bug. Caren’s first big acting gig was in the acclaimed 2013 Australian TV series Paper Giants: Magazine Wars, where she played a fiercely ambitious young Woman’s Day reporter!

“It was kind of a whirlwind,” recalls Caren of the docu-drama about iconic Aussie Woman’s Day editor Nene King. “Just learning a lot and absorbing. There was a great cast and crew, and it was so much fun – and just ridiculous at times, wearing all those ’80s costumes.”

A vintage wardrobe was also one of the reasons Caren was delighted to bag the role of Lucy Grace, the daughter of a grieving widow played by Rachel Weisz in the The Light Between Oceans.

“The rest of the story is set further back in time, but we meet my character, the grown-up Lucy Grace, in the 1950s, so I got to try on lots of cool clothes. I love doing period pieces,” she says. “It gives you something extra to play with, another layer to the character.”

Caren didn’t see that coming! “It couple” Alicia and Michael in The Light Between Oceans.

Unlike her co-star and fellow Kiwi Emily Barclay – who had to spend time in make-up every day getting her tattoos covered over – brunette Caren only had one cosmetic change. “I went blonde for the movie. I was like, ‘I’m not sure if my clothes work any more.’ It was so weird!”

When she’s not acting, Auckland-based Caren keeps herself busy by working one day a week at a fabric store, as well as making vintage teddy bears and hiking. “When I first started out,

it was very much highs and lows – my happiness would depend on my work,” she tells.

“But as I’ve progressed, I’ve learned to fill my life so that I’m not wholly defined by my work. I’m lucky to have figured that out and it means I have so much more to draw from.”

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Creating mohair bears is a relatively new passion and burgeoning business that comes from a “lifetime obsession” with the soft toys. “I love teddy bears – I always have,” she explains. “I had one way past the age it was acceptable. And my mum still has the teddy bear that was given to her when she was one years old. I’m actually in the process of restoring it for her. I also draw and paint. I need to make stuff when I’m not acting, otherwise I go a bit bonkers!”

In addition to The Light Between Oceans, in New Zealand cinemas now, Caren recently featured in British-American drama Denial, attending the premiere in Toronto in September. She’s

also just finished shooting post-apocalyptic thriller Cargo, due for release next year, and has just auditioned for a top-secret project in LA.

“It’s with one of my favourite directors, which I can’t really talk about at the moment,” she says, “but it’s really exciting … so watch this space!”

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