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29 October 2014

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Atonement role for Norfolk girls

A group of young Norfolk actresses will be watching Keira Knightley and James McAvoy's latest blockbuster, Atonement, with interest as they try to catch a glimpse of themselves on the silver screen - but they won't all be able to go to the cinema.

The Norfolk actresses in Atonement.

The Norfolk actresses waiting to go on set

The Oscar-tipped blockbuster Atonement - starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy - has just hit the silver screen.

While the leading lady strutted the red carpet at the film's glitzy London premiere last week, a group of Norfolk actresses will be heading to cinemas closer to home to watch their appearances as extras.

However, some of the girls will have to wait until the film is released on DVD as they are too young to attend the movie, which has been given a 15 certificate.

Deadly roles

Young actresses from Norwich's Sandra Reynolds Commercial Model And Casting Agency and DramActive Academy had to play dead in some of the film's most traumatic scenes, set in French battlefields.

India Harl.

India Harl during her day on set

"We had to look quite French and quite innocent," said 12-year-old India Harl, who was one of those chosen.

The budding actresses had to send off photos of themselves to see if they met the producers' criteria.

The girls feature in a scene filmed at Walpole St Andrew, near King's Lynn, after producers scouted more than 20 locations to find the perfect spot for the WW2 massacre.

Film producers chose parts of the Norfolk and Lincolnshire countryside to record some scenes due to its similarities with the landscape of Dunkirk in northern France.

The girls were filmed for about 45 minutes, lying in a field, for the blockbuster based on University Of East Anglia graduate Ian McEwan's best-selling novel.

James McAvoy in Atonement.

James McAvoy in a battlefield scene

"There were lots of takes done as we had to stay really still," said Harriet Howard, who was one of the 20 members of DramActive to take part.

"Our make-up was really realistic. It took about three days to get the Vaseline out of my hair!"

Star treatment

The girls spent five hours getting their hair and make-up done in the chilly surroundings of an orchard last August.

"It was absolutely freezing. I was worried that you could see me shaking because I had to lay there for such a long time," said Harriet.

But shooting the scene had its plus points.

"James McAvoy was in our scene so we got to meet him. He is really nice," said India, who is one of those who won't be able to see the film until its reaches DVD.

However, her disappointment at not being able to see her starring moment at the cinema hasn't dented her ambition.

"The day was really good and we had a really nice time. I think I'd like to do acting as a career when I get older," said India.

Atonement

Atonement's leading lady Keira Knightley

DramActive principal Jane Ashdown said the film's star status had only started to dawn her and the girls in the last few weeks, despite members of the paparrazi hanging around keen to get a photo of Keira Knightley - who wasn't on the set.

"We didn't realise the impact of the film because it was very under-played," she said.

"But it's up for some incredible awards and the girls are so proud."

Despite the youngest actress being just 11, Jane said the production crew demanded high standards.

"They were so well behaved and it didn't take long to shoot because they were so professional.

"I'm so proud of them - every one of them," she added.

last updated: 19/09/07

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