Derry-born actor to portray kidnapped Kampusch in biopic

The Irish Times – Tuesday, April 17, 2012


IRISH ACTOR Antonia Campbell-Hughes is to portray Austrian kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch in a biopic for release next year.

Campbell-Hughes, who recently appeared in Albert Nobbs, begins filming 3096 next month in Munich alongside Danish actor Thure Lindhardt (Illuminati).

The 29-year-old, born in Derry but raised in Switzerland and the US, is best known for her role in the Jack Dee sitcom Lead Balloon and Jane Campion’s Keats biopic Bright Star. She won the Shooting Star award for up-and-coming talent at this year’s Berlin film festival. She is involved in pre-production work in Germany and was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Director Sherry Hormann said she was anxious to take an “out-of-the-box” approach to filming the eight-year Kampusch kidnap ordeal after “encountering much prejudice, fear and worries about the material in the German-speaking world”.

Casting non-German-speaking actors created a “liberating energy”, she said, and allowed the creative team to “think beyond language barriers”.

“Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Thure Lindhardt bring an outsider’s point of view and are perfectly suited to capture the overwhelming essence of the story,” said Hormann. “It’s a universal story and the insanity of the act lies within the act itself, no matter where it takes place.”

The young Kampusch will be played by 10-year-old Londoner Amelia Pidgeon.

The title of the film, which is based on Kampusch’s memoir, refers to the number of days the Austrian woman spent in captivity after she was abducted on her way to school aged 10 in 1998.

Her abductor, Wolfgang Priklopil, kept her hidden in a secret cellar beneath his home for most of the eight years of her captivity. She escaped in August 2008 and now works as an occasional television host in Austria.

The project was initiated by Bernd Eichinger, producer of Hitler biopic Downfall. He died last year after completing a draft script, a final version of which has been finished by screenwriter Ruth Thoma.

The project comes amid renewed investigation into the Kampusch case, particularly the question as to whether Priklopil acted alone or had an accomplice.

Doubts have been raised about whether the 44-year-old telecom technician could have created the custom-built cellar alone, extending what was once the house’s bomb shelter.

Hours after Kampusch escaped, Priklopil apparently committed suicide. His body was found decapitated after he lay down before an oncoming train in Vienna.

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