“Mia and the White Lion” portrays the tender relationship between Mia (Daniah De Villiers) who follows her family from London to Africa where she forms a bond with a beautiful white lion, Charlie.
However she decides to run away with Charlie when she finds that Charlie could be in harm. They set out the journey across South African savanna in search of another land where Charlie can live out his life in freedom. Actress Villiers recently talked about how she worked with the lion.
How was this project unique?
Villiers: It’s a story of love that’s never been told before. And nobody had ever worked with lions the way we did.
Kevin Richardson, the lion expert, played a key role in this project.
Yes. He set up his own wildlife sanctuary. He’s incredible. He has a special relationship with these lions.
How did it feel to move to Johannesburg?
I felt like I was jumping into the unknown, forcing my whole family to move to Johannesburg just for this project! But we all saw the potential in this unusual movie.
Why were you chosen to play Mia?
We all went to see the lions and cubs, and Kevin was there observing us. It was the first time I had ever touched a lion, and Kevin must have seen something happen.
What was it like to work with Melanie Laurent and Langley Kirkwood?
Langley plays my dad, and he taught me to keep my head on my shoulders. And Melanie is amazing, she’s a fantastic actor and such a good person. Just watching her, I learned so much about how she gets under her character’s skin. Both of them taught me a lot.
Was filming a movie with a lion difficult?
When he was a baby, there were so many people around him that he’d get really distracted. And then as he grew older, everybody moved into cages, which made it easier! Thor is really smart, because he’s been used to filming from a very young age, and that’s how we prepared: by working with him since he was a baby.
What kind of director is Gilles de Maistre?
He has such a big heart, and I love his style of filming: very natural, very raw, as if the situations were real.
What is the message behind the movie?
Thor taught me just how magnificent lions are, how they’re so much more than their reputation.
What does the future hold for your wonderful friendship with Thor?
Kevin said I can come and visit him whenever I want, because it’s really hard to just move on to something else. I don’t know what I’ll do next year, I’m trying to live in the present.