Camilla Belle has been in front of the camera since before she can remember; she was nine months old when she appeared in her first commercial. In more recent years, she has played Daniel Day-Lewis' daughter, a young Sandra Bullock and the hapless victim of a phone-wielding psychopath. Although Belle says she rediscovers how much she loves her job with each new role she performs, she hopes to take a break from fame and photo shoots to do what we all once dreamed of doing: coming to Princeton. She is applying to the school this year..
Belle has had no trouble landing coveted film roles. Other than a three-year hiatus during high school, when she deliberately chose to make no movies, Belle has worked steadily, appearing in films as wide-ranging as "A Little Princess," "Practical Magic," and "The Lost World" (the sequel to "Jurassic Park.")
Last month, Belle starred in "When a Stranger Calls," a remake of a 1979 cult horror film of the same title. After a publicity campaign that relied heavily on Belle's talent and beauty — and included the cover of Teen Vogue and a spread in Vanity Fair — the movie opened as number one at the box office and has continued to perform well. Belle already has her next role lined up; she leaves for South Africa next month to begin shooting a prehistoric drama called "10,000 B.C."
What Belle is really preoccupied with right now is the letter from Princeton she will get in April. "It's difficult to try to sell yourself on a piece of paper and to put everything you want to put," she said in a telephone interview, reflecting the apprehensions of so many high school seniors.
Unlike most Princeton applicants however, Belle did not have the luxury of filling out applications while allowing her other work to slide in the throes of senioritis. Instead, she was busy working on "When a Stranger Calls." Belle took a year off after high school to work, to "travel, and to see if college was the right thing to do."
As it turns out, the decision wasn't hard.
"College is something I've planned on doing since I was little," she says. "That was just it. Taking a year off was a big deal for me, although it turned out for the best."
Although she hopes to continue acting after college graduation, Belle says the year off made her eager to return to school.
"I'm not going to college to find out what I want to pursue in life," she says. "I had such a great education in high school. I want to continue studying the things I'm really passionate about."
Belle certainly does not lack things to feel passionate about. In high school, she performed with the choir and hopes to continue singing in college, whether in musical theater or with an a cappella group. She has also participated in school plays, another activity she intends to continue.
Belle is also eager to explore a range of academic fields. Other than her plans to "stay away from the math and science departments," she already has a full list of classes she wants to take, including courses in art history, writing, and language. Belle already speaks fluent Portuguese — her mother is Brazilian— and has also studied Spanish and French.
Of course, Belle's heart lies in acting. She rediscovered her passion when she made her first movie after taking time off from professional acting to attend high school. During the filming of the 2005 drama "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" with Daniel Day-Lewis and Catherine Keener, the nostalgia she felt for being in front of the camera and the experience of "being able to work with people I have been looking up to all my life" made Belle realize how much she missed and loved performing.
"[Acting] became a more serious profession for me," she says. "I missed it so much. I realized this is a passion of mine. It would be so hard to separate myself from it."
The film was particularly meaningful for her too—she was filming a coming-of-age story at a time in her life when she herself was deciding what her next step would be. Her choice to work before college has resulted in a whirlwind year of intense work days and a good deal of hype, but Belle does not let the resulting exposure go to her head, choosing to distance herself from the young-Hollywood scene.
"I don't go out that much," she says. "My best friends are the ones that I went to high school with." Because of an unfortunately timed cold, Belle did not even get to celebrate much during the opening weekend of "When a Stranger Calls."
One of the reasons Belle likes Princeton so much, in fact, is how different it is from the places she has lived and worked.
"In New York and Los Angeles, it is so easy to get distracted by everything," she says. "Princeton is its own little community." Belle visited the campus twice during high school, and "both times, I had that rare occasion of knowing that I could really see myself there."
If accepted, Belle hopes to completely immerse herself in her education and school activities and will put her film career on hold for four years just like she did in high school.
"I wouldn't be able to become a part of the community if I was going back and forth [between the film industry and the academic sphere]," she says. Still, Belle concedes, she might change her mind "if Scorsese calls."
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