Anna Paquin: ‘I am absolutely a control freak. It’s in my DNA’

The actor, 37, on breaking Oscar protocol, loving film-set pranks, and being a backseat producer even as a child

At the Academy Awards, when I won with The Piano, I was just confused that everyone knew who I was. I was just some kid from a small town in New Zealand. After I got the award – because my parents had set me up not to be disappointed if I didn’t win and didn’t explain what I should do if I did – I broke Oscar protocol by taking my trophy down the stairs and back to my seat. If you look back at the footage, you can see people trying to stop me, and I’m just walking away to sit back down with my mum.

I never felt fear as a child actor. I just didn’t know what the stakes were. I literally knew nothing about film and television because of my schooling. For me, it was just about being asked to do things, and I wanted to do them well.

I had an unconventional education. I went to a Rudolf Steiner school, which is an alternative system of education. They don’t push academics, it’s more about promoting creativity. One of the big things is not watching television. They were much more into reading books and running around outside. And because I grew up in New Zealand there were lots of fun things to do outside.

I grew up on film sets. I understand them. My friends were always the crew because they were closer in age to me than the adults in the film. It helped me understand how films are made – the composite parts and what my role was within the team – better maybe than some actors do who come to film later in life. I was always backseat producing, even as a child. I love pranks. The crew always have the best banter. You have to tuck your shoelaces in on set otherwise they’ll be tied to the dolly tracks.

I love New Zealand. I’m proud to come from there. Would I live there again? I don’t really plan my life very far ahead – I have the next six months planned out because that’s the business – but beyond that I’m very day to day. Having targets just leads to disappointment.

True Blood was great, but it was exhausting. For a few years it just felt like it was everywhere and it was all that I talked about. But having twins is a new level of exhausting. It puts things in perspective.

I have never had a strategy for picking roles. I just look for interesting material. X-Men? I was 16 and just thought it was really, really cool that I’d been cast in a super successful superhero movie.

Being an executive producer means you’re a gigantic control freak. I am absolutely a control freak. I genuinely believe it’s in my DNA. I have twins and I can confidently say there are some personality traits that people are born with. I care about details. I care about things happening in the right way. I’ve learned how to make that happen on a set, and it never involves shouting.

Anna Paquin will appear in The Irishman later this year


James McMahon

The GuardianTramp

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