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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 06:47 GMT
Morton finds her American dream
Samantha Morton
Morton made her television debut at the age of 13
British actress Samantha Morton has come a long way since her breakthrough role playing a teenage prostitute in ITV's Band of Gold in 1995.

Since moving to the US, the 26-year-old has starred in several major movies.

Woody Allen sought her out to play the mute Hattie in Sweet and Lowdown, and Steven Spielberg cast her opposite Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

Now Morton's performance in In America has earned the Nottingham-born star her first best actress Oscar nomination.

In America

Morton, who moved to the United States at the age of 19, feels "embraced" by her adopted country.

"Sometimes you need to come over here (America) to get someone to believe in you," Morton told Tom Brook on BBC News 24's HARDtalk. "I think in the UK sometimes there's a lack of that."

Morton, who spent a troubled childhood in foster care, found it difficult to move forward in the UK.

Samantha Morton
Morton is set to star opposite Johnny Depp in The Libertine

"I used to feel an outsider in Britain," she said, "but that was very much a chip on my shoulder.

"You have to say to yourself: 'I have these opportunities and I'm going to run with them', and not feel disadvantaged because my mum and dad weren't in the theatre industry or whatever," she continued.

Fame game

Her most recent film, In America, is based on director Jim Sheridan's own life story about his family emigrating from Ireland to New York.

Yet despite Oscar nominations, the film - and Morton - were ignored at this year's Bafta awards.

"You can never underestimate the power of celebrity," says Morton. "You either get hyped for being the new thing or for being established."

"The industry is based on celebrity, it's not just about how good you are. I'm very lucky my work's been consistent - 95% of actors are out of work no matter how brilliant they might be," she added.

I want to play women as opposed to young tormented teenagers
Samantha Morton

While she is realistic about the fame game, Morton has no time for the British penchant for celebrity-bashing.

"In the UK, instead of celebrating something, there is a desire to knock it or find an angle that's salacious - I find it quite boring, but we have a society now that thrives on that."

Chess pawn

Morton, who has a reputation for eccentricity, admits she can be difficult to work with because she is a perfectionist.

In her view, it is ultimately the director's job to exert control on a film set.

"It isn't really about me, I'm a pawn in a big game of chess - not that I don't have any self-preservation or self-worth but I do feel it's a bit bigger than just my opinion."

With two Oscar nominations behind her, the 26-year-old star hopes to be offered a wider range of roles in the future.

"I'm a woman, I'm nearly 27 and a mother and I want to play women as opposed to young tormented teenagers."

Upcoming films include an adaptation of Ian McEwan's Enduring Love and The Libertine opposite Johnny Depp.

Passionate and committed, one gets the feeling it won't be long before Morton is gracing the red carpet once again.

This interview by Tom Brook will be broadcast on the HARDtalk programme on Tuesday 24 February at 0430 GMT and is repeated at 2330 GMT.


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