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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 November 2006, 16:47 GMT
Pregnant star misses Vatican gala
Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary
Keisha Castle-Hughes has said she is too busy to attend the premiere
The teenage star of a film about the Nativity is missing its Vatican premiere because she is expecting a baby with her 19-year-old partner.

New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes, 16, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Whale Rider, plays Mary.

Pope Benedict XVI will also be unable to attend the Vatican's first premiere due to his forthcoming visit to Turkey.

A member for the Papal Council for Culture said the actress was expected to play her part well, not be a saint.

The actress, who is expecting a child in spring, said that she was "thrilled" at the news and had made the film "in a state of grace".

Biblical tale

The premiere of The Nativity Story, expected to be attended by 7,000 people, will take place in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, which is used for Sunday masses when they are not held outside in St Peter's Square.

The Nativity Story
The film was shot in southern Italy and Morocco

The film was shot partly in Matera, Italy, the same location used for Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ.

It recounts the Biblical tale from the Angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus, to the visit of the three wise men to the new baby.

It has been produced by the US-based production company New Line Cinema, which was also involved in the Lord of The Rings trilogy, and will open in the US and Italy next month.

Oscar Isaac, a 30-year-old US actor, plays Joseph opposite Castle-Hughes.

Born in Australia, Castle-Hughes moved to New Zealand aged four with her Maori mother and Australian father. She became a New Zealand citizen in 2001.

Proceeds of the premiere will go towards the building of a school in the northern Israeli village of Mughar which Druze, Muslim and Christian children will attend.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Clips from the Vatican premiere the Nativity Story



SEE ALSO
Vatican opening for Nativity film
09 Nov 06 |  Entertainment
Schools 'ignoring' Nativity play
17 Dec 04 |  Education
Nativity: the agony and the ecstasy
10 Dec 04 |  Education
Religious battle over The Passion
13 Feb 04 |  Entertainment

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