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Teen takes a swing at acting in 'Bears'



Published: Fri, July 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The talented athlete took well to her first role as Amanda Whurlitzer.

By SUSAN KING

LOS ANGELES TIMES

HOLLYWOOD -- "I throw a knuckleball, a knuckleball curve, a curveball, a changeup, a 70-mph fastball, a two-seam fastball and a four-seam fastball -- the whole thing," Sammi Kane Kraft proclaims.

It's no wonder the 13-year-old was chosen to play pitcher Amanda Whurlitzer in "Bad News Bears," the Richard Linklater remake of the 1976 hit comedy about a curmudgeon who becomes coach of an inept youth baseball team. The film is being released Friday.

Walter Matthau played the lead in the original; Billy Bob Thornton takes on the role of Morris Buttermaker in the new one.

Kraft's character was originally played by Tatum O'Neal, in her first role after winning the Oscar for 1973's "Paper Moon."

Kraft, who matter-of-factly points out that she has received 35 trophies for her athletic prowess, had never acted professionally before "Bad News Bears."

She heard about the role when she visited a friend on a movie location.

"One of the girls on the set auditioned the day I had visited," Kraft recalled over the phone from Atlantic City, N.J., where she had just come in from surfing.

After asking the girl particulars about the role, Kraft told her mother she wanted to audition. Kraft's 15-year-old brother is an actor, so his agent set it up. "I kept getting callbacks and here I am!"

Warming to the role

Because Kraft has been involved in sports most of her life -- "I have always been able to take directions" -- she didn't find acting as difficult as she initially expected. "Still, it's really hard to try to fill Tatum O'Neal's shoes," she admits. "I wouldn't even try to do that, but I am doing the best I can."

Kraft confessed that she was intimidated when director Linklater asked her to audition with Thornton. "But Billy Bob was really helpful, and so was Marcia Gay Harden with the crying scenes."

Being the only girl on the team in the movie was never a problem. "I have always been on boys' baseball and basketball teams," she explained.

"I had so much fun with the boys," she says of her co-stars. "From the first day, we were all really nice to each other and got along. They are all like my brothers."

Kraft, who was born in New York and now lives in Los Angeles, would like to continue acting. To hone her artistic side, she will attend a performing arts school this fall. However, she's not likely to hang up her mitt soon.

"I am doing the Junior Olympics this summer," she says. "But I am really upset they took softball and baseball out of the Olympics. I am flipping out! My goal is to get softball and baseball back into the Olympics!"




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