Kara Hayward

“I read whatever is put in front of me,” says 13-year-old Kara Hayward. “I gobble up books. Right now I’m rereading Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Hayward’s voracious reading habits are shared by Suzy Bishop, the precocious bookworm she plays in Wes Anderson’s new film, Moonrise Kingdom. In fact, Hayward could fit right into Anderson’s carefully stylized world, where extraordinary children often playact as adults. Opening this month, Kingdom is set in 1965 on an island off the coast of New England and tells the story of Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), an orphan and the least popular Khaki Scout of North America at Camp Ivanhoe, who meets his match in Hayward’s Suzy, an individualist misunderstood by her unhappy parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). “Suzy likes Sam because she’s really sad and lonely,” Hayward explains. “She thinks Sam understands how she’s feeling—and he does.” When Sam and Suzy execute a secret plan to escape into the wilderness, the local sheriff (Bruce Willis), Sam’s scout troop, and Suzy’s parents set out to find them. Kingdom is the first feature for Hayward, who lives just outside of Boston, and although she hasn’t locked in her next project yet, she definitely plans to do more movies. “I’ve fallen in love with the art,” says the seventh-grader. This romance will be tempered, though—not by interfering parents, but by Hayward’s own priorities. “I think that a lot of kids today focus on impressing each other,” she says. “And while that’s really nice, you also have to think about your future, about getting into a good school. If I have to go to New York or something, I’ll bring my books and read and do homework. It’s not really a big deal.”