Actress Sasha Pieterse Is Getting Big-Screen Time in Inherent Vice
Sasha Pieterse, photographed in Altadena, California.
“I am pretty sure I will never get a better character name than Japonica Fenway,” says Sasha Pieterse of her role in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, based on the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel. “She is super off-the-wall and basically very damaged on the inside—she’s a runaway and a cocaine addict.”
The 18-year-old actress grew up under brighter circumstances, as the only child of acrobatic dancers. “My dad threw my mom around for a living,” she says. Born in Johannesburg, Pieterse (pronounced Pee-tur-suh) moved with her parents to Las Vegas when she was three. By the time she was five she was working consistently as an actress. Best known for her work on ABC Family’s long-running teenage drama series Pretty Little Liars, Pieterse says, “I grew up on that show and it has given me such a great platform.”
Inherent Vice, due out December 12 from Warner Bros., launches Pieterse into the acting stratosphere, alongside Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Larry “Doc” Sportello (think Bogart’s Sam Spade as a stoner), Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, and others in a sprawling cast. It’s set in Los Angeles at the end of the 1960s, after the Manson murders, and follows Doc as he attempts to crack the disappearance of a real-estate mogul while navigating a city of burnouts, beach bums, and loan sharks.
Pieterse, despite her age, was already well versed in Anderson’s films when she got the call. “The first one I saw was There Will Be Blood and I fell in love with it, and I just kept going, with Boogie Nights and The Master,” she says. “I don’t think there is any other director except Paul who could pull this off. He and Pynchon tend to tell stories in the same way.”