Ice Princesses Learn New Roles on Set and On Ice

by Sarah Ramer, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Juliana and Kirsten with their acting coach

This is the second of three installments of Sarah Ramer's article on the U.S. Figure Skating stars of "Ice Princess."

Read Part 1 of the Ice Princess series.

(3/10/05) — The girls shipped off in April for the three-month shoot. While their fathers stayed at home with siblings and jobs, Juliana Cannarozzo, Kirsten Olson, and their mothers moved into condos in the heart of Toronto, and the two teenagers quickly began adapting to their roles as actors.

Each day of filming was scheduled by the minute, and each night the movie crew printed the schedule on a “call sheet” and slipped it under the girls' doors. Most days began with a driver bringing the girls and their mothers to the set. Before Olson and Cannarozzo could go in front of the cameras, they'd sit for hair and make-up, mark out the scene, and review lines.

In between filming sessions, the girls would rehearse with an acting coach, do schoolwork with a tutor for at least three hours every day, and exercise at the gym in their condo complex. Freedom from the confines of the classroom was nothing new for Cannarozzo, who has been home-schooled since the seventh grade, but it was quite a change for Olson, who attends regular school and had to finish the year's material away from her classmates and teachers.

Even though time for training was in short supply during the shoot, ice was not. On days when they didn't have to film, Cannarozzo and Olson skated on a rink that was available for the skaters involved in the movie. With a Canadian coach, Olson managed to practice for the competitive season. Cannarozzo, who at the time was still recovering from three stress fractures in her back, underwent physical therapy for her injury.

Kahle and Rucker Hit the Ice as Skating Doubles

Fans planning to play “spot that U.S. Figure Skating star” while watching “Ice Princess” should keep a sharp eye out for those skaters whose bodies jump and spin on screen but whose faces never appear. Pay close enough attention and you just might spot Danielle Kahle, 2002 U.S. novice champion, and Sandy Rucker, 2005 U.S. junior champion.

The 15-year-old Kahle, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., served as the skating double for Kirsten Olson, performing triple jumps more difficult than the ones Olson was capable of at the time. Like Olson, Kahle was filmed performing the programs of the character Nikki. In post-production, “Ice Princess” staff edited together shots of the two girls to create seamless scenes. But the task of constructing one character from two skaters began before they took the ice. Olson's hair was dyed red to match Kahle's natural shade and the girls were fitted for identical costumes.

In order to resemble Michelle Trachtenberg, Sandy Rucker, a 17-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif., had to undergo an even more dramatic transformation. Along with Canadians Jennifer Robinson and Lauren Wilson, Rucker did much of the skating for Trachtenberg's character Casey. Not only did Rucker have her hair colored, she also had extensions added to it, and she was caked every day in make-up tinted like Trachtenberg's fairer skin tone. As Trachtenberg's double, Rucker also had to mimic her movement style. To that end, the two spent time together in a ballet studio with Rucker copying the way Trachtenberg performed a given piece of choreography.

Kahle and Rucker reveled in the excitement of the movie shoot and walked away from it eager for more.

“Being in this movie and watching Michelle Trachtenberg and Hayden Panettiere act … it was so much fun and it really inspired me,” Kahle said.

“It was really fun; it was a neat experience,” Rucker said. “I would definitely want to do it again.”

As real-life skaters who happened to be acting in a movie about skating, Cannarozzo and Olson noticed themselves much admired on set.

“It was really flattering, because anything we did, people were always like, ‘Wow, you're really good,'” Olson said.

Cannarozzo stressed that the admiration was mutual.

“We all learned from each other,” she said. “Kirsten and I obviously looked up to the actresses because they were really experienced.”

The actress in the lead role of Casey Carlyle, Michelle Trachtenberg, had a unique appreciation for Cannarozzo's and Olson's talents.

“When I was nine years old, I loved skating,” Trachtenberg said. “I thought it was the most beautiful thing. I wanted to be like Michelle Kwan.

But her own ice princess fantasy lasted for all of one lesson.

“I had no idea how difficult skating was,” she said.

In order to prepare for her part in this movie, the 19-year-old Trachtenberg returned to where she left off as a child. During the three months leading up to the start of the shoot, she practiced on-ice five hours a day, five days a week at the Pickwick Ice Center in Burbank, Calif. Though this wasn't nearly enough time to allow her to do all of her character's skating in the movie, Trachtenberg said she was a quick learner who specialized in outside spread eagles, Ina Bauers, spirals and T-stops.

While Cannarozzo and Olson didn't have to immerse themselves in a new activity the way Trachtenberg did, both girls did have to adopt the personae of skaters neither resembled. Cannarozzo played Zoe, whom she describes as a “punk skater.”

“Zoe definitely has her own style,” Cannarozzo said. “My costumes are totally outrageous, with crazy boot covers and crazy hair. Everyone else looks like a regular skater, then you see me come out there and you don't expect it at all.”

The differences between Zoe and the other characters aren't only cosmetic, though.

“[As Zoe] I don't really get along with anybody,” Cannarozzo said, noting that Zoe, who's often accused of playing mind games, isn't interested in making friends.

Olson had to fit into an equally extreme role, that of Nikki Fletcher, also known as “The Jumping Shrimp.” Being a skater known for her jumps above all else was a new experience for Olson, who in real life is renowned for her spins. Also novel to her was playing a fiercely competitive character. Nikki “always wanted to win, and she would pretty much do whatever she could to win, or probably a little more,” said Olson.

One early version of the movie script even had Olson's character stealing a competitor's skates. If her on-screen persona were a real-life fellow skater, Olson doesn't think they'd be friends.

While she acknowledged that elements of the movie's portrayal of the skating world are outrageous, Olson doesn't totally dismiss the cutthroat picture presented.

“If you go around to a bunch of rinks, you probably will find at least someone like my [movie] mom,” Olson said about the overly ambitious character. Cannarozzo echoes this, with a caveat.

Kirsten and Juliana with Canadian skater Jennifer Robinson, who was one of Michelle Trachtenberg's skating doubles.
“Everyone's pretty much competitive [in real life], but usually we're nice to each other about it,” she said. “We don't try to sabotage each other because we all work equally hard.”

The general plot of the movie is pure Disney fun, with the lead character shooting from Snowplow Sam lessons to elite competitor with the help of a math formula.

“The plot is kind of fantasy,” Olson said. “Someone doesn't go from learn-to-skate to junior lady with all her triples in a year.”

Read Part 3!

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