‘Whale Rider’ Teen A Queen In Upcoming ‘Star Wars’ Flick

Keisha Castle-Hughes already finished with scenes for 'Episode III.'

The Force is with Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Last year the 13-year-old New Zealand native wowed critics with her stunning debut performance in the indie flick “Whale Rider.” This year the role garnered her the distinction of being the youngest person to ever receive an Academy Award nomination for best actress. And now Castle-Hughes was recently bestowed yet another honor: She was picked to appear in the next installment of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” series.

Castle-Hughes will play the queen of Naboo in “Star Wars Episode III.” The character succeeds Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala character on the throne. Castle-Hughes has already shot her scenes in Australia. While Castle-Hughes claims the role was small, it still presented obstacles — even if the actress had a large hand in creating them.

“I love roles with a challenge,” Castle-Hughes said. “I have this theory that if I do things that I know are a challenge, it will make me feel like I’m working harder. [For the role], I tried on these shoes that were too small and were killing my feet. And [the staff] was like, ‘So how are the shoes?’ And I said, ‘Fine, thank you.’ So to me my feet being sore somehow made me feel like I was working harder.”

“Star Wars Episode III” will also star series veterans Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson. The film is scheduled to hit theaters in spring 2005.