Heathcliff falls for the Cathy from Shirecliffe

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FROM Shirecliffe to the silver screen - 13-year-old schoolgirl Shannon Beer will soon be in cinemas across the country playing a key role in a new big screen version of a literary classic.

The Chaucer pupil plays the young Cathy Earnshaw opposite Heathcliff in a controversial adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, due to be released in Britain in November.

Shannon has already enjoyed a thrilling taste of the big time - she was flown to the world premiere of the film at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month.

There she dressed to the nines, walked the red carpet and posed for photos in front of dozens of photographers.

Not bad for a girl who before she was chosen for the role had never acted in her life.

“The casting director for the film came to our school - he seemed to be looking for feisty pupils and I sort of got pushed forward,” she said.

“At the audition I just had to improvise a few scenes, I’d never acted before at all. The director just watched - and I was really pleased to be chosen.”

Shannon left lessons at the Parson Cross school a year ago for an eight week shoot in the Yorkshire Dales, fitting in lessons with a private tutor.

“It was hard work as there were a lot of lines to learn but it was fun and I enjoyed it,” she said.

“I’d not read the book so I didn’t know anything about the story, but it’s quite exciting. I’m in the film for about an hour.”

Shannon, who lives on Standish Road, Shirecliffe, with mum and dad Michelle and Matthew, has now seen the film and is pleased with the results.

“It’s really good, though there are a few words in it,” she said.

Director Andrea Arnold has produced a version far removed from a traditional polite costume drama. Heathcliff is played as a runaway black slave, much of the action is filmed outdoors on hand-held cameras and the script is littered with four letter words.

It is due to be shown at other film festivals in Toronto, Zurich and London.

Shannon said her experience at the Venice Festival was ‘scary’. “All those cameras snapping away at me, it was pretty weird,” she said. “But I really enjoyed dressing up for the red carpet, it was cool and everyone was really friendly.”

Shannon said she was now hoping to do more acting and is in the process of finding an agent.

“My mum and dad are really proud of what I’ve done, my friends are interested and it’s been really fun,” she said. The film comes out on November 11 and I expect there will be a lot more attention and fuss then.”