She’s brutal, she’s athletically skilled, she’s smart, she’s intelligent, and she’s adorable. Where on Earth did the casting director find Logan’s Dafne Keen?
The director of Logan, James Mangold, asked U.K. casting director Priscilla John, with finding a 12-year-old girl with martial-arts, tumbling, and acrobatic skills who spoke both English and Spanish. But after searching through England and Ireland and seeing more than 500 kids, John was not quite finding what she was looking for. She chose to expand her search to younger girls and those living in Spain. Well luckily for John, her associate, Francesca Bradley, remembered Dafne, who lives in Madrid with her British actor father, Will Keen (The Crown, Wolf Hall), and her Spanish actress mother, Maria Fernandez Ache.
John already knew Will and asked him to put Daphne, then a 10-year-old acrobat and gymnast, and her skills on tape.
John was enthused by what she saw: the four-foot-two-inch girl clambered up and down a huge bookcase in the Keen’s Madrid sitting room while picking up and assessing objets d’art. Once back on the ground, she did a tumbling run across the floor. In another sequence, she wordlessly gobbled down crackers without looking at them.
“She’s looking all around her . . . and [in her eyes] you could see she was devouring everything in that room,” John remembers. “She had an innocence and a vulnerability, and I said to James, ‘People are going to fall in love with her.’ ”
After a second audition tape, Dafne and her parents were on a plane to the States so she could screen test with Jackman. Though some other American girls were also in the running, John was pretty confident Dafne would snag the role: “I had a good idea that this child was extremely special, and I would have been surprised if she hadn’t gotten it,” she says. Still, since anything can happen in Hollywood, when the test was done, John told Keen to go back to school and get on with her life.
Of course, now that Logan has opened, Dafne’s life will be drastically changed. Look for plenty more to come from this newly minted child star, whom John suggests is already signed to Fox (the studio releasing Logan) for future projects.
“[Keen] has got such powerful presence,” John says. “She’s got extraordinary charisma. She’s either going to be heading a huge international company, or she’s going to be a big star when she grows up.”
While promoting Logan, Mangold has said he’d love to see another film that centered on her character: “That’s certainly something I’d be involved in.”
Dafne Keen is the girl heroine I wish I had growing up, that’s for sure. She takes things into her own hands. She is capable. She has a kind heart, but takes no sh*t and always knows priority one is taking care of herself. Thank you, Dafne, for being a badass.