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At 16, She Dreams of a Role at the Oscars

Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana. parsons@latimes.com. An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons.

She saw Billy Boyd play Pippin in the first “Lord of the Rings” and got the bug. And tonight, Kim Hodges will plop down in front of the Academy Awards show, watch it from start to finish and, from time to time, wonder what if.

What if she could somehow beat the odds and be standing up there herself on some future Oscars night? What role would it be for? What would her dress look like? What would she say in her acceptance speech?

When you’re 16, you can dream those kinds of dreams. Because you know what? They sometimes come true.

But unlike untold millions of Oscar watchers who’ll never know what it’s like to feel that amazing buzz called acting, Hodges already has. Her career dates to last August, when at 15 she played Prisoner No. 2 in “Man of La Mancha” at the Starlight Theatre Company in Costa Mesa. For the record, her first words on stage were, “They’re coming to fetch someone.”

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That was her only line, but you gotta start somewhere. During the run, she graduated from understudy to a one-night gig in a lead role of Sancho Panza.

She’s now a veteran in her fourth play, “The King and I,” which ends its run at the playhouse with performances Friday and Saturday. She plays the king’s son and has about 50 lines, plus a song.

The girl apparently has some acting chops and got the chance to show them when her best friend said her aunt managed a playhouse.

“I never wanted to be an actress until I saw ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ” Hodges says as we talk at her Fountain Valley home. “I wanted to be with Billy Boyd and to act with him. I’m really vain in saying that, but then I really started loving acting. I have this huge passion for it.”

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She is a delightful bundle of energy, but it’s a bundle with a brain attached. She’s neither pie-eyed about show business nor making pronouncements of future stardom. A junior at Fountain Valley High School, she’s primed to teach high school history if her acting career goes by the boards.

But neither has she seen anything yet that discourages her. “I’m not even sure of what I’m capable of,” she says. “I’m really hard on myself. If people say, ‘You’re good,’ I say, ‘You’re kidding.’ So I’m not sure I can be in movies. I really want to do it. I’m just not sure I can do it.”

I jokingly suggest that “Kim Hodges” sounds like a stage name. She assures me it’s her real name, then says, “I have a better stage name -- Kelly Waters.” It’s her tribute to Gene Kelly and avant-garde director John Waters. I ask when she plans to spring the name on the public, and she laughs. “I don’t know. I was wondering when I should do it. At this theater, I’m Kim Hodges. So I was thinking at the next theater, I’ll be Kelly Waters.”

She likes to act for the reason most actors do: She can become someone else. “I’m petrified for the 10 minutes before I’m onstage,” she says. “But when I’m onstage, I’m in my world completely. I can’t really describe it. When I think back to what I did when I was on stage, I really can’t remember it, if that makes any sense to you.”

It does.

Tonight in front of the TV will be fun. She marked the date on her calendar several weeks ago and will, as a legitimate performer herself, probably pay more attention than in years past to the momentousness of the evening.

“Just to be there would be awesome,” she says. “Just to be around those celebrities.”

And The Speech? Surely she’s worked on it over the years.

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“I think about it every class I’m in,” she says. “I space out and think of my acceptance speech. My plan is to just go up there and say, ‘Thanks to Billy Boyd. He’s my inspiration for everything.’ ”

She delivers it in a good imitation of an Oscar-winning voice.

We laugh, and I ask: “And then?”

“And then,” she says, “he’d meet me backstage and we’d fall in love.”


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