HOLLYWOOD -- Mia Sara was an excellent student at Saint Ann's high school until she became the luckiest 16-year-old in the borough of Brooklyn.
A shy girl of Italian extraction, Sara had vague fantasies about becoming an actress. She played Shakespeare's Juliet in a school play and had done a handful of TV commercials.
Sara even worked briefly one summer in the New York-based soap opera, 'All My Children,' to earn some money for the family coffers after her parents' marriage broke up.
Two years ago the dark-haired, dark-eyed Sara appeared at an audition for casting director Donna Isaacson who called her back for two more readings.
Isaacson was working for director Ridley Scott who would be shooting 'Legend,' starring Tom Cruise, a fairy tale complete with unicorns. After the third interview Sara was taken to meet Scott.
'It was love at first sight,' said the teenager, in Hollywood to help promote her second film, 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.'
Sara, 18, is petite, soft-voiced and opinionated. She hates Los Angeles with its palm trees and sunshine and only comes to southern California under protest.
She made it clear she and Scott had not fallen in love romantically, only that they were instantly drawn to each other as director and actress.
'I believe in fate,' she went on. 'And I think that's what brought me and Ridley together. I read half a poem for him and he said that was all he needed. Something really clicked when we met.
'After our interview Ridley flew me to London for a screen test. By the time I got home I knew I had the part.'
Sara played Princess Lili, Cruise's love interest in the expensive fantasy that started well at the box office but faded quickly to become a financial disappointment.
Ater eight months of independence in London, where all of 'Legend' was filmed, Sara found herself back at good old Saint Ann's.
'I couldn't believe going back to school,' Sara sighed. 'I was only 16 but it was the hardest transition I've ever had -- going from being on my own in the world of adults and professionals to sit in a classroom.
'Before that I was very school-oriented. But studies never held the same interest for me again.'
She still took time off from classes to audition, hoping for another role, and worked part-time as a hostess in a Brooklyn restaurant. Last summer she read for director John Hughes who signed her for 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' in which she plays Matthew Broderick's love interest.
'I was older when I met John last summer, so it wasn't love at first sight,' Sara said.
'But it was funny. He didn't know how old I was and said he wanted an older girl to play the 17-year-old. He said it would take someone older to give her the kind of dignity she needed. He almost fell out of his chair when I told him I was only 18.'
By the time the picture was completed, Sara had graduated from high school -- so there's no returning to the classroom this time.
Be it fate or luck, Sara has managed to co-star in two feature films with the two hottest young actors going, Cruise and Broderick.
'They're young, but they both had much more experience than I did,' Sara said. 'Tom was dedicated and I learned a lot of good work habits from him. And I respected Matt because I had seen him on Broadway. He was one of my favorites.'
Sara, who has never been trained as an actress, doesn't take acting lessons or attend classes. She says she is an instinctive performer and doesn't want to interfere with doing what comes naturally.
'Everyone who acts has a technique, whether it's good or bad,' she said. 'I think acting comes to me naturally. Performing is a very personal thing and I can't see myself attending classes with other actors. That would inhibit me.
'I know people used to go to the Actors Studio and study 'method' acting. I don't even know what that is. And I don't know anyone who is a method actor.
'I don't think of myself as an actress on a day-to-day basis. I'm not obsessed about acting. Some actors are extroverts and hams. I'm not that kind of person. I'm not what I do. Acting is a job.
'I like what Spencer Tracy once said, 'If you want to act, don't let anyone catch you at it.''