08/21/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT
FREUD, WHO FIRMLY BELIEVED THERE are no accidents, would have had an analytical field day last Halloween on the Hawaiian location of Waterworld. There stood child star Tina Majorino in a costume that wardrobe personnel for the problem-plagued, seemingly unfinishable epic had just whipped up: a pint-size prisoner suit. But the irony was lost on Majorino, who even after four movies remains an appealing mix of savvy and sweetness. "Everything was fun," bubbles the 4'5" 10-year-old in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel, where she has just finished an impromptu game of hopscotch. "It was a lot of work, but it was neat."
To Majorino, shooting the saga about a world submerged after the melting of the polar ice caps was an adventure—one that appears to have been unaffected by any bad vibes about technical mishaps or the feud between director Kevin Reynolds and star Kevin Costner. Costner, who joins forces with Majorino's character, Enola, to seek dry land, is "a nice man and very caring," she says. "He's a daddy; he has three kids." Tina's mother, Sarah, 45, with her for the entire eight-month shoot, says Tina learned a lot from her beleaguered costar. Costner, she says, taught Tina "how important it is to be professional and focused, no matter what's going on in your life—and a lot was going on."
Tina had plenty to handle herself, including seasickness ("I threw up four times, but not in front of anybody"), jellyfish bites and even a harrowing capsizing after the bow split on the trimaran she was riding. But, says Jeanne Tripplehorn, who plays Enola's guardian, Helen, "she's a total pro. While we were working, you would forget that she was a child."
Acting is something Majorino wanted to do since she was 2½. "My mother made me beg her for a long time," says Tina. Sarah, who had been worried about Tina's facing "a life full of rejection," relented when Tina turned 3, and before long her daughter was doing commercials. By 8, Tina was playing the daughter of an alcoholic Meg Ryan in When a Man Loves a Woman. She also appeared in Corrina, Corrina, starring Whoopi Goldberg, and Andre, opposite a devoted seal.
When not filming, Majorino lives near Los Angeles with her mother, her father, Bob, a real estate broker, her 15-year-old brother, Kevin, her Scottish terrier, Angus—and a cockatoo and a parakeet she got for company on the Waterworld set. At the public school where she is a straight-A student and will soon be entering fifth grade, she admits some kids aren't fans. But "if they don't like me," she shrugs, "well, I have other friends."
Majorino is about to acquire another one—a turtle she has yet to name. But "Enola," apparently, is out. "Enola is alone backwards. I don't want my turtle to be alone."
LOIS ARMSTRONG in Los Angeles