by Edwin L. Carpenter – Associate Editor, The Dove Foundation
AnnaSophia Robb, the star of “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and the soon-to-be-released “Bridge to Terabithia,” thinks family films are special, because of “the connection of the family members. There is a unity and equality when families see a film together.”
The thirteen-year-old actress connected with The Dove Foundation recently to talk about “Bridge to Terabithia” and her upcoming projects. We began by asking her if she was offered the role of Leslie Burke in the film, or if she auditioned for it.
“Usually I do have to audition for various roles but I wanted to be Leslie! To play her character was such an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hadn’t read the book yet because I was home schooled in the fifth grade, but I read the script and read the book and I fell in love with them both. I was surprised by how close the script follows the book. I’m really happy because it’s such an amazing, heart-wrenching and true-to-life story.”
We asked AnnaSophia about a death scene in the film, and she replied, “Well, when I read the script I was like, ‘Well, can’t she just—I don’t know—go away to Russia or something!’ It is such a powerful message because it really shows that’s what makes Terabithia real. In real life not everything happens the way you want—you want everything to be hunky dory and it’s not and I think it also gives the movie a powerful message and it moves people. I think a lot of kids will remember it because there’s a death in there.”
“If that didn’t happen,” she continued, “it would be a fun story but it would be weak. You think that, ‘Oh, it’s just a kid’s adventure story,’ but you realize this is like life, that’s how life is. It’s not, ‘Oh, I just go to school and hang out with friends,’ but it’s life.”
The characters of Leslie and Jess (Josh Hutcherson) are strongly connected in this film, as they portray best friends. We asked AnnaSophia about her working relationship with Josh, who has appeared in “Zathura,” “RV,” and the upcoming release “The Firehouse Dog.”
“We both became really good friends. On day one, when we got off the plane we spent the whole day together. It just kind of says it right there. We took a lot of road trips on long weekends together, with my parents and his mom. We just had the best time. Josh is such a great guy and really fun to be around.”
We asked her if there were any unusual moments which occurred behind the camera. “Oh, every day!” she said. “People in New Zealand–they call them kiwis down there—they’re so funny. The crew was amazing every day. I felt so blessed and so lucky just to be going on that set every day. All the actors, all the crew—we had a great time together. There was never a dull moment. I feel blessed that I got to be Leslie. She’s an amazing character. Josh’s pants fell down one time! That was kind of funny. I wasn’t there but I sure heard about it. There are so many moments but it’s so hard to remember. The days fly by.”
We asked if she had a favorite scene or two in the film. “I really loved being in the forest because it felt like we were in Terabithia. I always love doing school scenes because all the kids were there and we’d all hang out after wrap. It felt like a real big family.” She added that doing the scenes with the music teacher was fun too.
“We’d all pass notes in class, and obviously we wouldn’t get in trouble because we weren’t actually in school! It was just a fun thing to do.”
Dove asked AnnaSophia what appealed to her about Leslie’s character. “I loved Leslie’s life, her spirituality, and her freedom in all of life, in all the nooks and crannies of her personality. She’s willing to accept people and to be who she is. I love that about her because there are not nearly enough people who are comfortable with themselves. They go along with the crowd, which is fine, but I love how Leslie presents herself to the world. Her clothing is so fun and it just expresses who she is. She doesn’t care what anybody thinks of her—well, she does, but she won’t pantomime to it.”
We mentioned another side to Leslie is revealed in one scene when she shows compassion to the school bully in the film, the character of Janice Avery, played by Lauren Clinton. “Yeah, that’s Leslie and I love that about her.”
We asked AnnaSophia if she enjoyed making films the entire family can see. “I do. I love family films. They’re really great. It’s an important thing for a family.”
In conclusion, we asked AnnaSophia about future projects. She has several films coming out including “Ferris Wheel,” “A West Texas Children’s Story,” “The Reaping,” and “Doubting Thomas.”
“’The Reaping’ is coming out in March. It’s a scary film and not necessarily a family film. ‘A West Texas Children’s Story’ is not really a children’s story. It’s an Independent film but it’s a real meaty role. I loved working with Charlize Theron in ‘Ferris Wheel.’ (A story about an eleven-year-old girl’s struggle to come to terms with her mother’s abandonment). She just captured me. We became amazing friends. We talked and laughed.”
In the meantime, the Dove-approved “Bridge to Terabithia” opens on February 16, and AnnaSophia Robb hopes audiences everywhere will “connect” with this family film.