AnnaSophia Robb Interview, Bridge to Terabithia

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline recently sat down with actress AnnaSophia Robb who stars opposite Josh Hutcherson in the new Disney film, "Bridge to Terabithia.” The film is directed by Gabor Csupo, the world-renowned animation artist who makes his live-action debut, from a screenplay by Jeff Stockwell and David Paterson, based on the award-winning novel by Katherine Paterson.

The adventurous and moving tale inspired by Paterson’s story explores the wonders of friendship, family and fantasy and is imbued with an unsinkable sense of childhood magic and a belief in the power of the imagination. The story begins with Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson), a young outsider on a quest to become the fastest kid in his school. But when the new girl in town, Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb), leaves Jess and everyone else in the dust, Jess’s frustration with her ultimately leads to them becoming fast friends.

At first, it seems Jess and Leslie couldn’t be more different – she’s rich, he’s poor, she’s from the city, he’s from the country – but when Leslie begins to open up the world of imagination to Jess, they find they have something amazing to share: the kingdom of Terabithia, a realm of giants, ogres and other enchanted beings that can only be accessed by boldly swinging across a stream in the woods on a strand of rope. Here, Leslie and Jess rule as King and Queen among the incredible creatures they create, and not even the forces of evil can break their bond. Now, no matter what happens in the real world, in Terabithia, Leslie gives Jess a magical place that will always be filled with amazing stories and dreams.

Whereas finding Jess had taken a far and wide search, finding Leslie happened almost in an instant, when AnnaSophia Robb showed up in producer Lauren Levine’s office before the casting process had even really begun. Levine already knew the blue-eyed beauty who first came to widespread attention in the lead role of "Because of Winn-Dixie,” and who went on to win the plum role of Violet Beauregarde in Tim Burton’s "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with Johnny Depp. But their conversation convinced her that, without a doubt, AnnaSophia was meant for this role.

"We were talking about the new Harry Potter book that had just come out at that time and we were both completely obsessed with it,” recalls Levine. "It was just so clear in talking to her about all this fantasy that I was basically talking to Leslie, that she had that same kind of spark and magical presence. She might be physically different from Leslie in the book, but the spirit of Leslie and the spirit of AnnaSophia are nearly identical. It was a match made in heaven.”

Producer Cary Granat, who previously worked with AnnaSophia in "Because of Winn-Dixie” was equally won over. "In this role, she’s like a little Annie Hall – there’s so much depth and character she brings to Leslie, but at the same time, she’s a very relatable little girl,” he says.

AnnaSophia had read "Bridge to Terabithia” before she auditioned for the film and was already a huge fan. "I remember I would stay up late reading the book and then wake up and start reading again in the morning,” she says. "It touched me in a way I hadn’t been touched by a book before. I really loved the characters and all the imagination. I think it reminds me that even though I have to grow up, I don’t ever have to stop pretending and imagining.”

AnnaSophia especially felt close to Leslie. "She’s one of those people who’s just always lit up, who has this glow about her, and no one can bring her down,” she says. "Leslie’s such a lively and energetic character, it was really fun for me to become her.”

Although Leslie is already an amazing person, AnnaSophia believes she becomes even more inspired after meeting Jess. "She can’t really find Terabithia until she meets Jess,” the actress notes, "but once they meet, this whole world opens up for both of them. They are both kind of outcasts who take a leap of faith to see who they can become.”

AnnaSophia has her own clear vision of what Terabithia is: "It’s a place that is anything and everything you want it to be” she says. She continues, "In Terabithia, you just put out your ideas and they happen just like that. It’s about having fun, it’s about friendship, it’s about hope, and it’s also about learning to deal with your problems when you go back to the real world. I think Terabithia is a place that’s different for everyone. It’s a place where you can go if you’re feeling sad or down, and you’re never really alone because there are always creatures watching you. I think all kinds of people will fall in love with Terabithia.”

While preparing for the part, AnnaSophia became even more excited when she first saw illustrated drawings of Terabithia hanging in director Gabor Csupo’s office. "I saw some pictures of fairies and I got so pumped,” she recalls. "I’ve loved fairies since I was a little girl, and now I knew this world was really going to come alive for me.”

On the set, she was further inspired by the colorful, creative and definitely contemporary costumes designed for her character by costume designer Barbara Darragh. "One of the reasons I adore playing Leslie was because of her clothes,” admits AnnaSophia. "They’re really, really awesome with all these funky little touches like armbands and bracelets and things like that. It captures how Leslie presents herself to the world and makes a really cool appearance. And it reflects how she responds to life, because she’s very funky and willing to break the rules. Her clothes let you know that she believes in who she is, and she’s not afraid to show it.”

Here’s what AnnaSophia had to tell us about making "Terabithia,” what it was like working with Josh, and her love of reading:

MoviesOnline: Leslie is smart, athletic, and nice to people. Would she really be the outcast amongst the other kids?

ANNASOPHIA: I personally think that people who are get a little bit intimidated and scared of them because they don't know how to interpret them, or how to react to them. So I think kids can be scared of people who are different from them. And also, Leslie, she's a fun person, and I think a lot of people were jealous of her. I know Madison...The character Madison? She's in school, the little goody two-shoes? She's jealous of her, so that's why she's mean to Leslie, who just wants to be nice to everyone and be accepted.

MoviesOnline: What's been your own school experience?

ANNASOPHIA: Well, I still go to the same school I've been going to for ages, since I was in kindergarten. So it's been a little bit...School's been a little bit more generous and nice to me than it has been to Leslie. I've seen bullying, though, and I've heard things in school, you know, people paying other people to call someone fat. And it's just really crazy, mean things that you would never wish on anybody, because that's just torture, especially for a kid, just for their self-esteem.

And I know that bullying comes in all shapes and forms, and it doesn't matter how old you are. I mean, a lot of people get bullied at an office when they're adults, and then it also happens on a playground at school. So it's really sad, but I think for those who are out there getting bullied, bullying is just trying to push someone down to make themselves look taller.

What Jess and Leslie found out with Janice Avery is that she was going through some troubles at home, you know, some personal things. Which doesn't make it any more...It doesn't make it acceptable to be mean to someone just because you're going through personal issues, it just means that the person getting bullied should try to be kind to them, or try to be understanding, or just turn the other cheek, because you can't change anyone, but you can change yourself.

MoviesOnline: Had you read the book before you got the role?

ANNASOPHIA: I read the book and the script at the same time. I thought it transitioned into a movie, or a script, beautifully. They did a really good job of capturing the heart and soul of it. Jeff Stockwell, and David Paterson, of course. I fell in love with the story, like I'm sure many of you have. It's just a really timeless tale about friendship and imagination. And every interview I go on, I find a new message and new meaning. There's something different every single time. And I think Katherine Paterson did a really beautiful job, and I applaud her. And I admire her, too, because she's a really good writer.

MoviesOnline: Did you like Leslie's fashion style, did you get to keep any of the clothes, and did you have any input on the costume design?

ANNASOPHIA: Oh my gosh, I loved all of Leslie's clothes. Every day when I came to set, I just wanted to change as soon as possible because they were so comfortable and so cool. But you know, dressing like that is a lot of work.

MoviesOnline: It's a lot of layers.

ANNASOPHIA: It's a lot of layers. I mean, people don't...Leslie had a fashion designer, funnily enough, making all the clothes and a whole team of people who worked really hard on dyeing them and adding little stitches. I mean, it was a ton of work for them, and it turned out beautifully. I wish I could dress like Leslie. I didn't really get any say in the clothing. The fashion designer had it pretty much figured out. I just kind of went along with anything she had, because she did a great job. And I got to keep, I think, two pairs of pants.

MoviesOnline: There are several sequences with CGI. How good are you at imagining what's going to be put in later? And it really ties into the story to do that, doesn't it?

ANNASOPHIA: It does. It does. It was a challenge, but it was a good challenge. It was fun. I think just reacting to tennis balls and a man who had a blue suit on, it was hard for me, but I had seen paintings in Gabor Csupo’s office, you know, of all these mythical Terabithian creatures. So I really tried to visualize them when I was acting in the scene. So I could act like they were attacking me and feel like if the thing was this big (holds hand close together to suggest something small), or this big (holds hands farther apart to suggest something larger), I would vary how much I would...I guess, react. [laughs]

MoviesOnline: Gabor said one of his favorite scenes was the race scene because Josh refused to let you win. Is that true? Were you getting frustrated? Did you try to trip him or anything?

ANNASOPHIA: [laughs] No, actually. He's a boy, so he's extremely competitive. What can you say? All the boys there. At the beginning, we were trying to work out the timing, and Josh says he was just trying to work out the timing. But really, he wanted to show everyone that he was faster than the car that was driving, you know, trying to film. That's
really what he was trying to prove. [laughs] But we finally got it worked out. And I was tired by the end of it. I mean, just running back and forth, back and forth, doing all these different things.

And at lunch, he goes, ‘Let's race!’ I was like, ‘Okay. Fine, Josh, we'll race. Fine. Whatever you want.’ So we say go, and I take off, but then I stopped, and I'm just...You know, I walk back. I'm just feeling comfortable, because I'm all tired. And he gets to the end, and he's all excited, and he turns around, and he's like, "Yes! I won! I won! I won!" He turns around, and he's like looking for me, and then he realized it was a hoax. And his face was so disappointed I actually felt kind of guilty. I was like, ‘Jeez. Wow, he takes it really serious.’ But he's definitely a fast runner.

MoviesOnline: Is acting your own Terabithia, or do you have a different kind of world in private?

ANNASOPHIA: Ummm...Well, it wouldn't necessarily be that private if I shared... [laughs] No, I'm just kidding. Acting is, I guess, a Terabithia for me. But sometimes acting isn't that happy, because there's sad things in it, too. And usually in your imaginary world, you want it to be a happy thing.

MoviesOnline: So what do you do to get to that happy place?

ANNASOPHIA: Well, my Terabithia is in books. I just get really involved in the characters in the books, and I love to just escape. And I daydream a lot. [laughs] Not a lot. Not in school! I don't daydream. I'm quite serious about school. But like when I fall asleep or when I'm waking up in bed, just imagining things and sometimes if I have a really good idea, I'll write it down. I try to keep my imagination as alive as possible because that's what's really important, and that's how people are individuals.

MoviesOnline: How closely is your family involved with your career?

ANNASOPHIA: My family, I'm really, really close with my family. I have a great relationship. It's unlike Leslie's, where her parents are always gone, and she doesn't get to spend that much time with them. Me, on the other hand...I spend a little too much time with them. And I'm 13, so I'm getting a little...You know, close my door, "stay away, please!" [laughs] I have a really good relationship with them, and I'm close with all my cousins. They all live in Boulder, and there's six of them, and they're all my best friends, and I love them so much. And I enjoy being home, just to be able to spend that time with them, because they're really special people, and they're very meaningful in my life, and
they're all just beautiful and so much fun.

You know, the little ones are so much fun to play with because they have their imagination, like Jess and Leslie do, but they pretend, you know? Like they love Barbies, and they...It's just wonderful to see how free they are, and just how okay they are with themselves. And they have no pretensions, and they don't think bad about anyone. They're just...They are who they are. And that's how Bailee Madison is, who plays little May Belle. She reminds me a lot of Leslie, because she was dancing around one day, and she just fell over. You know, she tripped. She wasn't embarrassed at all. She just got right back up and started dancing again. And I really admire that. And I think everyone should try to have that, because we're all just people.

MoviesOnline: Do you write, or do you keep a journal or diary?

ANNASOPHIA: I do. I like to write. I like to write letters, I like to write my thoughts down. I don't necessarily love to write reports or anything. I get kind of bored with that in school. I like to do creative writing. I just think about stuff. I do have several journals, but I get really lazy, I have to admit. You know, I get like, ‘Okay, well, I should be writing all this stuff down.’ You know? When I die and get old, there should be a documentary, or like a diary that I can publish so that people will know what it's like to be in the acting business, but I don't. Because I would rather go to bed. [laughs] So I should, and sometimes I do. When I have trouble on my mind, I'll write it down and then that makes me feel better. But I don't write everything down.

MoviesOnline: What are you reading now? Do you have any recommendations for kids?

ANNASOPHIA: Wow, lots of things. Well, I started out loving just fiction, fantasy fiction. I like Harry Potter, of course, and Lord of the Rings, and Eragon. I love Summer of Kings. I like historical fiction. In the acting business, it's really nice because people give you a lot of books and go, ‘This would make a really good story, or a really good script.’ So it's always exciting when I talk to people, because they'll give me books. And I'm like, ‘Yes, I get to read a book!’ And it's actually like an important ‘have to do’ sort of thing. And I like that a lot.

"Bridge to Terabithia” opens in theaters on February 16th. Be sure to checkout the many video clips and features we have posted on site. One clip is below, click the link under the clip to watch the others!


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