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Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

February 5, 2007

Based on the beloved novel by Katherine Paterson published in 1977, Bridge to Terabithia is a wonderfully told coming of age story about two kids who form an unusually powerful bond with one another--Jess (Josh Hutcherson) uses his flair for drawing to escape the everyday world of bullies and a family struggling to make ends meet, while Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) is an outsider whose gift of storytelling helps her cope with the stress of a new school and flighty parents. Together, they use their fertile imaginations to envision the fictional world of Terabithia, a realm of escapism that gives them a little respite from the real world. The story follows their day to day trials and tribulations, and ultimately focuses on the life-altering power of true friendship.

In this interview, AnnaSophia Robb talks about her character Leslie, and how her own experiences in school and life compare to those of her onscreen alter-ego.

Bridge to Terabithia opens in theaters everywhere February 16.

The Interview

MEDIA: Your character Leslie is smart, athletic, and nice to people. Do you think she would really be an outcast amongst her classmates in real life?

ANNASOPHIA: I personally think that people who are different...Kids get a little bit intimidated and scared of them because they don't know how to interpret them, or how to react to them. [notices many cans of Dr. Pepper on the table] Wow, is some Dr. Pepper thing going on here? Jeez! I might as well have one! [laughs]

Please feel free... [hands can to AnnaSophia]

Dr. Pepper...They always had it on set, because they were like one of the sponsor things--they showed us drinking Dr. Pepper. [laughs, returns to original question] 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 the character Madison, 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.

What has your own school experience been like so far?

I still go to the same school I've been going to for ages, since I was in kindergarten. So 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. And there might be [a reason they are bullying people]--you know, some personal things. Which 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.

Had you the novel Bridge to Terabithia before getting the part in the movie version?

I read the book and the script at the same time. I thought it transitioned into a script beautifully. They did a really good job of capturing the heart and soul of it...[writers] 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 like a new message and new meaning. There's something different every single time. And I think [author] Katherine Paterson did a really beautiful job, and I applaud her. And I admire her, too, because she's a really good writer.

What did you think of Leslie's particular fashion style, and did you have any input on her costume design?

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...It's a lot of layers. People don't [realize] 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.

This film has several special effects that are added after filming. How did you like acting opposite elements you had to imagine being there?

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 was hard for me, but I had seen paintings 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" or "this big," I would vary how much I would react. [laughs] I'm kind of going on and on...

In one scene, Leslie beats all of the other boys in a race. But we've heard your co-star Josh Hutcherson was being really competitive and refusing to let you win. Did it get frustrating? Did you ever try to trip him up or something?

[laughs] No, actually. He's a boy, so he's extremely competitive. What can you say? All the boys there. We, at the beginning, 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 [alongside us and] 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, [exasperated] "Okay. Fine, Josh, we'll race. Fine. Whatever you want." So we say go, and I take off, but then I stopped and just [turned around and walked] back, because I'm all tired. And he gets to the end, and he's all excited, 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.

Would you consider acting to be your own "Terabithia"--a private form of escapism?

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.

Do you maybe have another interest that lets you escape into imagination?

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 in school! 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 alive as possible because that's what's really important, and that's how people are individuals.

How closely is your family involved with your career?

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. They pretend, you know? 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 just 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.

Do you enjoy writing? Do you keep a journal or something like that?

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, I should be writing all this stuff down." You know? When I 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.

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

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.

Thanks for your time.

Thank you.

Related Material

More interviews with AnnaSophia Robb
Interview with Josh Hutcherson on Bridge to Terabithia
Interview with director Gabor Csupo on Bridge to Terabithia
Movie Coverage: Bridge to Terabithia


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