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

March 23, 2007

In the paranormal thriller The Reaping, a pair of scientists, Katherine (Hilary Swank) and Ben (Idris Elba), travel to remote sites where purported miracles have occurred in an effort to explain them scientifically. But when they come upon a small town in Louisiana that is afflicted with what appears to be the ten Biblical plagues of the Old Testament, they find themselves unable to rationalize the mysterious events by conventional methods. Their investigation also uncovers an insidious plot, at the heart of which is a young girl (AnnaSophia Robb) who is purported to be a demonic harbinger.

Directed by Stephen Hopkins (Lost in Space, TV's 24), The Reaping is a solid thriller with a supernatural twist and a few surprises. The cast is particularly strong, and the lead characters have an interesting dynamic--Katherine, suffering from a crisis of faith, coldly and cooly debunks miracles as a sort of vengeance against religion, while Ben accompanies her on the journey in the hopes that he will be able to scientifically prove the existence of a God in which he has placed his faith. Together, the two play the skeptic/believer dichotomy well, while still being the closest of friends and colleagues.

In this interview, AnnaSophia Robb talks about working on The Reaping, which is one of her five films scheduled to be released this year.

The Interview

MEDIA: Your character Loren is silent for most of the film. What was it like playing a part with very little dialogue?

ANNASOPHIA: Well, it was kind of hard. It's different from anything that I've ever done before. It was more with the eyes and the eyebrows, and just the face and body language...It was kind of hard to audition for the film because they had to make up dialogue, so that I could audition. [laughs] Because you can't just stand in the room and just stare, you know? I talked with Stephen a lot about how I was going to portray my character. It worked out well, though, I think.

Do you like the idea of having two totally contrasting movies (The Reaping and Bridge to Terabithia) in theaters at the same time?

Yeah, I think it's kind of fun. I think it kind of throws people off a little bit. I just want to try different things, and I got to work with Hilary Swank and Stephen Hopkins, and they were both really amazing people to learn from. I think it's kind of good. I mean, I think it changes the way people look at me--seeing that Bridge to Terabithia is a really good movie and a totally different message, and then The Reaping. I'm scary in this film and happy and very uplifting in the other one.

Was it initially intimidating to work with a two-time Oscar winner like Hilary?

Yeah, a little bit. I mean, it's not necessarily intimidating, it's just a little, "Wow, I can't believe this, I hope I do a good job!" You know? But she's very personable and really friendly and funny, and just very encouraging of me.

What was your first meeting with her like?

Well, I met her in the hair and make-up trailer, and she just kind of turned around and said, "Hey!" When you meet someone, you automatically feel the vibe, their aura of energy, and how they're going to treat you the rest of the film. And she was just really nice and funny, and just very kind to me.

Your eyes are very colorful and prominent in certain scenes. Did they have you wear contacts?

No, they changed them in the film. They changed them digitally. I saw a clip of one of the scenes, and my eyes had changed and they looked really scary, and I went, [gasps] "That looks really cool! Wow, how'd they do that?" [laughs]

Speaking of the digital effects, one of my favorite scenes is when you get to rain down locusts upon everyone. Were any of those bugs real?

Well, in preparation for that scene, they had me train with the locusts, and I was terrified of them. They were these big, ugly, fat creatures. But they're not going to hurt you unless you're a big head of lettuce. [laughs] So I thought there was going to be hundreds and thousands of them, and there were just about eight. The ones on the chimes, those are all real. The one on my arm and crawling up my leg, that's real. And then they had a couple scattered around for just for dimension and seeing how big they are.

Did they have a locust wrangler?

Yes, they did! [laughs] They had several locust wranglers. They were really funny. They brought around this huge cage of locusts, and it's like this big, black jittery cage, and it's kind of intimidating. And they just reach their hand down in there and they all crawl up on their arm.

How do you like working with critters?

Ummm...I'm all right with animals. I now can pick up locusts, and I'm not so scared of them. I don't like snakes, though. They kind of creep me out. Snakes and sharks, I don't do. [laughs]

So no Snakes on a Plane 2 for you?

I don't think so. [laughs] No.

In Bridge to Terabithia, you did a lot of running around in comfortable clothes. By contrast, in The Reaping, you have a dress that's getting increasingly tattered, and you're running barefoot through the woods. Wasn't that uncomfortable?

It was great! I loved being barefoot. I felt so free. I'd wear shorts every day under my dress. And I was 11. So I got really tough feet by the end of the movie, just running around barefoot. And it was such a nice thing to come to set because you could go to set in your PJs, and you just wear this dirty old dress and run around, and it was during summertime so I didn't have school, and I just had a great time in it. And I got to beat it up and no one really cared. [laughs]

No injuries?

No injuries. I mean, a couple of scrapes and scratches, but I don't care. [laughs]

Things occasionally get gross and messy over the course of the story. Were you just dying for a shower after a long day of shooting?

I was. It was pretty nasty. Every day I would get in, and it was just dirt. Just all dirt. They would cover me. But it was fake dirt, which was kind of weird, you know? [laughs] It was actually a bit of a relief because I could spill stuff on my wardrobe on accident and it wouldn't really matter, and I could get all dirty and no one would really care. I just had to be careful about touching other people. I didn't want to get them dirty.

Are you into horror movies? What was your reaction when you finally saw this one completed?

I saw the movie and I was [tense] the whole time, because the music is what scares me, when it comes on, and it's just like very haunting, you don't know what's going to happen. I'm just like, [gasps]. So I got really nervous beforehand. I was like, "Mom, am I going to be scared watching this? What's going to happen?" I don't usually watch scary supernatural thriller movies because I get freaked out. But I was all right in this movie.

Despite this being a horror flick, did you have fun on the set?

Oh yeah, I wasn't scared at all when I was filming. Usually it's joking around, playing with the locusts, making friends, talking, chit-chatting away. Just kind of hanging out.

With so many of your films coming out now, are you finding it more difficult to not be stopped in public?

I wouldn't call it difficult. It's just what comes along with the job. It is increasing more and more. [laughs] There's more recognition. But sometimes I feel a little bad for my friends when we go to the mall. I feel bad for them rather than for myself because they might feel a little bit uncomfortable, or they're just like tired of it, because they know I'm "just AnnaSophia," and I'm just going to the mall and I'm goofy as ever, and they'll get stopped. And it makes them feel kind of uncomfortable. So I feel bad for my family. But I knew this was coming, and I just have to deal with it with grace.

Are you worried about sudden overexposure? Or do you want to ride that momentum and do as many films as possible right now?

No, I only want to do good projects, you know? I want to make good decisions. If it's just a dumb movie, then no, I'd rather stay in school. But if it's a movie worth telling and that I think I would really benefit from, then I would like to do that film. And that's one of the reasons I still live in Colorado. I love being with my family and going to school, and then when I come out to LA, this is the time to be in the movies, you know? People ask me the questions, I get to do promotion work, but I always get to go back home, and I get to live my life.

As an actor, what do you look for in a movie?

I usually look for a reason to tell the story--you know, if this can help people in the entertainment way, where they can just laugh, or if the audience can relate to the story. I usually read it to see if [my character is] a good character and that I think it would be a challenge for me to portray. I look to see if the story's worthy and if it's well written. I look to see who's attached--the director, the other actors. And then I think, "Well, what other projects are there?" and "Do I want to be gone, away from my family and my school and life, to do this project?"

What did you respond to in The Reaping? Did you take it to simply entertain, or did you like the underlying themes?

It was mainly Hilary Swank and Stephen Hopkins. Those were a big draw because Hilary is an amazing actor and Stephen is a very powerful and incredible director. And those were the main draws for me, that I could work with them. And it was also in the summertime.

Do you have any particular actresses who you admire, or whose careers you would like to pattern you own after?

Ummm...Well, Natalie Portman, she went to college and she's still in the film industry making good choices in her career. I think Hilary and Charlize Theron...They're both two actors that I've worked with and that I admire for just how good they are at what they do and how grounded they are--just how kind they are to everyone, and they treat everybody the same.

You're involved with charitable efforts in Darfur via Save the Children. Have you ever been there?

No, I haven't. I want to go, I think when I get a little bit older. I think I could be involved from here, but right now it's really dangerous there. I do want to go, so I know what it's actually like there. And I also can tell people my experience there, so they will want to go there and help, too.

Because of Winn-Dixie still has a lot of fans. Do people still mention that movie to you?

Yes, they do! And it's always nice. It was my first film, and I loved doing it, and it's a very sweet story. I liked filming it, and I think it's cute. All the kids want to know what the dog's like. [laughs] I like that. They're just so happy about the dog in the movie.

Besides the actual acting, what do you enjoy about your job?

I definitely think traveling is really fun--I get to go to New Zealand, and England, and Louisiana. And the different experiences I get in each place, and also the people I get to meet and become friends with.

Do you have a favorite destination that you've already visited?

Definitely London. London, I totally fell in love with. That was so much fun. I want to live there now. And New Zealand was pretty awesome. We lived on the beach. [laughs]

Okay, now you've got me curious: how many dogs did you actually work with in Winn-Dixie?

They had two that I mainly worked with: Laiko and Scott.

Sorry, you got me thinking...

[laughs] Yeah, it's okay.

Thanks for your time.

Thank you, guys.

Related Material

More interviews with AnnaSophia Robb
Interview with Hilary Swank on The Reaping
Interview with Idris Elba on The Reaping
Movie Coverage: The Reaping
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