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Interview: AnnaSophia Robb for "Because of Winn-Dixie"

By Paul Fischer Friday February 11th 2005 12:13AM
AnnaSophia Robb for "Because of Winn-Dixie"

Annasophia Robb is fast becoming one of Hollywood's latest young stars rising through the ranks. Will she be the next Dakota? Only time will tell, but based on her obvious intelligence and talent, we could have another big child star in our midst.

Not only will audiences see her in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but she is also the star of the new family drama, Because of Winn Dixie. Based on the perennial best-seller, a lonely young girl (Robb) adopts an orphaned dog, Winn-Dixie (so named for the supermarket where she found him), who helps her make friends in a small Florida town, where she lives with her distant preacher/father [Jeff Daniels]. The bond between the girl and her special companion brings together the townspeople and helps heal her own troubled relationship with her dad.

With the dog by her side, Annasophia talked to Garth Franklin about that film as well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

How did you get along with the dog? He's so sweet and he's really great. I loved working with him because I love dogs.

This is your first major movie? How did that come about? It took about three months total to get the whole entire part. I went out in July to audition for the part with the casting director. Then about two weeks later I had another audition with the director, Wayne Wang, and the casting agent. Then about two weeks later I had another audition with the producers and the director and the casting agent. And then I went home. They called me out to do a screen test, to go to Louisiana. So I did that and I came back and waited a couple of days. I was very anxious. Then they called and said they wanted me to be in Louisiana in three days.

There's a really sweet scene in this movie where Dave Matthews sings you a song. What's it like to have Dave Matthews sing to you?

It was really fun and it was interesting because I never had someone sing to me before.

Did you know who he was?

Yes. My mom and dad listen to him.

What about working with people like Jeff Daniels and Eva Marie Saint and all these incredible actors? Were you intimidated? Did you know any of their work?

I was kind of intimidated. I was scared before I met them. I didn't know what they would be like. I'd always heard that big actors are really mean. I met all of them and they're so lovely and so kind. And they just welcome you into their life and tell you stories about their childhood. They're wonderful. They make you feel like a family with them.

Did you see Sounder?

I don't think I did. I saw On the Waterfront.

That's a pretty adult film for someone your age?

Yes it was. It was good to see it because Eva Marie is just wonderful in that movie.

How old are you now? I'm 11.

And were you 10 when you shot this? I was actually 9 and during the film I turned 10.

And did you always want to be an actress? Why? I love people and I love performing in front of people. There's just something about it that makes me feel happy and excited.

Do you like watching yourself on the screen?

It's interesting. I don't. It feels kind of weird. I'm very self-critical so I never think I do a good job, so it's kind of odd for me to watch myself. I always feel like I'm not real or there's something that I didn't; do right.

Where do you live? I live in Denver, Colorado.

And do you got to school or are you home schooled? I'm home schooled.

Do you miss that (going to regular school)? I do. I miss the activities you do with your class, like doing PE all together and going to recess and having lunch and art and doing all that stuff as a group and Spanish where you kind of mess around. It's fun, but it's really.I like home school because you get things done quicker and you can, if you're a little bit faster you can go at your own speed. Your classmates don't ask questions and if you don't get stuff right away you can ask more questions. And if you do get it, you can keep on going.

You seem to be aware, even at the age of 10, that you are sacrificing something about your life in order to get something else. That's really interesting to me because when I was 11 I didn't think that way.

Well, I really wanted to do this and I think it's just worth going out for it. Childhood - not to say I am a child. I am a child. I love being with my friends, but I also like having to do something and not just be hanging around because I want to do something with my life and to really go for it. If you just want to have fun, that's what kids are supposed to do. I get to do both. That's why I like doing movie because you work for three months or however long the movie is but during that period of time you make friends and you have a lot of fun.

How does your mom make sure that you keep it real, that you don't get too much of a big head about all this?

I don't really think that it's that important. I just do what I love to do. When people see me on TV that's great but it's kind of well, it's just seeing someone on TV.

What is important?

My family.

When you were doing this, you obviously worked a lot with the dog trainer. Is there anything you learned working with these animals that helped you understand your own dog better?

Yes. Dogs, they don't just smell. If you say this dog smells my dog's scent. They're smelling if you're scared, where you've been. They smell millions of different things on you. And so you have to be sensitive to a dog. I was walking my dog and there were these huge dogs behind a fence just growling at us and she was looking up at me like, what am I supposed to do? And I tried to stay calm and not get scared and she kept on going. But as soon she sensed that I was getting scared she started freaking out. But I got myself together and just calmed down.

Did you read this book before the movie? How similar is it?

It's quite similar. The book is a bit short to be a film so they added a couple of scenes which I think was good because it kind of helped you. When you're reading something and when you're watching something they're totally different things. And so I think it was good that they added some more scenes because it made the characters seem more together becoming a family.

You also finished another movie, a tiny little film with Johnny Depp. Can you compare the two experiences because Charlie and the Chocolate factory is another classic book?

Winn Dixie was very much a family film. It talked about the qualities of life and what you really think about when you move into mew towns. Charlie was a very big film that had tons of huge sets and it was funny and it was action packed and it was very interesting. But you learn some morals. They're both very opposite and in a way they're both very similar.

Tim Burton can be a very interesting director and an interesting fellow to say the least. How did you find working with him?

He's the most brilliant man. He has an imagination that just goes off the charts. Most people think Tim Burton is pretty weird, but he's not. He's really normal. He has funny hair and he wears really cool glasses.

What is your part in that? I play Violet Beauregarde.

Have you read that book? Yes.

Seen the original movie? Yes.

But there's no singing in this one? Yes there is.

Do you sing a song? I can't tell you that.

Did you enjoy playing a brat? I did. It was fun to play someone different. Opal was the total opposite of Violet. She's a very sweet character.

She was polite in an old fashion way which I really liked. Even with your father, who you call Preacher when you do the voice over, you say yes sir which I found interesting.

Yeah, I think it was just respect from Opal to her father because she was taught that way. And I think the Southern states say sir and m'am a lot and I kind of enjoy that because it shows a certain amount of respect to elders. It's nice.

Which of the characters can you relate to the most, Opal or Violet?

Opal. They're both very different, really different. You can't really compare the two because they're very opposite each other and the experience was very different. But if I had to play a fiction character it would be Violet but if I had to play a kind loving girl I'd play Opal. Both of them I loved to play because they gave me a sense of what I can do.

In your real life do you have any bonding with an older person that's outside you family like Opal does in this film?

I think I do. I love Eva Marie and Cicely; I think they're my really close friends. Who else? My grandma and grandpa. I have a lot of older friends, not like really old friends, but in their teens. My mom's best friend's children are 15 to 20 and they're like my brothers and sisters because I've been with them forever. I really get along with people of all ages.

How many in your family? I'm the only child.

Do you find that very lonely? I did when I was younger I was very sad that I was an only child. It was so boring. But when I got older I had a lot of friends. Sometimes it gets kind of boring because you go over your grandma and grandpa's and you're like, OK, the grown-ups are going to talk about taxes now, what can I do. I guess I'll just sit here. A lot of the time I like it because I'm spoiled.

What do you like doing during your down time?

I like to swim. I like to play with my dog. I like to hang out with my friends. I used to do gymnastics. I sing and play the piano, but I'm not very good. I'm just learning. I like to bake. Pastries. I like cakes and cookies.

Ever bake dog cookies? I tried for my dog on her birthday but I didn't like it. I couldn't eat the batter.

Are you signed on for anything else? No. I'm just promoting Winn Dixie.

Have you seen any of Charlie and the Chocolate Factor yet? I've seen the previews, but they're not letting us see the movie yet.

Are there any particular actors who you think I'd like to have their career someday? Yes. I think Nicole Kidman just because she has such a library of characters and every time I watch her I always believe her.

And you want to marry Tom Cruise? No. Actually no. He seems like a nice guy but he's a little old for me.

Who do you want to marry? I don't know. I don't think a lot about that. I'm only 11.

This film has a lot to do. From a parents point of view you can see how communication with your children is important. Have you used anything like that with your parents?

Well, my parents are very open. They tell me everything. Everything that I ask questions about or don't understand, they'll tell me about. And they don't feel odd. They think I should know. I think some parents are very, very protective and that's Ok, but your kids will start to wonder what life is about and what is going on. And they might get the wrong ideas and try smoking or something bad for them. So I think being in touch with your child is very important because parents are role models. And whatever they say or whatever they do they look up to them. And if they do bad things, the kids look at that and see that and they're more likely to do the bad stuff their parents do.

Can you talk a little bit about working with Johnny Depp?

That was a lot of fun. Everybody asks me this question and it's kind of weird. You meet him and he's such a normal guy. He's really, really down to earth and he treats everyone with the same amount of respect. He invited you to his trailer and talks to you and makes jokes. Little simple things that make you feel comfortable and not "Oh my gosh it's Johnny Depp." It's just like, Oh, It's Johnny.

And then you see him transform into Willy Wonka? Yeah and that's kind of creepy. His character is very creepy. And it's amazing how he can go from his really creepy Willy Wonka character to just a normal Johnny.

This film was shot in London. How did you enjoy that experience? I love London. I think it's the best town in the world. I love the English accent and their little sayings. The city is very historical. I love it. I love the architecture and the museums. All the museums are free which is wonderful because everything else is double the price there. You see pictures from your history books. You walk into the British museum and all of a sudden you see the guy throwing the discus. He's actually there. It's not like you're looking on him on a page. You can touch him and walk around him. It's very cool.

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