Josh Hutcherson, her co-star in Bridge to Terabithia, lounging casually on the couch, shook his head and smirked. “I was wondering why you got so excited and tore out of here.”
“He said ‘chocolate bar’ so I thought..y’know…a bar just for all kinds of different chocolate.” Annasophia pouted playfully towards the door through which her father had just exited. He had gone in before me to let the kids know of the spread of snacks and drinks that was available just outside the interview room.
Apparently, AnnaSohia had heard the words, “chocolate bar” and immediately envisionied a bar overflowing with chocolate. Possibly a lingering after-effect of working with Johnny Depp in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. She had rushed out of the room just as I was entering, so intent on finding chocolate that her father had to remind her to introduce herself.
Stopped in her tracks by his gentle chiding, Annasophia immediately turned, shrugged sheepishly and offered her hand with a charming smile, “Hi, I’m Annasophia!”
Introduction made, she continued on her quest for chocolate, leaving me to wonder at the strong, firm grip of a wispy 14-year old. At that point, Josh had stood to greet me with a charming smile and as strong a handshake as Annasophia’s before resuming his casually slouched form on the couch. Like a flick of a switch, movie star brilliance off, teenage nonchalance on. When Annasophia returned he was ready with friendly derision.
He goaded Annasophia with, “But it was what? Just. A. Chocolate. Bar. Right?”
Sighing, Annasophia flopped gracefully back on the couch with a sigh, “Right.”
Annasophia (Anna pronounced Ah-na) and Josh were in Seattle promoting the June 19 DVD release of Bridge to Terabithia. They’d gotten in late the night before and had been doing interviews since 8:30 a.m., which had meant an early wake up call. Despite the early morning and the long day of interviews with a few more still stretching before them, the two teenagers looked freshfaced and animated. An early flight to Montreal at 6 a.m. the following day wasn’t going to deter them from making the most of this stop, the second of a six-city publicity tour. This being their first time in Seattle, both planned to take in the city at night.
“I want to go up the Space Tower – I mean the Needle and watch the city light up,” Josh said with a smile. In fact, a smile never seemed to leave his face during the interview. Quite the contradiction to the character he played in Bridge to Terabithia, a somewhat melancholy figure who is bullied at school and neglected at home. Josh plays Jess Aarons in the movie to Annasophia’s Leslie Burke, an adventure-seeking free spirit who befriends Jess. Combining their imaginations, the two create Terabithia, a magical land they can only get to if they keep their minds wide open.
The movie is based on Katherine Paterson’s award-winning young-adult novel of the same name. It tells the tale of the two soul mates who find sanctuary in the imaginary kingdom they create, where they reign as king and queen and fight off a giant troll, evil creatures and plot against the schoolmates who tease them. I remember this was the book to read when I was in 5th grade, so I asked the two stars of the film how familiar they were with the book prior to filming.
“I was homeschooled for 5th grade because I was working, and that was the grade when a lot of kids read the book, so I didn't actually read it until after I heard about the script,” admitted Annasophia. “After reading it I was even more interested in the part and excited to be part of bringing the story to life.”
Josh also admitted that he didn’t read the book until he was approached with the script, but both teenagers immediately fell in love with the book, finding the characters easy to relate to.
“Where Jess gets teased and feels left out because he’s artistic and all he wants to do is draw…I kind of felt that way because I wanted to act,” Josh explained.
Both stars seemingly burst onto the Hollywood scene around the same time, first in television roles then the big screen. Josh’s first major role was a CGI version of himself as Hero Boy on Polar Express in 2004 opposite Tom Hanks. Annasophia’s first major film was Because of Winn-Dixie but is probably best remembered for her turn as Violet Beauregard on Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, the girl who ate the blueberry gum and turned into a blueberry.
Both have been working steadily every since. Josh has two films in post-production while Annasophia has four. I shook my head in wonder just imagining their schedules with filming, traveling, promoting. One of the reasons I loved the film was the fact that they played kids being kids. I asked them how they balanced the workload of traveling, acting & school. Josh explained the requirements of building 3 hours of instruction and homework into a 9 hour day that includes lunch and breaks. He shrugged as he thought about his schedule. “You just have to make time because education is very important.”
Annasophia was exuberant about attending a private school next year with a pool and cross country tream. “They’ve been very positive and excited to have me and they’ll be flexible with my filming schedule. I was homeschooled before and was really fortunate to work one on one with a tutor. Learning something new goes lot quicker when you aren’t competing for your teacher’s attention. But high school will be different with electives to choose from.”
When I asked if her interest in cross country running came from the movie, she shook her head claimed, “I just like to run. I run all the time.”
Josh turned to her with an incredulous look and asked, “Why?”
Annasophia seemed to waver a bit, shrinking back into the couch. "Oh-kaay! So maybe it's more like jogging!"
Since the conversation went in that direction, I asked Josh what he enjoyed doing outside of acting. “I like going home to Kentucky and just hanging out with my friends. Go to the mall, watch TV. It may sound boring, but I like being bored.”
Annasophia leaned away, out of Josh’s line of sight, rolled her eyes and mouthed, “I. Don’t.”
Suspicious of my snicker, Josh shot Annasophia a glance. Quickly composing herself, Annasophia rattled off more of her favorite things to do, which included reading and hanging out with her cousins.
Their comfortable banter and teasing was heartwarming to watch and it was apparent that their friendship played strongly on-screen because of the off-screen camaraderie. The two did spend almost four months together filming Bridge to Terabithia in New Zealand. Luckily for fans, the old adage of familiarity breeding contempt didn't apply here. Their faces lit up when asked about their stay in New Zealand.
“It was amazing! It was awesome!” They both exclaimed, almost in unison, talking over each other in their excitement. “We practically lived on the beach! It was the best time ever!”
Under the direction of Gabor Csupo, whose writing, producing & animation work includes The Rugrats Movie and The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Josh and Annasophia’s characters escape from school troubles and turmoil at home by letting their imagination run rampant. Asked how they felt about working with Csupo, Josh’s answer hinted at a maturity and thoughtfulness not usually seen at his age.
“Working with Gabor was incredible. It was just amazing how he conceived his images of Terabithia. When you think about it, we just acted in it, but Gabor created Terabithia. If I learned anything from Gabor, it’s to not be afraid to let your imagination stretch.” Annasophia was equally reflective, “It’s one thing to imagine something in your head, but then to be able translate
it into something others can see and appreciate and get excited about, that’s
just unbelievable. ”
This wasn’t either’s first time in a movie with special effects. When asked how the physical work in Bridge to Terabithia compared to movies like Zathura and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory as far as special effects, Josh was pragmatic. “Well the trailers made the movie look like there were a lot more special effects than there actually were. There weren’t too many scenes that required too much stunt work or acting out a scene with something that wasn’t there. What there was required just a little more imagination than physical work.”
Given their young career, the number of big Hollywood names they’ve starred with is impressive. Citing Tom Hanks, Robin Williams and Johnny Depp as examples, I asked them who they regarded as inspirations in the acting world.
“I haven’t worked with him yet, but I admire what Jake Gyllenhaal has done. I want to pattern my career after his,” was Josh’s answer. “He’s a great actor.”
“Mmmhmmm!” Annasophia agreed wholeheartedly. “He’s cute , too. How old is he?” This was asked with an impish smile and a faraway look.
“I don’t know…twenty-eight?” Josh replied.
“Well, darn.” Annasophia said with a regretful snap of her fingers, then answered in all seriousneess. “Me? I’m inspired by Charlize Theron. She's just an amazing actress, and I see her as a mentor and a very good friend.”
At this point it was on to the next interviewer for the two kids, a colleague I caught up with the next day at another movie screener. First question out of his mouth, "Wasn't that the most fun interview you've ever done?" I have to admit, it was.
For more about the actors, visit their websites at:
http://www.joshhutcherson.com/ & http://www.annasophiarobb.com/
For more about the movie, visit www.disney.go.com/terabithia
For more about the book & author, visit www.terabithia.com