When AnnaSophia Robb, 11, the fresh young star of the recently released movie Because of Winn-Dixie, participated in a phone interview with AgapePress, she was just as articulate as she was on the Big Screen.
The blonde-haired, wide-eyed aspiring actress willingly bared her soul as she answered behind-the-scenes questions about her hobbies, goals, inspiration, and career, while commenting on her spiritual beliefs. Take a look into the life of this little girl who graces screens nationwide as India “Opal” Buloni.
Question: Tell me about yourself. Do you have brothers and sisters? What are your hobbies? Where do you go to school?
Answer: I am the only child. I have a little dog name Belarus. She's a multi-poo. That's a Maltese and a poodle mixed. I'm in fifth grade. I'm homeschooled. Well, my hobbies are playing with my dog. I like to swim and dance and sing.
Q: Now you live in Colorado. Is that correct?
A: Yes. Oh, and hang out with my friends. I like doing that, too.
Q: I read that you have known since you were three years old that you wanted to be an actress. What made you decide this at such a young age?
A: I saw people on TV. I saw kids on TV, and I really wanted to act. And I loved performing in front of people. And I love being in front of people. I like seeing people, so that is kind of what made me want to do it.
Q: What actress is your role model? Why?
A: I have three: Nicole Kidman, Merrill Streep, and Glenn Close, because they have such a variety of roles. Every time I see them in a film, I also believe them. They are always that character. You look at them and you want to be in their place. You want to be in their careers, or [at least] I want to.
Q: What were you doing when you were first spotted and signed by a Hollywood agent?
A: Actually, I found an agent. My mom did. When I was eight, I really wanted to get [into acting]. I had been begging my mom since the age of three, and she finally found me one. He picked me up. What I mean by “picked me up” is he [signed me]. And I started getting jobs, and they recommended acting classes. I took those and did them for three months. At the end of three months, two agents and one manager came out from LA. Then an agent and a manager wanted me. About a month later, I went out to LA and started auditioning.
Q: It happened fairly quickly for you, I guess.
A: Well, four months or maybe five probably five months.
Q: I read that your entrance into acting included an appearance in a short Denver-based film and on a national television commercial for McDonald's and Bratz Dolls. What was it like seeing yourself on TV for the first time?
A: I thought it was kind of normal. Most people think it's kind of weird. I didn't think it was that odd. I knew I had filmed it, and I thought it was okay.
Q: How did you find out about the casting call for Opal in Winn-Dixie?
A: That's the job of my manager. They find auditions and then they send…the script to you and you go audition. So that's what he did. I went out and there were five different scenes, and I auditioned for it. I thought I did a horrible job. I was crying at the end because it was so bad. About two weeks later, they called me and they said, “Can you meet with the director?” So I had another audition, which is called a “call back.” And then another two weeks later, they called me and said, “Can you meet with the producers?” So I did that. By that time, I had spent around three months in LA [or] two and a half. So I went back to Denver, and then about two weeks [later], they said, “Can you come to a screening for us?” And I was really excited. I flew out to Louisiana [where the movie was filmed]. I had my screen test. I was real utterly nervous and anxious. About two days later, they called me and said, “In four days, can you come to Louisiana?” I was screaming!
Q: How did you feel when you got the part?
A: I started screaming! I was jumping up and screaming and running around. I was so excited because I had only been in acting for about a year, and I had gotten my first big film. So I was really excited.
Q: Did you ever think you would not get it? Why?
A: I didn't think I would get the part. I thought I did a horrible job. I was like, “I'm not going to get the part.” I just knew I wasn't. I did.
Q: What do your parents think of your performance as Opal?
A: They thought it was a really… [Well], they loved the film. I, personally, loved the film, but I didn't like myself in it as much.
Q: Now why is that?
A: About half through the film, about two-thirds of the way through the film, I started believing myself because I didn't believe myself when I was watching it. But I am very judgmental of myself.
Q: Had you ever read the book prior to filming the movie?
Q: Are you anything like Opal in real life?
A: I think in some ways I am. I love to have a good time, and I love meeting new people, and I love being with people, and I love dogs. I don't think I have as much sadness in my heart as Opal does.
Q: Did you get close to Winn-Dixie in the movie?
A: Oh, I did. There were actually a couple of them [dogs]. I loved all of them. They were all so sweet.
Q: So was it hard to leave them when the film was over?
A: It was, but I am getting to see him this weekend. When we are doing tours…press stuff for Winn-Dixie, I get to travel around with him.
Q: What is your favorite part of the movie? Why?
A: My favorite part to film or what?
Q: Yes. Your favorite to film and your favorite part to watch. We can do it that way. First, what was your favorite part to film?
A: My favorite part to film was probably eating the litmus lozenge. It was the best candy in the world! It was wonderful. I liked filming that scene. I liked filming the whole film. It was all so fun. My favorite part to watch was probably when Opal and Gloria Dump are looking at the…[bottle] tree, because that is when I really started believing myself in the film. And it was kind of a powerful scene, too. It really made people think. Or it made me think, as well.
Q: What was the most difficult part in filming the movie?
A: The first time, you know, when Winn-Dixie was about to be taken away? I thought that was a pretty hard scene to do, because that was my first time crying for a day and a half. It was kind of draining. It was pretty hard to be crying your eyes out and bawling for a day and a half.
Q: How did you prepare yourself for that?
A: Well, my dog had died a couple of months before, so that helped, and then you just think about sad things. By the time you cry for two hours, you just want to cry.
Q: Which actor/actress did you enjoy working with the most? If you don't want to single one out, I understand.
A: The most? Uh, wow! They're all so different. Eva Marie Saint was like a grandmother to me, and so she is really wonderful. And Cicely Tyson was just a really good friend. Dave Matthews was always so funny just to be around. Jeff [Daniels] was… he was just kind of quiet but still good…. I think the kids would be my favorite to hang out with, because they're all my same age and stuff like that. You know they're all so different, so I just like hanging out with all of them for different reasons. It was good because I got to spend quality time with them, each of them, so that was really good.
Q: What did you learn from this movie?
A: Well, Wayne Wang, the director, really helped me become a more mature actress. When I first started filming I was really over the top. He just helped bring me down and make me real. That was really wonderful, a really wonderful experience. Also, what I learned about filming is it takes forever. I mean, there are so many different angles and shots. I mean, it just takes forever.
Q: How long did it take you to film the movie?
A: Three-and-a-half months.
Q: How would you describe this movie to others?
A: Well, first of all: Read the book! It's really a heart-warming, heart-felt film. It makes me feel good. It's a film that has all different kinds of feelings. There's enough sadness, enough funniness, and happiness. It's all-around good. That's what I like about it.
Q: I was told you were a Christian is that true? I noticed you praying in the movie and asking God to send you a friend. Is that something real in your life?
A: Yes…. I am a Christian, and God really helped me in this film getting the part.
Q: How do you hope people feel after watching Winn-Dixie?
A: I hope it will mean different things to different people. I hope they all get something new and different out of it…. I hope the kids think about what life is like for some children and how to be nicer if you're not that nice, like the Dewberry boys [in the film]. I hope the older people will think about what life's about.
Q: How did you land a part in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that is set to release July 2005? Tell me about your role in it.
A: Actually, it's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's an adaptation of the book.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your role in it?
A: I'm really not supposed to say. I'm Violet Beauregarde.
Q: Can you share your excitement with me or how you're feeling about that film?
A: I think it will be a great film. I think a lot people will really like it because it's really, really close to the book.
Q: Is this strange for you now being a young actress? How has this changed your life?
A: My dad has started his own firm now. My mom, she quit her job so she can haul me around. We travel a lot, and I'm homeschooled, obviously. It's a good change, though. It's not bad. And it's exciting and always fun.
Q: What do your friends think of it?
A: They like it. I mean, they miss me, and I miss them. But it's fun being able to come home and they see me in commercials or on the Big Screen when they go to watch the movie.
Q: What is your overall dream or goal in life? Where would you like to see yourself in the next several years?
A: I want to do a lot more films like Winn-Dixie. I'd like to start some businesses. I'd like to help dogs all over the world and spay and neuter them. When I get a lot older, I'd like to become a producer and writer.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: No, I think that's about it.