01.2005 – The Movie Chicks interview

Headline : Interview with AnnaSophia Robb (Because Of Winn-Dixie)
By : Themoviechicks.com

January 21, 2005

AnnaSophia Robb was selected out of about 650 girls nation-wide to play Opal. She brought along Laiko, one of the dogs that played Winn-Dixie in the film. Laiko is a Picardy Shepherd, a rare breed of dog in the United States – only 2 or 3 existed in the state of California, so he was flown in from France to make this movie. As a breed, these dogs are not really family dogs, they are tentative around people, but are very intelligent and easily trained. They’re herding dogs that can be stubborn and are happiest when they have work to do, so they need to be handled by someone who has a lot of patience.

Question: This is the first movie for you and the dog. Which of you was cast first?

AnnaSophia: I think the dog was.

Question: When you auditioned, did you audition with the dog?

AnnaSophia: No, they were being trained at the time. They first asked me if I was good with dogs before I auditioned, ’cause they didn’t want me to be scared of the dog.

Question: Where was the movie shot?

AnnaSophia: In Thibodaux, Napoleonville, which is mainly where we shot, and Donaldsonville, Louisiana.

Question: When you first met the dogs, was it easy for you to get comfortable with them?

AnnaSophia: I didn’t really know the dogs the first time I met them, so I was kind of nervous about them, but then we started to be really good friends.

Question: How many different dogs did they use for Winn-Dixie?

AnnaSophia: They had 5, but they just used 2 mainly, [Scott and Laiko].

Question: Was one a stunt dog or how were they interchanged?

AnnaSophia: Usually you have different dogs on the set, the same breed that look alike, because if one gets tired, they have to use a different one. One might be better at cuddling than the other and one might be better at following me and running around.

Question: What was your favorite scene to shoot with the animals?

AnnaSophia: I liked shooting all the scenes with the animals because I think it was really fun. Being in bed with Winn-Dixie was a lot of fun because you could cuddle with him and he was so sweet.

Question: Where there any animals at the pet store that you didn’t want to pick up and touch?

AnnaSophia: No. I think that was one of my favorite scenes was doing the pet scene where all the animals go crazy because I got to pick up these bunnies and little pigs. There was this one pig that was really crazy and you couldn’t catch him because he was really fast. I liked picking up all the animals that they allowed me to pick up, except these pigeons flew into my mouth. They let the birds in so it would look like it’s even more crazy and I opened my mouth to say my line and one of their feet went in – it was really gross.

Question: This is your first movie, but you were working along side a lot of actors, one that had won an Oscar and a lot of people who been around for a long time, was that a little intimidating for you at first?

AnnaSophia: I think, at first, I was a little bit nervous just meeting people. You don’t really know what they’ll be like and how they’re going to respond to you, but once I met them they were really nice.

Question: Did they help you out or give you any advice as you went along?

AnnaSophia: Most actors don’t do that, or the ones that I’ve worked with anyway. They don’t give you little bits and pieces, but just watching them, it’s amazing. Just watching them you can learn stuff – how they get into character and how they play their different characters.

Question: Had you seen movies with Jeff Daniels or Cicely Tyson before you started this one?

AnnaSophia: They’re kind of in adult movies, so I didn’t really see them before. But I saw Dumb and Dumber, that’s how I was introduced to him, but I know he’s a really good actor.

Question: What about Eva Maria Saint, did you enjoy working with her?

AnnaSophia: Oh, she was so lovely. She was so nice, really sweet and you always could talk to her. She was kind of like a grandma.

Question: How did you get along with the other kids? Did you get a chance to play with them on the set?

AnnaSophia: Yes. They’re all around my age, so we got along really well. We’d go out to dinner together. We never really had time to play and there’s nothing really to play with there. It’s just kind of there. But they were fun, you could talk to them and watch movies together and do as much as you could on set.

Question: What about Dave Matthews, because I think this was his first movie, too?

AnnaSophia: Yeah, he was a really, really nice guy. He was great. He was always making people laugh and singing; sometimes he’d strum on his guitar, just kind of messing around. He’d always talk to you – be at craft services with me, a lot – my favorite part.

Question: Did you know of his music before you met him on the set?

AnnaSophia: My mom and dad listen to his music a lot.

Question: What time of year did you film the movie?

AnnaSophia: It was in the fall, because Louisiana in the summer is very humid and hot. We did our re-shoots then and I got heat exhaustion because it was so sunny and humid.

Question: How long were you in Louisiana?

AnnaSophia: Three and a half months.

Question: Did it get a little boring there or did you get a chance to venture outside your small town?

AnnaSophia: Yes I did. I went to New Orleans. We’d go there every other weekend, just because it was more exciting. But there was stuff to do there – there was Wal-Mart. We went on swamp tours. Driving up to New Orleans, they have all sorts of different things – I held an alligator and kissed a frog.

Question: How long were your days, you’re in almost every scene in this movie? It must have been pretty concentrated work.

AnnaSophia: It was. I was there every day, but kids are only allowed to work 9 and ½ hours in my age range. When you get older, you’re allowed to work 24/7, but I don’t think anybody does that.

Question: That must have been pretty much the extent of the production day, since there weren’t too many scenes without you in them, right?

AnnaSophia: They would have to pack up and get ready to go to the next place. And if they had a scene with Jeff that was just him sitting in his bedroom, looking at a picture of his wife and him, they’d shoot that after I was wrapped.

Question: Did it surprise you how hard and complicated all the technical setting up was – a lot of waiting?

AnnaSophia: It was a lot of waiting. It wasn’t a ton, which was kind of bad because I had to get schoolwork in – because I’m a child. So every time they’d set up or do the lighting, I’d go to school while they worked and then they stop and I’d go back in and shoot for about an hour and a half to two hours and then they’d come back and do another scene. It could be five minutes of set-up, just changing around a little, so you’d wait there.

Question: Did you read the Winn-Dixie book?

AnnaSophia: Yes, I did, before I auditioned.

Question: Did they stick to the story fairly well?

AnnaSophia: They did. The one thing they changed is the preacher wouldn’t tell her about the 10th thing and they added a little bit more because the book’s very short.

Question: Did they add characters?

AnnaSophia: No, they didn’t add characters. They just added more scenes – some in the church with the preacher and Opal and Winn-Dixie and the congregation.

Question: Is there actually a Winn-Dixie store in that town?

AnnaSophia: Yes, there is. Donaldsonville is where we shot the Winn-Dixie market, which was at a Winn-Dixie store.

Question: Were a lot of local people used as extras?

AnnaSophia: Yes, all the extras were locals. [They all] knew each other, so they’d come. We were doing a take and all of a sudden, this parade comes. It was homecoming. And they went by where we were shooting, purposefully, just to say hi. They’re such friendly people, but we were right in the middle of a scene and all of a sudden they have the trumpets going. But Wayne, he’s so open that he brought the sound crews, “Go tape that. Maybe we can have it in the movie as background music.” So they tapped it and we thought they’d left. We were so focused because it was at the end of the day where I had to be wrapped, so we were getting a little tense – and then they came around another time. It was so funny, but it was good.

Question: You knew you wanted to act at a very early age, but you didn’t really start into it until you were 8 or 9?

AnnaSophia: I told my mom when I was 3 that I wanted to act. She thought, “You and every other little girl.” But when I was 8, I really wanted an agent, so I asked my mom and she got me one in Denver and they recommended some acting classes. I took a 3-month intensive [class] and at the end of it, L.A. agents came out and they picked me up and I went out to L.A.

Question: Was your first movie experience everything you imagined it would be?

AnnaSophia: I don’t think I did imagine. I imagined being an actress, but I never imagined actually being there shooting it, I always imagined after it came out.

Question: Was it a lot more work than you thought?

AnnaSophia: Personally, I think my work’s fun or I wouldn’t be doing it. I think it’s so much fun meeting new people every day.

You really make a different family [on the set]; you just come together. Then at the end of the movie, it’s hard because you have to separate and go different ways.

Question: But you’ll get to see them all again at the premiere.

AnnaSophia: No, not all of them. I’ll get to see all the cast, but the crew were really great people, too.

Question: You went on after this to work on Willy Wonka. I expect that’s mostly on soundstages rather than locations. Was it a totally different experience for you?

AnnaSophia: It was – it was very different. Winn-Dixie and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory are the two farthest apart movies, because Winn-Dixie is about love and life and making friends; and Charlie is zany and crazy. But it was fun. We shot always on sets, but all the stuff from the chocolate factory was real.

Question: Was the direction very different – working with Wayne Wang on the one hand and Tim Burton on the other?

AnnaSophia: Yes, it was. Wayne is a little bit more quiet and thinks about things, but they’re both wonderful directors. It’s like a Picardy Shepherd and a poodle – they’re both great, but they’re different.

Question: The people on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hadn’t seen Winn-Dixie before they cast you, right?

AnnaSophia: No, they hadn’t.

Question: So you had to audition for that, too.

AnnaSophia: Yes. I got Winn-Dixie, then I auditioned for Samantha, got that, and filmed [it]. Then straight from Samantha, I went to London for Charlie. From London, about a month into the film, I went to Louisiana for a week to do re-shoots [for Winn-Dixie]. Then I came back to London.

Question: Sounds busy. Are you on a break now?

AnnaSophia: Not entirely. I’m going around promoting Winn-Dixie.

Question: Have you seen the movie with an audition with children in it?

AnnaSophia: No, I haven’t. I got a private screening of it for the first time, so I’ve only seen it once and I really liked it. So now I’m kind of antsy about seeing what people really will think, because the people I saw it with were all my friends and they wouldn’t say anything bad about it. “Oh yeah, I didn’t think you were convincing” – they wouldn’t say that. So I think if I see everybody faces, if they’d laugh, then I’ll be able to know what everybody thinks.
After the interview, AnnaSophia and Laiko demonstrated some of their tricks. It’s too soon to know what the general public thinks of the movie, but everyone in the roundtable thought AnnaSophia and her new friend, Laiko, were delightful.