Film Critic Joel Massie had the rare opportunity to participate in a round table discussion with the director, author, and stars of the upcoming children’s fantasy film “Bridge to Terabithia,” based on the Newberry Medal Award winning novel. The second pairing was stars AnnaSophia Robb and Josh Hutcherson.
Joel Massie: What drew you to this film?
Josh Hutcherson: When I read the book I could visualize it coming to life on the screen, and then after I read the script I thought it was great how they kept all the heart of the book, but at the same time, they added in effects to make it more visually interesting.
AnnaSophia Robb: I read the book at the same time I was reading the script and I thought it transitioned so well, the heart and soul and everything that makes Bridge to Terabithia entertaining. I really wanted to do this project because they just kept it so close to the book.
JM: Did the director make it fun while filming this movie?
JH: Yeah, the director, Gabor, is great. He’s so creative. He comes up with these almost out-of-this-world ideas and then he puts them on the screen and they look amazing. He’s such a visionary. He’s an artist and he created most of the characters in Terabithia.
AR: It was amazing just walking into his office and seeing all the drawings he had made for Terabithia, and it really helped me when we were filming all the green screen work to have been able to first see all of the different creatures and characters in his office.
JH: Gabor was also a lot of fun on set as he’s this funny, crazy Hungarian guy. He’s a family man, too. He’s got five kids and his house is a zoo – he has three dogs, five cats, birds…
AR: …Four turtles. He has the coolest house ever. His wife is so lovely, and…
JH: …His daughter was actually in the movie.
AR: She has a quick part in the movie.
JH: She’s one of the extras at the playground
AR: The “free to pee” scene.
JM: Did you not think it was a stretch that two very attractive young people like yourselves would be ostracized?
AR: I believe it because they think differently. Sometimes it’s not necessarily about how you look, but that could be another reason why they’re outcasts, because people might be a little jealous of them. And Jess and Leslie, especially Leslie, are just so different from the crowd that people don’t know how to take them, and because they don’t know how to react to her they just think she’s weird and make that definitive decision and decide to bully her.
JH: I think for Jess, even if he were good looking, I’m not saying that I am…
JM: Of course you are!
JH: Even if someone is good looking, if they don’t act like it, then people can still make fun of them for other reasons. If they’re not cocky and arrogant and maybe have low self esteem. I think he has a lot of self confidence problems and that’s why people make fun of him and find things about him that are different. Like he draws… and wears his sister’s shoes. (everyone laughs)
JM: Where are you guys in your school standings?
AR: I’m one of the weird ones.
JH: I’m the top of my class – ‘cause I’m home-schooled (laughs). But when I went to public school I was pretty much in the middle. I was a jock to a degree, but how much of a jock can you be in elementary school? I don’t think I got bullied very much. I did when I started acting though because they made fun of me for that, which hurt, because I really loved making movies.
JM: You know what that is, right?
JH: Yeah, I call it jealousy.
JM: That’s exactly what it is.
JH: I had a hard time understanding that at the beginning. I didn’t know why they were being so mean to me about it. But I think if you rise above it and you realize that they get joy out of seeing you get upset – then you stop getting upset, or at least you don’t show them and they’ll stop eventually.
JM: I feel like we’ve bonded in the five seconds that we’ve had, so I’m going to hit you with the tough question, okay?
JM: Is there any attraction between the two of you?
JH: I don’t think so. I think we’re really good friends, but I have my life back home in Kentucky. I have a girlfriend back home.
AR: We became really great friends on set, and I think that’s another message from this film – that boys and girls can be friends without having that sort of attraction for each other. When Jess gives her the dog, we didn’t know how to approach that – we didn’t know if it would be a kiss on the cheek or what, but I really wanted it and I think so did Josh, to keep it close to the book. That’s why their relationship is so special because they’re such good friends and they’re not uncomfortable around each other for that reason.
JH: It would become a love story instead of a friendship story and that was what was so great about the movie. It was on the edge between friendship and love, but not a boyfriend girlfriend love, more like a best friend love. I think it was great how we showed that in the film.
JM: What was your favorite experience from making this movie?
AR: My favorite scene is when Jess and Leslie find Terabithia because I thought it was just such a magical place to shoot and especially all the sets were so beautiful. But my favorite part was definitely hanging out with the crew. I had so much fun in New Zealand and everyone there was wonderful, and it really makes my time there even better when I know that the movie I’m making is going to turn out really well and that I can be proud of what I’m doing.
JM: Have you seen the final production?
JH: We have seen almost the entire thing. There’s a few tiny bits of the effects that were missing but we saw almost everything and it was spectacular how visually astonishing the characters were and how amazing the sets were, the lighting, and how everything came together so wonderfully.
JM: Who is the most interesting person you’ve worked with so far, and who would you like to work with?
JH: For me it was Michael Chapman, the director of photography for Terabithia. He’s the old professional guy who knows about every single thing on the planet. You could ask him a question about physics, about history, about lighting a set, and he knows it. He lit Raging Bull, and he was just great to work with. Whenever you’d ask him a question, he’d have the exact breakdown of the answer.
AR: And he always carried a stick around with him that he found on one of the sets. He’s one of those people that if you looked at a whole crowd, he’s who’d you notice.
JH: Somebody I’d like to work with in the future…well, I really want to work with a lot of directors. Working with actors is a great experience, but the directors really have a lot of passion and emotional drive for the movie and they also have all the say, so if you have a good relationship with the director, it really helps your character so much.
JM: What one director do you want to work with?
JH: I think it would be Scorsese.