“Soul Surfing” with AnnaSophia Robb
The “Terabithia” star takes on sea and sharks in her new movie.
You might have first seen pretty blonde, blue-eyed actress AnnaSophia Robb, 17, when she was befriending a stray dog in Because of Wynn-Dixie. She was evil Violet Beauregard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and she played a teen with a big imagination in The Bridge to Terabithia and an alien girl in Race to Witch Mountain.
Now, in the film Soul Surfer, you can catch a wave with AnnaSophia as she takes on the role of real life Bethany Hamilton, the surfer girl who, as a 13-year-old, lost her arm, but not her courage, to a shark!
We’re chatting in a trendy hotel near UCLA in Los Angeles. AnnaSophia (this is her whole name and she wants us to use it!) is looking dreamy in a sky blue silk shirt dress that really sets off her blue eyes. Grab your board and let’s hit the waves!
Kidzworld: Bethany has to learn to back up and look at the big picture in her life, especially after the shark attack. Have you ever gotten too focused on Hollywood and films so that you’ve needed to back up to make your life fuller?
- AnnaSophia Robb: Not necessarily back up exactly but that’s one thing the movie has definitely taught me, to keep everything in perspective. That’s something I’ve always tried to do because this is sort of a fleeting business or, at least, careers are. But, I just try not to think about that and take life day by day and following the life I’m supposed to live. I stay at home [in Denver] and really enjoy life instead of freaking out about everything I think I should be.
Kidzworld: How was working with Carrie Underwood [Who plays a church youth leader in her first film role]? Did you sing for fun together? You sang a song for the “Terabithia” film a few years ago.
- AnnaSophia: Carrie was only there for a week so it was a really short time but she sang in one of the scenes. I didn’t get to sing with her.
Kidzworld: How about singing in the future? Is that something you care about?
- AnnaSophia: Acting is more my focus. I think singing is so beautiful. I love to listen to music but I think I should work on my voice a little bit, not for anybody else, just for myself.
Kidzworld: Who do love musically?
- AnnaSophia: I’m so bad about discovering new music but Mumford and Sons is huge. I love them.
Kidzworld: They’re cute too!
- AnnaSophia: Yeah and they deserve to be huge!
Kidzworld: Who was the jokester on the set and what did they do?
- AnnaSophia: Chris Brochu (who plays Bethany’s brother Timmy Hamilton) was always having a good time. Lorraine Nicholson (who plays Bethany’s BFF Alana) is hilarious. She’s so funny. We had a great time. You can tell that the atmosphere of this whole press tour is wonderful. Everybody on the film loved each other.
Kidzworld: Lorraine is a Hollywood kid (daughter of film great Jack Nicholson) but she doesn’t really live that life. She’s down to earth. Did you guys become buddies? You have a lot of scenes together.
- AnnaSophia: Yeah, we became really good friends. I don’t know why. She’s one of my favorite people ever. She’s so brilliant and so witty and kind and so self-deprecating. She’s a little older, almost 21.
Kidzworld: What did you learn by talking and working with the real Bethany?
- AnnaSophia: Surfing for sure! I’m gonna surf for the rest of my life. But definitely just taking every day, one step at a time.
Kidzworld: Was surfing easy to learn or hard? Were you just a surfing natural?
- AnnaSophia: I don’t think anybody is a surfing natural. It’s really hard but I love it. It’s about passion for the ocean and wanting to get out there. I had some fantastic surf coaches; Russell Lewis and Noah Johnson. Then Bethany would take me out once we were filming and we would just kind of cruise out there.
Kidzworld: After you did it for a while, did you understand why Bethany is so crazy about surfing?
- AnnaSophia: Yeah. I think surfing is different for everybody but you have to be so focused. You’re not thinking about other things when you’re out there. As soon as you hit the waves, it’s not usually life or death but you have to be aware of body position and where the waves are going and you have to be cognizant of everything around you. Then, once you are paddling, it’s this force that is bigger than yourself that you’ve been working so hard to [conquer]. It’s just this fantastic feeling. It’s Zen but in a super energizing way.
Kidzworld: What surprised you about surfing? What was a misconception you had about it?
- AnnaSophia: I guess where they actually ride the waves. I thought they were a lot closer to the shore. They paddle way out. It depends on the break but I thought it was like right there at the beach. I don’t know what I was thinking. You see, in the movie, how far away they are [out to sea] when Bethany was attacked. You see how little they are. That was in the real place [where Bethany lost her arm].
Kidzworld: Have you done any charity work? Bethany’s life was turned around by seeing just how hard some other people’s lives were after the Tsunami in Thailand.
- AnnaSophia: I recently started working with PeaceJam which is the coolest company ever (peacejam.org). I did a workshop in Denver last weekend. It’s for all ages but it’s great for teens. You can start it in your school. They have afterschool programs. It’s about serving your community and the world and the environment, human rights, nuclear disarmament. Nobel Peace Prize winners come and speak and work with kids.
Kidzworld: That sounds awesome. Is it important to you to choose films that will positively affect or inspire others?
- AnnaSophia: That’s not been a goal always. It’s usually been about the role more. This was a fantastic role. It’s inspiring but it wasn’t necessarily the reason I took it. I thought “What a fantastic challenge!” That’s what I look for in a character, the challenge of it and the story, of course, and who is involved. It all came together.
AnnaSophia at the interview
Kidzworld: Can you talk about working with CGI on the arm? Your arm was covered with a green sleeve so the CGI guys could make it disappear. Did you have to try to pick up things with just one arm to understand how Bethany must feel?
- AnnaSophia: I had my arm behind my back. On my shoulder was a little prosthetic (where Bethany’s arm stub is). There is a line in the film that says that the extent of things she’d be able to do with her other arm was huge which was true. But there is a lot of difficulty. Brushing your teeth is pretty easy but tying your swimsuit top isn’t [for instance]. Bethany never complained. She does it herself and if she can’t do it, she gets help.
Kidzworld: Some of that surfing action looks really tough. Were there any accidents or injuries on set?
- AnnaSophia: Yeah, a couple. The last couple of days we were surfing and it was dangerous. There was rough surf and one time the camera got dropped in the water and it was just in a protective water bag. Everyone was like ‘Aaaaaa noooo”. Then another time a guy got knocked out cold, a stunt guy. It was really rough and we were trying to get out to the break and the camera floated back and hit his face and boom! Down. It was scary. He was fine though.
Kidzworld: Why will tweens and teens especially enjoy seeing Soul Surfer?
- AnnaSophia: Because I think everyone goes through a rough time in their lives and it shows what the human spirit can do.
By: Lynn Barker