The young stars of Race to Witch Mountain talked to me about making the movie, a re-imagining of the Disney classic, Escape to Witch Mountain, about a brother and sister with extraordinary powers. AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig could not have been more fun to talk to — they were both so bright, engaged, polite, curious, and excited about the film. It was easy to see why they work together so well on screen. They have an effortless chemistry, a shared perspective, and great chemistry. When they assured me that they were the best of friends, I believed it.
One of the big challenges of making this movie had to be acting as though you could really see all of the effects that were not added in until later. How did you know what to visualize and where to look?
AnnaSophia: Andy [Fickman, the director] was really great about explaining everything, all the visuals. And a lot of it was there — the only green screen work we did was in the cab.
You had to play characters who looked like human children but in reality were aliens for whom everything on Earth was new and strange. How do you create those characters?
Alexander: It was a really good opportunity for both of us because we had creative freedom to sculpt our own characters. No one really knows what aliens are like so we got to form our own characters.
Did you coordinate with each other to make sure that your characterizations were consistent?
Alexander: We became super-close. Since we were playing not just aliens from the same planet but brother and sister, we had to have to have similar qualities. So we would share our ideas. And then she just shut me down whenever I suggested anything! (laughs)
AnnaSophia: We would go over stuff and talk about it with each other. And his suggestions were great!
How do you create that feeling of excitement and urgency?
AnnaSophia: That is part of what we do as actors. And it is one thing Andy was great about, reminding us to keep our energy up, that you don’t know these these people are following you. Alexander was great about that, helped me keep focused on the fact that we were running for our lives.
Tell me about working with Duane Johnson! I’ll bet he is a lot of fun.
Alexander: Working with Duane is a joy. He is honestly a phenomenal guy, like an older brother to us. It was an inspiration to work with someone who came from so little, achieved so much, and is still such a genuine guy, such a professional.
Who are the actors who inspire you?
AnnaSophia: Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman — I want to go to university like her — Scarlett Johansson, Leonardio DiCaprio isincredible.
Alexander: I agree on all of her choices! Meryl Streep is phenomenal, Leonardo DiCaprio is truly inspirational, a phenomenal actor, Johnny Depp is an amazing amazing actor, unreal, Brad Pitt is another one I admire.
Tell me about Andy Fickman, the director. I saw him at Comic-Con and really enjoyed his enthusiasm.
Alexander: Andy is great — it’s like a toy store exploded in his office. He knows how to surround you in the environment of the story and makes you believe in the project.
Do you believe that there is life on other planets?
AnnaSophia: We have such a large universe, there must be something out there.
Alexander: I totally agree, the options and imagination are limitless, we can’t be the one planet out of all these billions to have life.
I have one copy of the DVD to give away to the first person who writes me at email@example.com with “Witch Mountain” in the subject line. Tell me why you like this movie!