If you pair a bubbly, smiling, and cute nine-year-old with a shaggy, drooling, friendly and wet nosed canine, you have a treat that will leave the crowd begging for more. Because of Winn-Dixie, the best selling novel by Kate DiCamillo and new film by Director Wayne Wang, is a must see movie for all animal lovers. This movie features freshman actor AnnaSophia Robb who plays the role of India “Opal” Buloni, a lonely young girl who takes in a stray dog she names after the store she found him in; “Winn-Dixie”.
This vivacious and adorable young actor, now eleven-years-old, beat out 650 young girls to play the role of “Opal”. Before winning the part “I had read the book and thought that it was a great story and I chose the part because “Opal” was such a good character,” says AnnaSophia. This newcomer thought that the part of “Opal” was not going to be hers, saying that, “I came out of the audition crying at the first audition because I thought that I did such a bad job.” Fortunately for AnnaSophia the director called her back in a week and soon after she got the final nod to play the role.
AnnaSophia, who has a dog of her own named “Bella Roux”, worked with two Picardy shepherds named “Liko” and “Scott” that played the part of “Winn-Dixie” in the movie. The Picardy shepherd is such a rare breed that the dogs that played “Winn-Dixie” were shipped all the way from France to play the likable mutt. The dogs they chose had no previous acting experience and had to cram sixteen weeks of training into about ten weeks. They worked everyday for about a month with AnnaSophia before beginning the film.
“I had a lot of fun with the dogs and this was such an experience for a first film,” says AnnaSophia. While training they would bring in one dog at a time to get her acquainted with the dogs and they would play when they were in between rehearsals. “One of the dogs was a bit skittish at first, but became calm and nice because I worked with them every day,” says AnnaSophia.
Working with Because of Winn-Dixie co-star veteran actors Cicely Tyson and Jeff Daniels, and popular musician Dave Matthews, was an ideal opportunity for AnnaSophia’s debut acting experience. She was in almost every scene in the movie and enjoyed every moment of it. “For a first time movie I thought that it was really good because it taught me how to act, it showed me what to do and how to spend my time,” says AnnaSophia. She got some excellent tips from the veteran actors also. “I really learned that you have to get into character when it doesn’t seem real, and once I learned that I think that I got better as an actor,” proclaimed AnnaSophia.