In 1977, Katherine Paterson wrote a book called Bridge to Terabithia to help her 8-year-old son, David, cope with losing his best friend after she was struck and killed by lightning. Fast-forward 30 years, and David adapted his mom's novel for the big screen, writing the script and signing on as a producer.
Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb were cast as Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke, respectively, two bullied kids who escaped their own worlds by creating a magical new one. Bailee Madison played Hutcherson's sister, May Belle, a feisty girl who desperately wanted to join in on the older kids' “games.”
When Robb learned the book was being adapted for the big screen, she actually wrote notes to both director Gabor Csupo and producer Lauren Levine explaining why she wanted to be a part of the film. “I read the book and I just fell in love with the character and story, and I thought it was so beautiful,” Robb recalled to MTV News.
Robb also pulled double duty for the film, recording the song “Keep Your Mind Wide Open,” which plays during the closing credits. She was understandably hesitant to take on the song because she hadn't sung professionally before. And yet she agreed, noting that the tune “kinda took on a life of its own” upon its release. “It was fun to sort of play a character singing a song rather than myself,” she said.
The film was shot in New Zealand, and the kids had plenty of downtime on set. Robb has fond memories of playing wiffle ball and throwing a painting party with several of the cast members at her apartment. Madison recalled Hutcherson keeping up with his sibling duties off-camera, teaching the young starlet how to play baseball, while Robb made Madison crafts and fun set costumes.
In fact, Madison revealed that Robb and Hutcherson worked with the wardrobe department to make her a fairy costume as gift when they finished filming. “They cut little pieces of fabric from all the clothes my character wore, and they made this fairy costume for me,” Madison told us. She still has it, and recently came across the costume in her closet, along with the red warm-up coat she wore between takes.
Though everything was fun behind the scenes, Madison and Hutcherson's characters butted heads throughout the film, which culminated in Hutcherson pushing his movie sister to the ground. (In the book, his character straight-up punches May Belle in the face, but the film thankfully changed that part.) Madison remembered how much talk and preparation went into the big shove, which caused Hutcherson to fear he might end up hurting her, “apologizing after every take.”
Ironically, the push never caused her harm, but Hutcherson did almost injure Madison on set. The scene in which Hutcherson and Robb charged through Terabithia and were pelted with acorns was filmed by making the leads run on a huge treadmill in front of a green screen. Madison didn't get to do anything like that, but Hutcherson invited her to join him up on the treadmill in between takes. However, he forgot to mention that he was safely harnessed in, which was how he could do tricks. Mimicking her movie bro's moves, unharnessed, caused Madison to “fly backward and crash into [a] post,” but thankfully someone caught her. She laughed the whole thing off.
It's safe to say that Madison was the envy of every kid who hardcore crushed on Hutcherson. Unsurprisingly, she herself had heart eyes for him, even going so far as to write him a love letter — with Robb's help, of course. She didn't think Hutcherson would actually ever see it, but not only did he see it — the rest of the crew did, too. “He was so sweet, he just hugged me,” Madison said. “He took such good care of me. I love him with all my heart.”
Robb and Madison admitted they don't get to see their castmates often, but they occasionally do bump into each other. Once, Madison ran into Robert Patrick, who played her dad, and the duo chatted about life. She noted how amazing it was to “see someone on the street from that movie, and it's like no time has passed, and you carry the same excitement and happiness you had when you were filming [with] them.” Robb admitted she lives down the street from Carly Owen's — who played mean girl Madison — younger sister, Stefania LaVie Owen. They played siblings on The Carrie Diaries, and now “hang out all the time.”
Both women are still acting, and both have several projects in the works. Besides playing Grace Russell on Good Witch, Madison will star in and produce the film Cowgirl's Story. Robb plays Alice Green on Mercy Street and will star in Down a Dark Hall, based on the novel of the same name. Though it's another YA story, Robb explains, “it's much darker than Bridge to Terabithia.”