It’s an age-old question that defines friendships and divides nations; romances live or die by the answer: are you a CAT or DOG person?
Last week, Hotel for Dogs opened in theaters, so Scholastic and THE STACKS caught this exclusive interview with one of the stars, Emma Roberts. Get the DL on what it’s like to film a movie with animals and learn all about Emma, directly from Emma herself!
Emma on Hotel for Dogs:
Had you read the book it was based on?
I hadn’t. But it was funny because the author [Lois Duncan] actually came to set, and she said to me, “You’re much prettier and much skinnier than the Andi I imagined in the book.” I was like, “Oh, okay, thank you.” She was just so sweet; she was the sweetest woman . . . I was really glad because she wrote it; it’s really personal to her, so I’m glad she liked what she saw.
[Nancy] The movie is based on a novel written by Lois Duncan in 1971. Yes, that young adult author Lois Duncan, who up until this point I only knew as the author of thrillers for teens. And this April (38 years after the original!), the first sequel , News for Dogs is being published. You learn something everyday . . . By the way, I did some sleuthing on the web, and Lois Duncan cameos in one of the crowd scenes in the movie — look out for her! If you don’t know what she looks like, here’s a picture of her at the movie premiere:
Do you identify with Andi at all?
I definitely identify with her in some scenes. She kind of felt awkward in social settings sometimes, and I think we all feel like that at some point. You know, in high school, you go to a party and you don’t really know anyone and you feel uncomfortable. I could definitely relate to her in that way.
[Nancy] Whoa, I can’t imagine Emma feeling awkward in a social setting (but she does act it wonderfully). Also, make sure not to confuse Andi with Annie, played by Shenae Grimes on the new 90210. I did for a sec — I think they look alike. What do you guys think?
Andi is really responsible and loves and takes care of her little brother. Do you tend to do that or are you more of a loner?
She’s definitely responsible. I’m responsible too. She’s more responsible than me, though, I think. I’m very forgetful. She’s not. I have a little sister that I try to look after, but she’s very mature for her age and doesn’t need much looking after from me. [My sister is] 7, almost 8.
[Nancy] In Duncan’s original story, Andi is actually 10 years old, and Bruce (played in the movie by Wizards of Waverly Place actor Jake T. Austin) is supposed to be 12 — in the movie, Andi is 16. They updated this just so Emma could star.
What was the most fun part of the movie?
The cast was really fun, the dogs were great to work with, and the other kids in the movie were so much fun. For me, that’s great — to be able to go to work and get along with people and hang out during breaks and on lunch. That’s really important ’cause it keeps the mood up on set.
What was the highlight of working with Don [Cheadle]?
He was great. He has such a great sense of humor, and he’s really fun. He’s a sweet guy. He has kids, and he knows how to work with kids.
What do you hope kids take away from this?
I hope they go out of the movie with a smile, having enjoyed it . . . There are so many messages in it . . . just be comfortable with yourself, and it’s important to look after other people and not just think about yourself and be selfish. That’s what I really liked about the movie.
Working with Dogs on Set:
Did you do any preparation for the movie?
Yeah, we did a lot of rehearsals just ’cause there were a bunch of kids in the movie so we rehearsed with each other. And we had to get to know the dogs, so we had bonding days with the dogs.
[Nancy] There were 100+ dogs on set for this movie — can you even imagine bonding with 100 dogs? Think of the shedding! The drool! The poop!!!
What did that involve? Did they give you treats for them?
Gross treats. We would put baby food on our finger and they would lick it off . . . The dog is licking my whole arm and my face, and I was like (big intake of breath), “Oh my God! Well, it’s cleaner than a human’s mouth.” And then I’d see the dog licking its butt. I don’t think so!
[Nancy] Uh, I rest my case:
Do you have a favorite scene?
The dog stuff was fun; it was hard but definitely fun. I liked the stuff in the car that was shaped like a dog. The were pulling us by this trailer, and we had to pretend we were driving.
What made you passionate about this?
I thought it was a really great family movie, and there were great people attached. I love Lisa Kudrow. She’s such a genuinely nice lady, amazing to work with; she’s hilarious. On Friends she was always my favorite. And Don Cheadle, he’s amazing.
If there were a hotel for dogs, would you take your dog?
I would. I think it would be cool to drop your dog off and have it get pampered for, like, a week. It would be fun.
Did you take any souvenirs home?
I didn’t. I wanted to take a little pug puppy. They were in it at the end. I would have taken one of the pugs.
Emma and Her Four-Legged Friends:
Do you have a dog?
It’s a little long-haired Chihuahua. We surprised my sister . . . Me and my mom went out and got it, and we brought [Twiggy] home and my sister thought it was a kitten at first. She was like, “You got us another cat?” and I’m like, “Grace, it’s a dog.” “A dog!? I didn’t think you were gonna get me a dog.” It was really funny. It was in a little cage, and she totally thought it was a cat.
[Nancy] That poor dog! When it grows up it’ll have an identity crisis.
Do you want another dog or would Twiggy not like that?
Twiggy does not get along with other dogs, but I definitely want one, a little pug.
What breed of dog would you be?
A Cocker Spaniel or a border collie.
In the movie, Shep the border collie was my favorite dog. I would play with it when we weren’t shooting. I loved it. I wanted to take it home. It was the most well-behaved and the most beautiful dog. I really loved it. And Cocker Spaniels I think are so cute and fun. I love them.
What was your favorite book growing up?
When I was really younger I read the Junie B. Jones series, when I was, like, in second grade, and my sister reads them now .
Why is reading important?
It’s important ’cause it fills your imagination and builds your vocabulary. I know it’s helped me a lot in recognizing what words mean. Instead of watching TV in your free time, it’s great to pick up a book. It’s so much more of a substantial hobby than sitting in front of the TV, I think.
Powerpuff Girls. I just love them. I want them to make a live action movie . . . I never liked cartoons when I was younger. I hated cartoons. Animated movies, I hated them. I would never go see them. I only liked people movies. I only watched Powerpuff Girls and Scooby-Doo.
What would you like to accomplish with your career?
I just hope to keep doing movies that I love and enjoying myself and having fun and not doing things I don’t want to do. I’ve been doing movies that I’m passionate about, and I’ve always done that. I hope to continue to do that. And maybe start other things, like writing.
[Nancy] Emma should head over to our Fan Fiction Buzz Board!
Anything you can’t live without?
Probably my iPod, especially when I’m traveling. I always need to be listening to music when I’m on a plane or in a long car ride.
What’s on it?
I’m listening to a lot of stuff. I really like Jason Mraz and Katie Perry. The Watson Twins are really cool. Sheryl Crow. I listen to a lot of her ’90s stuff that I just love.
What advice do you have for those who admire you?
Career: you have to stay determined in what you want to do and not let other people throw you off. Go after what you want to do. And just know that being a teenager will pass. When you think about it when you’re older — I’m not even that old and I look back on things I did when I was 14 and I
can’t believe I was worried about that. Everything seems so major. Even now, I think something is the end of the world, and then I realize it’s really not. Generally, I try to be a good role model, be a nice person and be helpful and not go out to places I shouldn’t be. I try to keep my private life private.
[Nancy] I think this is wonderful advice!
Is there a social cause you’re passionate about?
I definitely care a lot about the environment, and I’m trying to put the word out about that. Even the little things help a lot. Turn off the lights when you’re done, and don’t leave the water running. Recycle. Easy things like that, that don’t take any more effort than you’re already putting in.
Any embarrassing moment story to share from school?
I was always in detention when I was in school. I was always late to class. And dress code violations. I went to a uniform school. Sometimes I would not wear the uniform shirt, and that was a detention. I knew it was a detention, but I would do it anyway. That’s another thing that I look back on; I don’t know why I did that.
An embarrassing moment I can think of on Hotel for Dogs:
We were doing a scene in a studio where the refrigerator had this huge glass vase on top of it. I opened the refrigerator, and it was a fake one so it shook and the glass vase fell and smacked me in the face. I didn’t get stitches, but I had these huge welts on my face that they had to cover up, and I was crying and I felt embarrassed that I was crying. Everyone made a big deal out of it; they were like, “You have to go lie down.”
Is there a question you wish you were never asked again?
“Do I get any advice from my aunt?” is a question I wish I were never asked again.
[Nancy] Emma’s aunt is the very famous Julia Roberts. I can see why people would ask her that a lot!
This month, Emma also starts filming a movie called The Winning Season, a basketball movie, with Sam Rockwell:
So you have to learn to play basketball?
Yeah. I’m training. It’s really difficult. I was a volleyball and tennis girl. I stayed away from basketball. I never liked it. And then I started for the movie, and I really enjoy it now. But it’s really hard . . . It’s a really fun sport. You have to really work with your teammates, so we’re having team practice starting next week.
Does athletics run in your family?
My mom is very athletic. She used to ski and play tennis really well. She tried to teach me how to ski when I was younger, and I had to have a clip on my skis ’till I was, like, 13. And then she said she wouldn’t ski with me if I didn’t get rid of the clip, so I decided to snowboard. I’ve never gotten back on skis again.
[Nancy] Ha ha, I have something in common with Emma! I’ve been skiing only once and
never have gone back since getting on a snowboard.
Emma’s on Her Upcoming Movies and Her Career:
Will there be another Nancy Drew movie?
I don’t think so, no. Only one Nancy Drew.
Career-wise, would you like to follow your aunt’s footsteps?
I kind of want to do my own thing. I want to create my own path. She’s done amazing movies and she’s a great actress, so I’d love to do stuff like her, but I don’t want to be just like her.
What’s been your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Probably just trying to make a name for myself. I don’t always want to be referred to as Julia Roberts’ niece. It’s difficult when people think that I only get parts because of that. There have been so many auditions I’ve been on where I haven’t gotten the part and people don’t
think about that. They just think about the stuff I’ve gotten.
Who is your biggest role model?
Natalie Portman and Reese Witherspoon. They started when they were way younger than me, and they’re working and doing movies and they have personal lives that not everyone knows about. I think that’s great.
Who would you love to work with most?
I’d love to work with Steven Spielberg. He’s an amazing director.
— Nancy, STACKS Staffer
Interview conducted for Scholastic by Gerri Miller
Photo Credits: Emma Roberts: Gerri Miller; Hotel for Dogs: Jamie Trueblood and Nickelodeon/Paramount Pictures; Degrassi: Epitome; Unfabulous: Nickelodeon.