Beautiful, confident 20-year old Emma Roberts may be charming the kids in the Paramount comedy “Hotel for Dogs”, but as she makes her Sundance debut with two very different Indie films, she tells Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview, that her days of family movies are behind her as she enters a more adult phase in her life and career.
Question: So here you are at Sundance with two films. Let’s begin with The Winning Season.
Roberts: Sam Rockwell was so great to work with. And it’s a really cool movie.
Question: Is it basketball?
Roberts: It’s like A League of Their Own, but for basketball. It’s very comedic, but at the same time there’s some weight to it. And it’s just a girls basketball team wanting to be taken seriously. Everyone takes the boys seriously, and no one ever takes the girls’ team seriously. So they’re just trying to gain that respect. And the coach, Sam Rockwell, is a misfit coach trying to gain respect.
Question: How much basketball did you have to do?
Roberts: Oh my God. We practiced for, like, two, three weeks before the movie started. And – yeah. I got along so well with all the girls in it. Like, they really picked a great team, so we had fun messing around and playing and I think it’s going to look really good.
Question: Now you know, you’re on this incredible journey as a young actress at the moment. You can go from a mainstream Hollywood movie like Hotel for Dogs, to a dysfunctional family movie, to a basketball movie.
Roberts: I know.
Question: And there aren’t a lot of girls your age who seem to get those sorts of opportunities.
Roberts: No, I’m really lucky. And I know I’m lucky. I’m just really – like, thankful for it all the time, because I know that there’s millions and millions of girls who want to be doing exactly what I’m doing or want to be an actress. You know, I’m one of them. So it’s great, to be able to do not only so many movies, but so many different movies that are for different audiences. So It’s really exciting.
Question: Is the indies thing, do you think, giving you opportunities that you otherwise would never have attained? Rather than just do the family films?
Roberts: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). I mean, I love doing the family films. I have an eight-year-old sister, and it’s great for me to do something she can see, but at the same time, I love doing kind of roles with more depth to it. And I love independents, just because – you know, iyou and the director are the ones creating your character. It’s not the studio, the producers, everyone telling you what to do and how to do things. It’s just you and the director, and just making it real.
Question: After the Hotel For Dogs screening, my wife turned to me and said, “You know, I think Emma’s too old to be doing these family movies.”
Roberts: I think that was probably my last one. One of them. I don’t know yet. But I think Hotel For Dogs was it.
Question: Do you think you’re at the age now and the maturity that you could go beyond playing the kid, and that you really want to play real adolescents, like you do in – in Lymelife?
Roberts: Yeah. Definitely. No, also, I’m going to be 18 in three weeks, so it’s kind of like, you know, I – it’s funny. Because when I did all those – like, Hotel For Dogs, I was at the age where it would be appropriate and now I think I’m getting a little older. But, you know, I’ve really loved everything I’ve worked on, in different ways and I don’t ever regret doing a project. But I’m looking now at more independents. I’ve read a couple of scripts that I really, really have an attachment to, and hope I can do some time this year or next year.
Question: What about your academic life? Are you putting school on hold?
Roberts: I’m doing both. I just applied to college, actually, so I’m waiting to see if I get in. And I’d love to go, even just for a little bit, to have the experience, and meet people, and just try new things. I’ve been acting for almost half of my life and I just think that it’s important to have other options, and have other hobbies, because you can’t make it your whole life. You just can’t make acting your whole life. You have to do other things. I love writing, I love reading. I love photography. I just have other interests, which I think is important.
Question: What kind of writing?
Roberts: I write short stories. Which are fun. And – yeah. I mean I love to write about things that have happened in my life, or just make up things that I think are funny. And it’s a cool way to get your ideas out, especially when I’m not doing a movie. I have to express – like, be creative in other ways, I guess you could say.
Question: Does having all these interests enable you to think to yourself that maybe there’s more to life than being an actor? That maybe you’ve got to direct, or write, or any of these other creative –
Roberts: No, I’d love to produce, I would love to work behind the scenes of some kind. I would just love to keep my options open, you know? I don’t want to, like, pigeonhole myself into being like, “I’m just an actress,” you know? Because I think that there are so many opportunities that are around that you should take advantage of.
Question: What else is coming up for you?
Roberts: At the moment, I’m just waiting to see if I get into college. My birthday is in three weeks. I’m trying to get my license.
Question: What are you doing for your 18th birthday?
Roberts: I don’t know. I think I just want to have a really nice dinner with friends and family, and then maybe just, like, go to a party or something. I don’t know. I don’t really want to do anything huge.
Question: And if you do decide to do something in college, or pick a major, would it be to do with drama? Or do you think you would do something out of the box?
Roberts: I think I’m going to major in creative writing or novel writing. Literature. Maybe do some, like, filmmaking classes. Photography. All that stuff.
Question: And do you hope that the independent world is something that you’re going to continue to be drawn to, in terms of your acting? Is that what you want to do?
Roberts: Yeah. I love it. I mean, I want to do everything. I really like Natalie Portman, because I feel like she’s done a little bit of everything.
Question: She started, also, very young.
Roberts: Yeah. She started young. And she does the big studio movies, she does the independents, she does comedy, drama. I just really admire her for that. And she’s very educated.
Question: What are the challenges for you in making the transition from adolescence to adulthood?
Roberts: I just think it’s very thin ice you’re walking on, to make the transition from child actor to adolescence. Because – you know, so many people just mess it up, and they do things that are so outrageous. And it’s like – the whole point is, like, Anne Hathaway. The fact that was is Princess Diaries, like, you’d never think about that. Whereas, like, Lindsay Lohan, you still know that she was in Freaky Friday and The Parent Trap, and it’s hard to take her seriously. So that’s why I really like – like, Anne Hathaway is a great example. I think she’s been nominated for so many awards this year. And the fact that she starred in a Disney movie when she was in her teens – a lot of people don’t even know that, I don’t think.