There are as many young actors on screen in Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl, as there are luminary adults – Stanley Tucci, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn and Julia Ormond among them – which is appropriate since this is the film that will be competing with Wall-E for family movie dollars this summer.
Based on one of the immensely popular American Girl dolls, it’s features Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as the title character, an inquisitive little girl whose family is suffering from the economic ravages of the Great Depression. The cast also includes movie veterans such as 12-year-old Zach Mills and freshly-minted heartthrob Max Thieriot (Jumper, Nancy Drew), as well as newcomers like Madison Davenport, all of whom suffered a whirlwind press weekend in Los Angeles recently with an entourage of mothers, minders and puppies in tow.
“My grandma grew up in the Great Depression,” Breslin tells us, “so I talked to her about that, and she told me things like they put sugar on their tongues and would drink their tea over it, and everybody was in the same situation back then, and she told me that the clothes (in the movie) looked really authentic and everything, so that was good.”
“Abby was so sweet," Davenport recalls, when asked about the movie’s Toronto shoot.
"Abigail is so nice and down to earth," agrees Mills.
"She's a professional,” Thieriot says. “She's truly like a professional. She's a great person and then she can completely become the character, and then go back to being a 12-year old kid."
Davenport changed her hair colour for her role as Ruthie, Kitt’s best friend. “I was there when she died her hair," adds Mills, who plays a boarder in the Kittredge house.
"I cut off his circulation," laughs Davenport
"I very nearly lost an arm," Mills deadpans.
For his role as a young hobo, Thieriot recalls director Patricia Rozema asking if he’d be willing to live the part a bit. “She said 'What do you think about not eating as much?' And so I literally changed my entire diet on the film, and it doesn't really look like it, but before filming started I was 160 pounds, and I went down to, like, 140. I lost 20 pounds in less than a month by just drinking juice and eating soup.”
Breslin mostly remembers working with other kids as being liberating. “It was really fun to get to work with other kids, but everybody on the movie was really nice and we had fun - me and Madison and Zach would go out every night to a mall or a movie and everything, so it was really fun.”