By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—How many 12-year-olds have had the opportunity to have Bette Midler and Billy Crystal sing Happy Birthday to them? That’s just what happened to up-and-coming actress Bailee Madison, who plays the granddaughter of the Divine M in the family comedy “Parental Guidance.”
“It is really something I’ll never forget,” exclaims Bailee, who has since turned 13. “Afterwards, it was like, ‘Encore! Encore!’”
The Florida-born youngster, who resembles a young Katie Holmes (with whom she co-starred in “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”), is best known for her roles in “Bridge to Terabithia” and her recurring role as young Snow White on the ABC series “Once Upon a Time.” (She’ll return for more episodes next season.)
Poised and patient, she is joined for an interview by her two younger co-stars: brainy, big-eyed Joshua Rush, who just turned 11 and flame-haired wisecracker Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, 7. Both boys admit they had a crush on Bailee during the shoot in Georgia. Though the youngest of seven children in real life, Bailee seems at ease taking on the big sister role with the boys.
She plays Harper, the oldest child of Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott’s characters, Alice and Phil, a yuppie couple whose Georgia home is filled with electronic gadgets. Marisa’s Alice is one of those helicopter parents who tries to control every aspect of her kids lives, from what they eat to how they dress. Phil has an opportunity to take Alice on a business trip but Phil’s parents aren’t available to take care of the kids. So Alice reluctantly invites her parents from Fresno, Calif. to babysit for a few days.
Living far away from their grandkids, Artie (Crystal) and Diane (Midler) aren’t really hip to modern parenting, and manage to goof things up from the get go: giving the children verboten sweets and taking one of them to an X Games and nearly injuring skateboarder Tony Hawk in the process. Of course, these “other grandparents” mean well, but are they ready for grandparenting in the modern age? The comedy was written by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse based on an idea by Crystal, and directed by Andy Fickman (“Race to Witch Mountain,” “The Game Plan”).
Bailee, Josh and Kyle are enthusiastic about promoting their movie, which opens Christmas Day, and were more than happy to talk about their roles and acting with legends like Crystal and Midler.
Q: How old were you when you made this?
Kyle: Six. Now I’m 7.
Josh: I was 10, and now I’m 11.
Bailee: I turned 12 on the first day of shooting.
Q: So Bailee, you’re a teenager now. Do you feel different?
Bailee: I wish I could say I do. I can sit in the front seat of my mom’s car now.
Q: In three more years you’ll be behind the wheel yourself.
Bailee: I’m a good driver. I’ve driven a golf cart. We live in a gated community, and when I’m with my father, he lets me drive. I sit on his lap because I can’t reach the pedals.
Q: Do any of you have what you regard as your “other grandparents?”
Josh: I do. I’m not going to mention their names, because both sets of grandparents are in town. So I’m going to leave that a mystery. I don’t want to make it awkward.
Kyle: (showing Josh a picture he’s been drawing) I’m drawing a guy doing a dance.
Q: How is it when you get together with relatives that you don’t see that often?
Kyle: It’s not that weird because I normally see them a lot. My mom and dad are normally going out and my sister does auditions and stuff, so she’s gone a lot too, so I have to stay with my grandparents.
Josh: With my grandparents, I go with them about the same amount of time as the other grandparents. They all live out of town so when I see them, I try not to make them feel like “the other grandparents.” I try to be a nice guy.
Q: How about you, Bailee? Is there anyone that you have to pretend to be nice to?
Bailee: No, thank goodness. That’s a really good thing.
Josh: She got lucky. She’s so nice.
Bailee: Thank you, Josh.
Q: Billy Crystal was saying it was really cold in Georgia when you were filming there. How did you cope with the cold? And there was a tornado?
Josh: There was?
Bailee: Yes. One day we were right in the middle of filming, and there was a huge evacuation around Atlanta, which was having tornado warnings. So we had to all meet up. It was scary. We were all in this room and everyone’s so happy. You have Billy, Bette and us, and we’re trying to stay calm. Then they announce there is a possible evacuation set for us. So if the tornado comes, we have to go down to the basement. We have food and drinks down there. Like, it was all planned out.
Q: Were you scared?
Bailee: It’s funny. When I did “Cowgirls ‘n Angels,” there was a tornado too so it felt familiar. On that one, we had to go into this bank and go underground. But nothing happened. On location on this one, it was freezing, which was tough because there was one scene where I’m wearing a sundress, and I was like “brrrr.” But it was nice. It made it feel like Christmas.
Josh: They call it “Hotlanta,” but I have no idea why.
Kyle: It actually is pretty hot there, usually.
Q: Did they give you hot cocoa?
Bailee: Yeah, of course.
Kyle: I didn’t get any hot cocoa.
Josh (to Kyle): You didn’t ask.
Bailee (to Kyle): You did. When your mother allowed you. They always brought us coats to wear between takes, and hand warmers.
Josh: I loved the hand warmers.
Kyle: They didn’t give us hot cocoa!
Q: Did they restrict the amount of sugar you could have on set?
Kyle: Does anyone here know what ADHD is? I have that, so I’m not allowed sugar because that gets me really hyper. I can have 10 grams of sugar a day.
Bailee: That’s good. That’s better than none.
Josh: 10 grams of sugar is like half a can of Sprite.
Bailee (to Kyle): In the cake scene, you got your sugar there.
Kyle: Oh yeah. I had plenty of sugar on that day. I’m surprised my mom didn’t say no.
Q: How much ice cream cake do you think you ate that day?
Kyle: It was actually 26 different pieces.
Bailee: We didn’t eat the whole cake because we had to keep it going for continuity.
Josh: Most of the cake was on the walls and our heads, faces, arms, bodies, shirts (and) hair.
Kyle: I would be wiping it out of my hair and eating it during school (on set).
Q: So you had to suffer for your art?
Bailee: Exactly. We had to be very Method with it.
Q: Are you all planning to continue acting? What’s ahead for each of you?
Kyle: I’ve been doing a couple auditions for stuff and I quite haven’t got them.
Bailee: I always say everything happens for a reason. So (to Kyle) you have a good one coming up. I feel it.
Josh: I’ve been doing a lot of promotion for the movie. I also did (a voice) for (the upcoming DreamWorks animated feature) “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.” I play Sherman’s friend. I learned a cool word: teraelectronvolts. I was talking about the large hadron collider, which collides particles at, I think, 25 teraelectronvolts.
Q: Was that tougher to say than your “shot around the world” speech you deliver in this movie?
Josh: That was a really amazing scene to do and to have (former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher) Ralph Branca there (when the scene was filmed) during my speech. I could tell he wasn’t very happy, though.
Josh: He wanted me to change some of the words. But I was like, “Nooo.” Why would I want to change this incredibly famous speech? It was so amazing to me.
Q: How about you Bailee? What’s next?
Bailee: I have a few independent films coming up, which I’m really excited about. I can’t announce them yet. And I’m returning to “Once Upon a Time.” I’ve done two episodes so far, and I’m getting ready to do a few more in January. I just read the scripts for them. They’re really intense.
Q: Have you wrapped up your holiday shopping? Is there anything specific you really want?
Bailee: I haven’t done my Christmas shopping yet. My sister’s usually in charge of it, but she just had a baby. So the rules have changed, and I’m in charge. It’s kind of scary. I only have a few days to go Christmas shopping. But it’s exciting because it’s the baby’s first Christmas.
Kyle: I’ve gone Christmas shopping. I’ve gotten some stuff for my sisters.
Josh: I’m Jewish, so I get one present a night for eight nights. These guys (Bailee and Kyle) are lucky because they get, like, 20 presents in one day.
Kyle: When you get older, you get less presents.
Bailee: My neighbor always does 10 days of Christmas. She has this big Santa sack, so I go next door and reach in the sack and pull out a present. So I love Christmas.
Josh: My Hanukah is almost over, but I’m happy with what I’ve gotten so far.
Q: Did Bette and Billy sing to you guys a lot?
Bailee: Yeah. It was great because I love Broadway shows and I love musicals, and I love movies, so to be with them and have them burst into song was amazing.
Kyle: What I didn’t like is that they would sing a lot, so when I got home to Canada, I wanted peace and quiet, and my sisters didn’t know that, so they’d talk and talk and talk.
Bailee: It was fun for me because I love all those old songs, but they’d also sing songs I’d never heard before too. Every day I’d learn something new. My favorite was “Poison Ivy.”
(All three start singing “Poison Ivy.”)
Q: So Bailee, you’re based in Florida, and Kyle, you live in Canada. Josh, where do you live?
Josh: I live in L.A.
Bailee: We have the house still in Florida to keep me grounded, and I go back whenever I can. But I’m here in L.A. a lot more now.
Q: Are you guys up for a sequel? Maybe your characters’ other grandparents will show up?
Josh: Oh yes. Definitely. I would be so excited to do a sequel. I heard Billy and Bette joking on the set that we should go to Latin America.
Bailee: I’d like to go to Hawaii or something.
Kyle: Let’s go to Hawaii. I want to try surfing.
Q: You’d be warm there and you wouldn’t have to worry about tornadoes.
Josh: Just tsunamis.
Bailee: With our luck, we’d get some kind of crazy storm. But I’d be totally up for a sequel. The cast and crew were so wonderful.