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Outside Terabithia
The imaginary world of Terabithia is inspired by the real-life experiences of Jess and Leslie, including their interactions, both inspirational and frustrating, with the various adults in their lives. One of the film's key adult roles, that of Jess's beloved music teacher Miss Edmunds, is played by Zooey Deschanel, the award-winning actress whose recent roles include "Elf,” "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” and a stint on the acclaimed Showtime series "Weeds.”

Deschanel came to the project already in love with the novel. "It was so important to me as a kid,” she remembers. "The characters were so unique, and I saw it as this whole beautiful metaphor for growing up. So I was really excited when I got the script because I thought, now there will be a whole new group of kids who will be introduced to this story that I think is such a wonderful thing to have in your life.”

She was also especially happy to be cast as Miss Edmunds, her favorite of the book's adult characters. "I think Miss Edmunds represents the attractive part of growing up,” she says.

"What Leslie is as a child, Miss Edmunds is as an adult, so they're two sides of the same coin.” Says producer Hal Lieberman of Deschanel: "She has all the spirit, fun and quirkiness this character needs. She's basically that one teacher everyone falls in love with growing up and she also turns out to play a very important role in the complexity and beauty of the story.”

Another key adult role is that of Jess's disapproving father, a hardworking man so worried about his son's future, he can't bring himself to see his true talents as an artist—until an unexpected event changes everything. To bring something special to the role, the filmmakers sought out the oft-lauded Robert Patrick, most recently seen playing Johnny Cash's hardedged father in the award-winning "Walk the Line,” a World War II colonel in Clint Eastwood's widely acclaimed "Flags of Our Fathers,” as well as a colonel in the David Mamet television series "The Unit.”

After seeing "Walk the Line,” Josh Hutcherson was a bit nervous to hear that Patrick would be playing his parent. "I was like, ‘Oh, no, that's going to be my dad!' It was intimidating,” he confesses. "Then, when I first met him, he started out acting really mean and tough just to scare me. But after I got to know him, it turns out he's very nice and was really helpful. When I did my most emotional scenes, he was just really there for me.”

The producers were equally impressed. Says Lauren Levine: "When you work with an actor of the caliber of Robert Patrick, no detail goes unturned. He was incredible and took the role so seriously—and he was also so helpful to Josh.”

Like so many adults who first encounter BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, Patrick was swept up in the story and related deeply to it. "I was constantly creating imaginary worlds as a kid myself,” he recalls. "I grew up in the rural South, so the setting of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA reminded me a lot of where I grew up. There were places like that, with creeks and forests and forts where you could go and just, wham, you'd be gone all day playing imaginary games and exploring imaginary worlds.”

He also had another reason for being attracted to the role. "I wanted to do a movie that my kids could see, because they haven't really seen a lot of their old man's work,” he says. "And this is such a wonderful role because this father has a chance to redeem himself. He starts out one way, but by the end, he begins to realize what's really important in life.”

Patrick wanted to bring an underlying feeling of love to Jess's father, no matter how mean he can sometimes seem. "He absolutely loves his son,” Patrick explains, "but I think he's angry and frustrated and feels like the whole world is taking its licks on him, and that can make you act out on the o

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