The actress who played precocious Tia Malone talks about working on the film, her co-stars, the new Disney remake and much more
Kim Richards started acting at a very young age, first appearing on the TV series Nanny and the Professor at just six years of age. Five years later, with a string of credits to her name, Richards was cast as Tia Malone, one half of the supernatural siblings in the hit Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain, which returns to DVD in a brand new special edition, along with the sequel Richards also starred in, Return from Witch Mountain, on March 10 (CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE for my full reviews of both new Special Edition DVD's). Of course, these releases were also planned to coincide with the brand new Disney remake, Race to Witch Mountain, which hits theaters on March 13 and which Richards and her co-star Ike Eisenmann both appear in. I had the chance to speak with Kim Richards over the phone about her experiences making these films and here's what she had to say.
I just watched both of the films for actually the first time last night and it was quite a treat.
Kim Richards: Yeah? That's good. They're really fun to watch. For me, sometimes, when I re-watch them, it feels like it's not even me (Laughs).
So, Tia Malone was quite a breakthrough role for you, so I was curious about how the whole process of being cast came about. I had read that Jodie Foster was up for the role and then she took another film and then they found you, so I was curious how that all came about?
Kim Richards: Well, we were all screen-tested, so I don't know if that was entirely true. They actually screen-tested all of us, Jodie, me and there were a few people up for the role and Jodie and I, we screen-tested and it came down to the two of us. They actually went with me and then they ended up casting Ike (Eisenmann) after they found me. It came down to Jodie and I, actually. Jodie and I were on the lot quite a bit after that.
These movies must have been, for someone your age at the time, just a dream come true, with all these fantastical elements of the story. Was it just a blast going to work every day on these films?
Kim Richards: You know, this particular film, Escape to Witch Mountain, you know, there's also Return from Witch Mountain, but Escape to Witch Mountain was absolutely so much fun. It's one of my favorite films that I did. Just to be on location, living in a hotel... sometimes when you film a movie and you're away from home, it's not a lot of fun, because I did that so much. I was on the road a lot, my mom and I and my grandmother, my sisters, that's not always a lot of fun. This particular movie was a blast to make. We were living up in Caramel, this little motel, and working with animals, the crew, the cast, John Hough, the director. He was real firm, you know, just his accent alone (Laughs). He was firm but fun. You knew when he meant business in a loving way, but also you knew when to stop. It was fun from the very beginning. My family would come up on the weekends, and, you know sometimes it's like you get cast and you have to take an airplane to get there, but my dad and my sisters would come up on the weekends. It was just so much fun.
You mentioned on the DVD on the special features of the second film, that when you were working with Bette Davis and Christopher Lee, you didn't really realize who they. Was that kind of the same on the first film with Donald Pleasance and Eddie Albert? And when did you actually realize who it was that you were working with?
Kim Richards: Oh, probably as an adult. I never thought it as a child. It wasn't until I was much older. When I would go to work, I always had respect for my elders, anybody older than myself, but I had no idea who Donald Pleasance or Ray Milland were at the time. Donald Pleasance had a beautiful little girl as well and his wife would bring her up on the weekends as well. He looked so firm, but he was so fun and sweet. Ray Milland too. They're like dad's or uncles and they're just friendly. Eddie Albert too. He was Green Acres, Eddie Albert is Green Acres, but you just don't think like that. No, I don't think I ever really got it until I became older. When I was working with Bette Davis, one of the things when she came to work, I had worked for Disney for so many years. I was under contract with them for three and a half years. Then when Bette Davis came to work on the first day, I actually went over to her dressing room. Often when you're working with older people who are legends, or not, they sometimes want to work their dialogue with you because the memory starts to go a little bit, so they'll come over and run their lines a little bit, because it's helpful to them. So when Bette Davis came to work for the first day, you know, Disney was my lot. That was my house. I lived there. When I wasn't working, I was in the little red schoolhouse. So I just went over and knocked on her dressing room. She opened up the door and I said hi and introduced myself. I said, 'My name is Kim Richards and you are... Bette Davis, correct?" (Laughs) She says, 'Uhhh yes?' I said, 'Well, I just wanted to welcome you to the Disney lot and just let me know if you need help with anything or if you need any help with your dialogue, if you want to run lines, let me know. My dressing room is right over there, so just let me know.' Then she blurted out really loud, 'Who's child is this?' Then I got the feeling like, 'Oh my God.' My mom came around the corner and was like, 'What have you done Kimmy?' 'She's a real piece of work,' Bette Davis said. My mom was like, 'What did you do Kimmy? What did you say?' You should hear how my mom told my Dad. 'You won't believe what Kimmy did today' (Laughs).
That's great. So there was such great chemistry between both you and Ike Eisenmann in both the films. Did you both just really hit it off right away and how would you describe working with him throughout the years?
Kim Richards: You know, Ike and I always got along. We never argued, we played well when we played. Ike was more kind of an introvert, a little bit. He liked to learn what's going on behind the scenes and how things worked. I worked so much, I'd go from one film to the next and I'd get so excited when there was another child. Sometimes I'd be on a film where there wasn't any other children. I was so excited like 'Yeah. Oh, good. A friend.' I'd go over and say, 'Do you want to play?' And he'd be like, 'Oh, no. I'm good.' There were many times where Ike and I would run off and do things and play, and then there were other times where it would be like, 'No, I'm going to go draw for awhile.' But we never argued and we always got along. It was just trying to get him to participate sometimes.
Both of these films are fairly heavy effects films and it was really cool to see something like this where effects would actually enhance the story and not taking attention away from the story, like they seem to do now. Did you have a favorite effect that you did for either one of these films?
Kim Richards: It's so funny because when we do these interviews and I see Ike's, and Ike goes into full detail on these, every time. For myself, for the longest time, I wouldn't say because I wanted people to believe, for the longest time, that I'm magic. I'm alien and I make these things happen (Laughs). Part of the fun of these is to believe that, but it is fun to learn about the special effects that were involved and how these things happen. For me, the most favorite part I had is to fly. I love to fly. Who doesn't want to fly? I love to fly. But in order to fly, there are many things that are involved. There are these metal shorts that you have to put on under your clothes, that aren't 100% comfortable. You have little cables coming out of the sides and then there's this big crane that raises you. So that's my favorite, when there's flying involved. I was just thinking, in watching the films this morning, is when we first get to the castle, with Ray Milland and Donald Pleasance and they leave us in our room and the marionettes.
Kim Richards: OK. First of all, that room was my dream come true. For real. I mean, it was not just a set for me. I didn't want to leave it. There was everything I wanted as a child. The room was so beautiful, not that I didn't have a pretty room at home, but I just loved it, and it had a special place for the cat and the marionettes. That scene, where we play with those marionettes, was just so amazingly fun. That whole day was amazing, with the ice cream, all of it. To tell you a funny story, about a year and a half, two years ago, I went on a field trip with my daughter, my youngest daughter Kimberly. We ended up getting on this bus and driving all the way down to this place downtown. I said, 'What exactly is this field trip?' They said, 'Oh, it's going to be a little puppet show.' We get in there and sit down and this guy is doing his thing and all of the sudden I look, and out comes the bumblebee. Five minutes later, out comes the girl or the woman who comes out. I'm getting in trouble for talking and the show's over and I walk out with my daughter and all along the hallway are pictures of those and they are the same marionettes from the guy who did the puppets from |+|Escape to Witch Mountain}. It's his place and they all were the same puppets. It was so cool! All these years later, here's my daughter, at my age then, sitting in there now. What are the odds of that?
I see that both yourself and Ike have roles in the upcoming remake, Race to Witch Mountain. What are your roles on that and can you give us a little glimpse of how it might be similar and what it might be different?
Kim Richards: Well, I'll just say this. The sequence that we did, it is far different. It's in Generation Y, as our director likes to call it. Of course, we're not the children any longer. There is a new boy and girl and they're adorable and wonderful to work with. In this case, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is Eddie Albert, the new Eddie Albert. The characters that Ike and I play... I've been interviewed so many times recently about this, and we haven't been told not to say anything, but I kind of want to leave it up to you when you go see the film, to let you figure out who we are. They've asked us, 'Do you have the same name? Do you have powers? Would we know who you are?' I kind of really want you to see the film to figure out those answers. I think you'll figure it all out. When you first see me, when you first see Ike, I think you'll immediately know who we are and what we stand for. There's a moment between AnnaSophia (Robb) and I, where you absolutely know.
All right. Fair enough.
Kim Richards: You asked me in the beginning, what was the experience like. The experience of working, right from the beginning, was amazing and incredible. Andy Fickman is an amazing, amazing director. Every day on that set was fun. I saw everybody that comes to work in the morning happy, and everybody that leaves at the end of the day, no matter how tired you are, still happy. There isn't, in my experience, and I've worked for every studio there is to work, there is not one studio you can go to where there are worlds laying around to eat of your hands. It's almost like an animated Disney movie, right there in real life. It's just an amazing place to work. When I first started, my first day there, Andy Fickman stood up and said, 'Everybody, Kim Richards is here. Everybody come say hello to the wonderful Kim Richards.' And he said, 'Not to take away from anybody here, but I'd like you all to know that there's one reason we're all here today and that's because someone got it right the first time, so everybody give it up for Kim Richards.' That made me feel so honored and flattered and that's how I felt every day I was there.
So finally, with this new remake and these special edition DVD's, this story just seems like it will never die. What do you think it is that makes this film so special and such a timeless classic that it is?
Kim Richards: For starters, I think that every little boy and little girl in the world wants to do magic, wants to have powers, wants to be able to elevate and read people's minds and I think that touches right there, the kids of yesterday, today and tomorrow. I think that there are a lot of people out there that know or believe or want to believe that there are aliens and people on another planet. I think that there's the suspense and the thrills of all those dynamics come together. There are people who are going to watch today and will wait for the next one, because there will be more.
Excellent. Well that's about all I have for you, Kim. Thank you so much for your time today, and the best of luck to you.
Kim Richards: Thank you so much, Brian. Have a great day.
You can catch Kim Richards in these two brand new special editions of film Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain, which will both be available on DVD on March 10 and also look for Richards in the new theatrical remake, Race to Witch Mountain, which hits theaters nationwide on March 13.