In The City — 06 October 2012
Bailee Madison returns home for FLIFF honor

From the archives: Published September 2012

By Elizabeth Rahe

Twelve-year-old Bailee Madison was a bridesmaid in her sister’s wedding two days ago. In May the Lauderdale-By-The-Sea actress bubbled about her sister’s engagement and pregnancy on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Then she told an animated story about losing a baby tooth during the filming of Hallmark’s Smart Cookies, bringing fellow guest Kevin Costner in on the conversation like she was 30.

Such is the little-girl/grown-up, show-business life of the precocious tween – who becomes a teen on Oct. 15. Bailee has already appeared in a dozen TV productions, most notably Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place; and a dozen films, including the childhood fantasy Bridge to Terabithia, the horror film, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and the comedy Just Go With It. Her credits have appeared with names such as Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hilary Swank, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Anniston.

That’s quite a resume for a 12 year old, but Bailee got an early start – an Office Depot commercial when she was two weeks old. Her mother, Patricia, has worked since the age of 12 as a commercial actor, and her 26-year-old sister, Kaitlin Riley (the bride), has also appeared in films. Older brothers Sean and Conor are not in the business.

Bailee’s latest film, Cowgirls ‘N’ Angels, will be screened at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival along with a montage of her roles (3:15 p.m. Oct. 21, Sunrise Civic Center Theater), and the young actor will receive the fest’s Star on the Horizon Award.

But right now, it’s two days after her sister’s wedding, and Bailee is home from her Los Angeles base, battling a cold and watching tropical storm Isaac’s outer bands drench the landscape. Still, she is bubbling about the wedding, her recent roles and, it seems, the pure joy of being Bailee.

How was the wedding? We had to change it from Saturday to Friday, and it had to go from a beach wedding to a terrace wedding because of the weather. But it was still beautiful … I couldn’t stop crying because I was so happy.

Tell me about your character in Cowgirls ‘N’ Angels. I play Ida Clayton, a girl who has never met her dad before. She sets out on this rodeo journey in hopes of finding him, and along the way she gets recruited into the [trick-riding group] Sweethearts of the Rodeo, and she discovers that friends can become your family. She has such different levels of emotions. You watch her grow up, which was so much fun to play.

 You rode horses in the film. Did you learn any tricks? I did, actually! Every day for me was a new trick, being able to canter and do figure-eights. During lunch one day I snuck out with one of the trick riders and did an [Apache] hideway [hanging on one side of the horse] and the hippodrome [standing up on the horse in an arched pose]. We took pictures, and I showed them to the director and producer, and they said, ‘If you ever do that again …’

What are your thoughts about receiving the FLIFF award Oct. 21? It is such an honor. To be here with my friends and family and to be honored with the Star on the Horizon Award – I am completely humbled and excited.

Any plans for your 13th birthday? I think it would fun to do a small family-and-friends thing where we all wore the old flapper dresses and red lipstick … and you’re totally invited to come.

As you enter your teen years, are you anticipating more mature roles? We’re staying strong to who we are and my family morals and values. I have really exciting scripts right now that I can’t talk about quite yet, but they’re very family-friendly. I also have a movie called Parental Guidance coming out [Dec. 25] with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler – that’s a way you’ll see me in the teen role – my first time having a crush.

Who would you most like to work with? I would die to work with Meryl Streep, even if it was just for one second. And I love Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock. Ever since I saw them in The Proposal, it has been my dream to work with them. And Ginnifer Goodwin [who played Snow White in ABC’s Once Upon a Time] – I got to play her as a child. She’s so beautiful and so talented and so amazing.

What is the most challenging aspect of being an actor? This business has so many different paths that you can take, and the most challenging thing is to be able to stay on the right path. You have to definitely make sure you surround yourself with the right people, who you can trust and who are truthful to you. The most challenging part is to be able to find a script that family and friends can sit down to. I enjoy the challenges. The more challenges the more fun for me.

 What do you like to do for fun? I love to cook. My dream is to be able to have my own cooking show. My family and I get in the kitchen and cook together. Right now my mom is making chicken noodle soup for me. Even though I’m sick, I’m cutting up those potatoes and carrots, and my dog, Maddy, is picking up the scraps.

You often talk about staying humble. How do you do that? I have the most incredible mother. To this day she says, ‘If you ever change we are packing our U-Haul truck and moving back to Florida forever.’ I keep my I Am Second bracelet on, which is God is first, and I am second. I’ve always gone to Christ Church School here in Fort Lauderdale … and that was a way I could come here and put on my uniform and pack my lunchbox and see my friends. We definitely make sure I do normal stuff. I get to go to work every day and explore the world and do what I love at such a young age. My family and friends just keep me humble, and we say our prayers. I know it could end any day, so I’m just loving what I do right now.


Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival screens 200-plus films from Oct. 19-Nov. 11. Bailee Madison, right, will be honored Oct. 21. In her film Cowgirls ‘N’ Angels, she plays a girl who becomes a rodeo trick rider while searching for her dad. More at

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