Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eddie Izzard Talks about Cars 2, Pixar, and Miles Axelrod

Comedian and star Eddie Izzard stars as business tycoon Miles Axelrod in Cars 2 and he was kind enough to share his thoughts about the movie, Pixar, his history, who he based his character on, and more! 

What do you think of the imaginative world created by Pixar for “Cars 2”?
I think the artists at Pixar have done an outstanding job with “Cars 2.” The attention to detail is outstanding, especially when it comes to the London scenes in the film. I’ve run the London Marathon, so I know certain areas of the city intimately. When the film pans along The Mall towards Buckingham Palace, I’ve run there and that is definitely the London that I know. They’ve done a fantastic job in recreating it in a “Cars” style.

What is it like to visit Pixar Animation Studios in California?
It’s amazing. You feel like you’re walking into a whole new world when you step inside Pixar. The animators are allowed to decorate their work areas however they want to, so you see their imagination come to life as you wander around the place. It’s very exciting. It’s certainly not a drab, gray business office. There’s a lot of life and imagination there.

What surprised you the most about the filmmaking process of “Cars 2”?
I love doing animation, but I get upset that I never get the chance to meet the other actors in the movie. It never happens. We always record our dialogue alone in a sound booth. We don’t meet each other until the promotional stage. It always feels a little strange to meet someone for the first time, even though you’ve been working on the same project for a couple of years.

Why don’t you have a read-through with all of the cast at the start of the project?
I asked [“Cars 2” director] John Lasseter that very same question, but there’s no way you can have a complete run-through with everyone. People join the project at different stages and the story is constantly evolving so there is never a firm script. I think it would probably be a logistical nightmare to get all of these people in one spot just to read the script together and then have it change a whole bunch of times.

How much fun did you have in the recording booth for “Cars 2”?
I have to be very careful in the recording booth because I have a tendency to muck about, but that’s not really part of my character in the movie. I had to focus and concentrate on the work rather than have a laugh and ad-lib. Joking isn’t in my character’s vocabulary. He’s a very serious guy.

How difficult is it to work in the sound booth alone?
This is my fourth animated movie, so I’ve gotten used to it by now. You have to tap into that childlike sensibility you had when you were a little kid because you’re imagining the entire world of “Cars 2.” Even though you’re standing alone in a little space, you have to imagine you’re standing alongside all these wonderful characters.

How does voicing an animated character differ from acting in a live-action movie?
When you work in animation, you have to put as much effort as you can into your voice, but you never know what’s going to happen. You rarely see any of the animation until it’s finished. Animation is a director’s oeuvre. You give everything to the director and then you leave them to play around with it.

How did you land the role?
I was asked if I wanted to do something with Pixar and John Lasseter and I jumped at the chance. I love the way that Pixar works really hard on all of its stories. I love the world of Pixar animation.

How would you describe your character in “Cars 2”?
I play a character called Sir Miles Axlerod in “Cars 2”. Miles is an entrepreneur trying to develop an alternative fuel, but there’s a bit of a secret twist to his character.

How did you approach your character in the movie?
When it comes to Sir Miles Axlerod, I just had to be as real as I possibly could but not use any of my comedy skills. I had to play Miles as a very straight-laced character so I was very jealous of other actors like Larry the Cable Guy who got to use their comedy chops in the recording booth.

What do you think of Larry the Cable Guy?
Larry comes from a different world of comedy than I do and he plays the character of Mater very well. When I watched the first “Cars” movie, I could see how he uses his comedy in the recording booth. He’s got great timing and is a great comedian.

What do you like the most about your “Cars 2” character, Sir Miles Axlerod?
I love the Richard Branson-esque quality of Miles Axlerod. I like his style and his love of great new ideas, even though there is a twist to my character that takes him to a different place. He’s been a lot of fun to play.

Did you have Richard Branson in mind when you recorded the dialogue for your character?
The idea of Richard Branson was mentioned to me early on in the production and I definitely identify with the businessman in Sir Miles Axlerod, so the character was a great fit. I love his style of doing business and the idea of being very positive while thinking outside of the box.

Is it unusual for an actor to identify themselves as a businessman?
All actors are business people. We have to sell something called “us.” To be honest, I could have been a businessman in my earlier years. In fact, I was trying to adapt the early businessman in me into Miles Axlerod.

Do you have a business background?
I studied Accounting and Financial Management at Sheffield University in England before I decided to chuck it all in and become a comedian. That was a few years ago, but thankfully the comedy and acting career took off.

Did you always dream about making it in Hollywood?
Well, I always wanted to perform on a global stage. I have always been ambitious, so I’ve always wanted to do things around the world on a grand scale. I guess it’s come true now because kids all around the world will watch this crazy little animated adventure.

What has working on the movie taught you about Pixar?
I’ve learned that Pixar is all about freedom of imagination and the encouragement of ideas. The filmmakers can try out ideas and they can re-jigger stories if they aren’t working. They have a lot of freedom to create a great story.

How important is it to have a vast imagination?
I strongly believe that as kids we have a great openness but life crushes us down as we grow up. When you can keep that openness then people will pay to see what you create in an animated movie like this.

Why do you think the world is obsessed with cars and vehicles?
I’m not sure, but I think every country definitely has an obsession with cars. The cars differ from country to country, but we all love them and admire them.

Are you a secret racer at heart?
Sadly, I’m not. In Britain, there’s a TV show called “Top Gear.” Every week, they invite people to come and drive ordinary cars around a speed track but I couldn’t do it. I went twice around the practice circuit but I’m not a good traveler. My inner ear went haywire and my stomach turned over, so I had to stop. I would not make a good racecar driver.

What’s your favorite car?
I love the Aston Martin DB5, or is it the DB6? I can never quite tell the difference, but they are gorgeous cars. The E-Type Jaguar is also a very good classic. Those are some of my favorites.

There’s an underlying theme of espionage in “Cars 2.” Do you think you would make a good spy?
I’m not sure about that. You have to be slightly sneaky to be a spy. I can be sneaky, but hopefully only to stop sneaky people being even sneakier than I am.

Are you a fan of spy gadgets and gizmos?
I’m a massive gadget fan and I love them all.

What’s the best gadget you’ve got at the moment?
I guess my smart phone is a pretty good gadget. The screens are constantly being improved and the speakers are getting better. That’s definitely a great gadget. I don’t know where I’d be without my smart phone. I take it with me everywhere. I never leave home without it!

How much of a DVD fan are you, Eddie?
I love DVDs, especially when they are crammed with lots of extras, commentaries and featurettes so that you can completely devour a movie. I pushed very hard to do creative things with my early comedy standup videos. I said to the video companies, “Can we fill up the packaging with posters to make it an even better product?” I wanted to push the boundaries and give the fans a lot of value for their money, which is what they are doing with all of these amazing extras these days. It’s always exciting to watch a movie and then be able to listen to a commentary from the cast and crew involved. I find it fascinating.

What’s in your DVD collection at home?
My DVD collection means everything to me. I buy everything on DVD so I have a lot of action movies, from “Die Hard” to “The Great Escape.” I also have a fair bit of animation, including Pixar classics like “The Incredibles” and “Toy Story.” Pixar always creates beautiful movies and I love the sensibility of “The Incredibles” because it felt like a real family was shoved into the world of superheroes. The director, Brad Bird, melded that together very well.

What extras can we expect to see on the “Cars 2” Blu-ray and DVD?
I believe there are a host of featurettes, as well as a commentary from the movie’s director, John Lasseter. John brings such heart to the story and he’s got a great imagination, so it was wonderful to work with him. This project has been a whole lot of fun.

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