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Craig Ferguson Q&A

2010-03-26 12:09
Craig Ferguson Q&A

Q: Tell me how you became involved in the movie?
Craig Ferguson: Well, they just flat out asked me - I think it was because I was friendly with Gerry [Gerard Butler].  And, you know, Gerry had been playing the leader of the Vikings.  So, I think it probably made sense that his best friend in the movie sounded a little bit like him.  I think that Jerry and I being friends probably had a lot to do with it.  So, I got in through good, old-fashioned nepotism.  I think that is probably what it is.  He’s Frank Sinatra, and I’m his Sammy Davis, Jr.  [LAUGHS]

Q: Did they give you something to read, or just tell you about your character, Gobber?
CF: No, they showed me a drawing of the character that they were working on.  And,  they gave me a little thing to read, to test my voice with the character.  Then they gave me the job.  And, over the course of making the movie, you add, and change, and move things around a bit.

Q: So what’s the story of the movie?
CF: I guess I see it from the point-of-view of my character.  [LAUGHS]  No, the story of the movie is about a young boy befriending a dragon, going against the taboos of the village where they fight dragons.  I’ll tell you what I wrote in the foreword to the book of the art from this movie.  There’s a scene where Hiccup and Astrid are on the back of the dragon, flying through the night.  It’s very beautifully drawn, just astonishing.  You know, I fly airplanes.  And when I was watching the film, I was with a buddy of mine.  He’s a pilot - a proper pilot.  When that scene came up, I turned to him and I said, "That’s why I fly."  And he said, "That’s why I fly."  See, the reason I went out to fly is because I was frightened of flying.  I wanted to fly, because I was frightened to fly.  And, I still am a bit frightened of it.  Because I was frightened of it, it represented, to me, perhaps, a black dragon that should be feared.  And the more that I understood about this black dragon, the more that the black dragon didn’t frighten me - and it actually opened up a world, which had hitherto been unavailable to me, a wonderful world.  So, for me, the story is that you would be frightened of the black dragon that terrorizes your village, but if you could befriend that dragon, you could render that dragon toothless.  And I thought that there was an allegory here that was profound, and that’s the story of this movie for me - the rendering of that which you fear toothless.  That’s why I like this film.  It’s a highly entertaining thing as well, but I think there’s real literature going on here.  I am drawn to that a wee bit.  I think most people are.

Q: Tell me about your character, Gobber?
CF: He’s a man who has had a lot of chips and chunks taken out of him.  He’s seen a lot of battles.  He’s fond of young people, but he doesn’t take their guff.  He’s exactly like me.  [LAUGHS]

Q: Did the character become more like you, or did you become more like the character as it went on?
CF: I think yes to both of those things.  It’s very interesting when you do this - it’s a long time since I’ve acted, but this isn’t just acting.  I mean, it’s an odd kind of involvement.  But, if you’re an actor, you take a part that you think is interesting - and I think it explains a little bit about who you are to yourself, if you’re doing it right.  And, I think that this did that for me.  I thought, "Yeah, I’m a bit like that guy, and he’s a bit like me."  And, so I become more like him and he becomes more like me, just in the process of becoming aware of that.  You know, the whole notion that when a subject is observed for its behavior, the behavior will change when it becomes aware of the fact that it’s being observed.  So, I think that happens with acting.

Q: Well, with acting, you’re allowed to use everything, and here, you’re suddenly put in a recording booth and you have only one tool.
CF: No, I disagree - you’re allowed to use everything when you’re not constricted by your physical body.  And, if you only have your voice, you could fly.  You know your body is limited, but with your voice, it’s not limited at all.  You know, you can do anything you want.  The only thing you’re relying upon is the limits of the imaginations of the animators.

Q: Had you done an animated feature before?
CF: No, I’ve done a lot of animated television stuff.   I’d done a ton of radio when I was in the old country.  But, I’ve never done this.

Q: How was the process different?
CF: It’s not, really.  I mean, it’s a process which is as loose as those who are in charge will make it.  DreamWorks is a company that I would be happy working with more, because they have such an odd friendliness towards the artistic process that you would hardly believe.  Now, this is clearly because the company is headed by three artists.  But, I can’t tell you how different this company is to anything else I’ve worked with.  They invite you in to see things and ask your opinion on stuff.  I mean, Jeffrey Katzenberg  calls my office to talk to my assistant about my availability.  He doesn’t even want to talk to me.  I tell you, these people are different.  And it pays off.  You know, it’s very difficult for me to take a day out of doing a daily show and do a day of press.  But, it would crush me to disappoint Katzenberg, because he’d be upset.  He wouldn’t be angry, he’d just be upset.  And I don’t want to upset him, he’s adorable.  [LAUGHS]
Q: Well, you said that you were friends with Gerry Butler.  Did you get to record together?
CF: Yes, we did a few sessions together.  I mean, it’s not necessary to do them all together, and scheduling and other things make it almost impossible.  But, we did a few in New York.  We did a bit with Jay [Baruchel], as well.  And, then we had some stuff in California.  I see him all the time, because he’s always on the show. 

Q: How much did improv figure into the sessions?
CF: Hard to say, a lot, it feels like - if you do a script properly, it all feels like improv, that’s why actors always think they’re smarter than they are.  [LAUGHS]  Because, they say the words that clever people have written down and then think, "Oh, I made that up in my head."  Then, you get into this odd position of thinking you’re clever when you’re not.  So, it feels like there was a lot of improv, but I’m not sure.  But that means whatever it was it worked, you know?  It should feel like improv.  I think there was a fair bit, but it’s hard to say.  The whole idea of improv is that you don’t keep any record of what’s improv, so who knows?

Q: What’s it like working with the directors, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois?
CF: I love them, I love them.  You know, I’ve finished the movie and we still get along [LAUGHS].  It’s that whole practice that this company seems to have about being friendly to artists.  I mean, honestly, I’ve worked with big movie studios before, and I’ve never been aware of that philosophy.  And, perhaps it’s that I’m at a different point in my life, I don’t know, that perhaps there’s been a change in my life.  But, they do seem terribly collaborative and helpful and stuff like that, and I’m rather fond of all that.

Q: Were both of them in on all of the sessions?
CF: All the sessions all the time, yeah.

Q: Well, you’ve talked about it, but people take animated films for multiple reasons.  How does being in a DreamWorks film figure into your life?
CF: It might get me some kudos around the house.  I have an eight-and-a-half year-old son.  And, if you want to know why people take animated movies, look there.  Because, my son, of course, loves animated films, and so for my voice to be in one…  He’s seen this movie, and he loved it, which I thought was very good.  Chris and Dean were in at the screening with me and my son, and they were watching him - and he was laughing and pointing at me, and watching the dragon, and I could see them, and they were so glad.  You know, if your kids don’t like your animated movie, you may be in trouble.

Q: What is it about the Scottish and, before them, the Vikings, that makes them such a tenacious people who will cling to a small bit of land that most other people wouldn’t consider inhabiting?
CF: I don’t know, but they are an extremely tenacious people.  That I would agree with - I know that the world is lucky they’re only five-million Scottish people.  Because, if there were a hundred-million Scottish people, everybody on earth would have to eat haggis.  We would make you.  [LAUGHS]  So, I think the world is lucky to have Scottish people.  And it’s lucky it doesn’t have too many.

* How to Train Your Dragon is currently on circuit and can be seen in 3D at selected cinemas.

The Scottish comedian, talk show host and actor waxes lyrical on his buddy Gerard Butler, his fear of flying and playing a Viking in How to Train Your Dragon.

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