Capone Talks ASTRO BOY With Freddie Highmore And Kristen Bell!!
Published at: Sept. 11, 2009, 3:06 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here, with my Comic-Con 2009 interview with two of the actors lending their vocal treatments to the late-October 3-D animated release ASTRO BOY, based on the Manga comic and Japanese TV series of the 1950s and '60s (and continuing through today).
Now age 17, Freddie Highmore (who voices Astro Boy) has been working steadily since 2004's FINDING NEVERLAND, opposite Johnny Depp, who he teamed up with again the following year in Tim Burton's CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. He's also starred in such films as A GOOD YEAR, AUGUST RUSH, THE GOLDEN COMPASS, the animated ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES, and THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. He's a lot taller than I would have imagined he'd be, and his voice is now in the lower registers, but he still has those boyish Freddie Highmore looks.
Joining Highmore was Kristen Bell. I'll just let that sink in for a second.
Bell plays a new character to the Astro Boy universe, a tough chick named Cora, who fights alongside Astro to defeat the government and military forces that want nothing more than to capture the robot boy and use his technology for evil. You don't need me to remind you of this, but Kristen Bell is awe-inspiringly adorable. She has the mind of a geek willingly inhabiting the body of, well, Kristen Bell. Her first credited role was in POOTIE TANG (true story), but I don't remember taking note of her until seeing her in a couple episodes of "Deadwood." Right around that same time, "Veronica Mars" premiered and she's been in my line of sight ever since, with roles in the Showtime musical REEFER MADNESS, PULSE, "Heroes," FANBOYS, and her break-through film role in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. Not to mention that the trailer for her next film, COUPLES RETREAT, is attached to every movie I've seen in the last month or so. Without further delay, please enjoy Freddie Highmore and Kristen Bell (sporting a very slinky dress, as you can see from the accompanying photos) in this brief but fun talk.
Capone: Let’s talk about your character, since it’s a new character. Did you have any input or did you offer up any input about the look that you would like for her to have? I like the streak of color in the black hair, in particular.
Kristen Bell: I went in there knowing that they wanted Cora to be fun and funky and very individual. There was a lot of discussion into her wardrobe and I can’t take credit for picking, but they definitely allowed me input. I think it’s a little bit different in animation, because there is one sense of continuity. People don’t really change clothes day to day, you know? You really have to describe the character in one outfit, so that takes some thought.
Capone: When you were both doing the work of recording the voices, are you the kind of actress that will physically act out what it is you are doing in the role? Some just stand there and recite and others are really active. Can you both tell me how you were in the recording studio?
Freddie Highmore: I'm definitely quite active.
KB: Sometimes we would have to harness him, but it was for his own safety. [laughs]
FH: The way I see it, you have got to be as committed to doing the voice work as doing a normal live-action film and I know that you can sort of change your voice and alter it to make it sound sad or to make you sound happy without being emotionally there, so, yeah, if you are completely out of breath, as Astro Boy is often flying sometimes, you have got to get out of breath and run up and down on the spot or something, which most people probably think is a bit odd, and the technicians in the room probably thought batty old me or that I was crazy, but I guess at the end of the day what you really want is for the millions who are going to see ASTRO BOY to like what you do, so that’s the ultimate goal.
Capone: What about you, Kristen?
KB: I didn’t feel that I was being any less dedicated, but I certainly did have a sense of maybe I don’t have to get as worked up, maybe I can fake it just a little bit and after hearing my first emotionally connected scene back, our very wonderful and polite director David [Bowers] saying, “Well, maybe let’s try it one more time.” I realized that I sounded like I was trying to get out of a speeding ticket, and I was faking it and that I had to very much be present, just like I would in live action, so I had to take a minute and work up some emotion and do it again.
Capone: So, you have to cry in the film?
KB: There are moments. Of course in any action movie, there are moments where the mood goes down, and me being the female of it, I sheds more tears than most, I think.
FH: [laughs] But I think it is quite surprising that there is so much more in ASTRO BOY than just the action. There’s the emotional side, the funnier side, and I think that will attract perhaps a wider range of audience than those who are used to going to see animated films.
Capone: It seems like there is a real tragic quality to him. It’s the classic Pinocchio scenario, where he thinks he’s a real boy and then comes to grips with the fact that he's not. That's not unlike roles that you have chosen over the years that seem to have that semi-sweet, semi-dark quality to them. How did you approach educating yourselves on the whole Astro Boy universe, and how important was that?
FH: I think it was important and I looked at the manga. Saying that, I think it was important also to make ASTRO BOY our own movie, you know? Not to just base it on what has come before, but I guess to try amalgamate all that is great of Astro Boy into just an hour and a half movie, which is going to be tricky because there is so much that is great about it. I’m sure there are going to be somebody thinking their favorite bit has been left out, but we tried to get as much as possible really and enough people go, we will have a chance to do another one. [Laughs]
Capone: I talked about that a little earlier with David. They seemed to be talking about this as an introduction, as an origin story. That’s the kind of language we use in superhero movies with a franchise, more than just a single one off thing. Have they talked to you about that at all? Have you signed on to do more than one of these at this point?
FH: To be honest, I’m not sure. I guess logically it depends on how well the film does and if people want more, and I think they will. I think lots of people are going to want to see it. It’s something a bit different, and I think the fact that Astro Boy has survived fifty years being Japan’s greatest hero is just a testimony to how special it really is.
Capone: [To Kristen] And how did you familiarize yourself to the whole world?
KB: I was educated by David, our director. I had no idea who Astro Boy was when I first started, and he taught me about this icon that mainly lives over seas and in other countries and for some reason hasn’t hit America as hard as it has otherwhere, but he is huge in Japan. I think in just David talking to me and me just looking it up on the internet, it was a little intimidating to be involved in a project where so many people would have such high expectations, but I think the film turned out really really well and it is a modern day adaptation of Astro Boy, because he is…
FH: He is still as cutting edge as he was in the '50s.
Capone: Tell me a little bit about Cora, because obviously she is new, so nobody is going to know that much about her. Explain her role in this whole adventure.
KB: Cora meets up with Astro when he falls from Metro City to the surface of the earth, which is kind of like a big junk yard, and she is the very young den mother of a group of orphaned kids that go through scrap robot parts. And they kind of stick together as a family, and I think she is very protective of them, and she also has a very tough exterior that was kind of hurting on the inside and really unable to talk about her true feelings, and then she develops this relationship with Astro and they grow to have this friendship, and she feels extremely betrayed by him when she finds out that he’s a robot. You sort of find out in the end why she has been hurt, and she kind of has a deep personality, which was really interestingly written on the page.
Capone: Did you base her off of any female character that you have seen over the years?
KB: She’s kind of like a combination between Wendy and Peter Pan with these kids, and keeping up with the sense of adventure that Peter has, but the reality that Wendy has. She is kind of Peter on the outside and Wendy on the inside.
Capone: Can you both talk a little bit about what you have coming up next? I have seen the trailer’s for COUPLES RETREAT. Anything beyond that?
KB: In the end of January, WHEN IN ROME, and I'm currently working on a movie called YOU AGAIN.
Capone: Who's in that with you?
KB: Jaime Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Victor Garber, Kristen Chenoweth, Odette Yustman, and, yes, Bette White.
Capone: She’s still kicking! I just saw her in THE PROPOSAL.
KB: Oh she is doing more than just kicking. She is kicking and punching, my friend. [laughs]
Capone: And then what about you Freddie?
FH: Earlier in the year, I did something in South Africa, called MASTER HAROLD… AND THE BOYS, which is about apartheid, and yeah, it's completely different than ASTRO BOY in the sense that it’s just sort of an adult theme. I think it’s going to be a great drama. It’s quite a small film, but often the best films are small.
Capone: Did you have a chance to see Tim [Burton] while you were here?
FH: Yeah, I said hello to him, absolutely. It was great to catch up with him
Capone: Well, OK. Both of you, thank you so much.
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