Zachary Levi, is a self proclaimed “Dis-Nerd” (a phrase he has coined, and will charge you a quarter for using – note to Screen Rant, we owe Zach Levi a quarter). This “Dis-nerd” (Vic, you best plan to pay for his kid’s college) jumped at the opportunity to play Disney’s latest swashbuckling (pan-buckling?) hero Flynn Rider in the upcoming spin on the Rapunzel fairytale, now titled, Tangled.
Director Byron Howard (Bolt) said they wanted to make Flynn “the most handsome, most attractive male lead Disney has ever had.” They conducted impromptu “Hot Man” focus groups where, “all the ladies of the studio came into the ‘Hot Man Meeting,’ where we gathered pictures of their favorite handsome men—we collected pictures from the Internet and from books and from women’s wallets. They were very specific about what they liked and what they didn’t like.”
Co-director Nathan Greno adds, “the women would come in and they’d put up these pictures of the hottest guys they’d ever seen, then point out the flaws in all of them.”
“Everybody got ripped apart. Nobody was perfect,” says Howard. “It was a very hard meeting to be in as a man. You left feeling terrible. But we tried to coalesce all this information into one amazingly handsome and appealing character.”
“We created the ultimate man,” says Greno.
No pressure on Levi.
One of the reasons Flynn is so appealing, is that he is more of an anti-hero than a traditional Disney Princess tale hero. He is more akin to a rated G Han solo, or Indiana Jones, (or some other Harrison Ford character), than a bland Prince Charming. We should note that Tangled is in fact, rated PG.
Take a look at Flynn’s intro video:
Though a character like Flynn is not entirely unheard of in modern day Disney, they show great mastery with the model here, and have created a flawed hero (the sort that we as an audience tend to respond to), who is still sweet enough in nature to exist in an animated reality.
Writer Dan Fogelman notes that this balance was one of the challenges of creating “a classic Disney story in a completely new way, that would fit the style of CG animation.” The task of creating a hybrid of a Disney classic, and a more modern CG/Pixar style animated film meant “pushing the comedy and the characters into a kind of 21st-century sensibility, while still keeping many of the elements that audiences have always loved about Disney films.”
As far as the character of Flynn is concerned, the team felt that the dance between the modern and the traditional was even more crucial, and Fogelman feels they found that harmony through Flynn’s humor.
He’s at his best in this movie when he’s playing little mind games with other people and entertaining himself along with them. He’s the kind of character who’s having fun with the words whether or not anybody else is enjoying them as much as he is. There’s something very Cary Grant-like about him. At his heart, he’s really kind of a lost soul who doesn’t quite know what he wants and who he is.
Until he finally does, of course:
Traditionally, Disney Princess or fairytale films are the one place where the female characters may be slightly more developed than the male. Tangled creates a lovely equanimity between Flynn and Rapunzel, who are as different as they are perfectly matched. Levi himself developed a crush on Rapunzel after viewing the film.
The directors felt it was essential to create a strong chemistry between these two characters. Howard notes, “As the story developed, it became more and more a movie about Rapunzel and Flynn. It’s a movie about these two very different people, their unique chemistry, and how they both grow and become better people because of it.”
Rapunzel was so interesting and such a great character that we had to keep making Flynn more interesting to keep up with her. And then at times, he would become more interesting than she was, so we’d have to bump her up. But in doing that, in elevating both characters, they both became these really strong characters. Obviously, this movie doesn’t work without Rapunzel, but it also doesn’t work if you take Flynn Rider out of the equation. We needed both characters to make the engine run.
We will have a full review of Tangled in the coming days. In the interim, here are the highlights from our chat with Levi, where we cut to the chase on all the Superhero movie rumors, and discovered the one career he’s dying to try his hand at.
The Most Handsome Man:
Sreenrant: You tend to play characters who are surrounded by tough, strong women. (Levi’s lady-love on Chuck is an international super-spy, and his mother is played by none other than the “tough chick” demi-godesss herself, Linda Hamilton; and we can tell you – Rapunzel is no slouch with a frying pan.) Is that reflective of your life? Is it a conscious choice?
Zachary Levi: (Laughing) Well, I think it’s a coincidence because it’s not really like I get to choose my work all that much. I mean I do get to choose what I go and audition for, obviously, but at the end of the day you’re just trying to be a part of good work. That’s really funny though, I never really thought about that; but yes, I suppose it resembles a bit of my life. I mean I was surrounded by estrogen growing up. Two sisters, a cousin, two aunts, my mom, my grandma…
SR: Your character (Flynn Rider) is described as the most handsome Disney character ever, and the most appealing. Yes. Can you tell me about being a Disney hero?
ZL: Yeah, this is the first I’ve heard about this stuff, here at the junket. I don’t know, there are some pretty attractive Princes, over the years. I don’t really think…(pauses, looks at the life size cut-out of Flynn…considers) I mean he’s a good looking guy.
SR: He’s not bad.
ZL: (nodding) He’s a good looking guy.
SR: They focused grouped a lot of women.
ZL: They did. They did.
[We come to an agreement: Flynn (the cartoon) is very good looking.]
ZL: I don’t know, I mean my job is pretty much all done with him, so… But I think it’s awesome. I think it’s cool to be affiliated with a character who apparently is garnering such accolades and praise and attention. I mean, I could pull a very Flynn move and say ‘Well, it’s about time.’ But that would be just for a joke. I do think it’s interesting to be talking about an animated character in terms of how good looking he is.
[I can assure you readers that Zachary Levi is just as appealing and handsome in person as his animated counterpart. Forgive me, what were we talking about?...Oh, Tangled.]
SR: What are some of the challenges of doing an animated film?
ZL: Well, you do it by yourself. I mean Mandy was never there, and that’s because of scheduling. And it’s a long process. I would go in about every six weeks, for six hours or so, and Byron and Nathan were there, but I would be voice acting by myself — line, by line, by line. Mandy and I did get to record the duet together, that was very beneficial. But Donna Murphy(Mother Gothel) and Mandy have never even met.
[They have since met, in fact, they met about a half hour after this conversation took place.]
ZL: So, it’s a really interesting process when you are acting to no-one, or nothing. But it’s also king of a freeing creative experience in that you get to just make up whatever you want.