Eddie Redmayne’s star reached stratospheric levels in 2015 when he won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, paying off a slow-burn career of stage, TV and film acting and sending him into the big leagues. Since then, he’s not wasted his cache, getting another Academy Award nomination a year later for The Danish Girl and heading up Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them as magizoologist Newt Scamander. Newt’s back later this year in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but before them, Redmayne lends his voice to new Aardman movie Early Man. He plays Dug, a Stone Age caveman whose tribe is threatened by the encroaching Bronze Age and only football – or soccer – can save them.
Screen Rant recently caught up with Redmayne in London to talk about working with claymation legend Nick Park – both as director and actor – which led to a discussion of his YouTube procrastination of choice, as well as some details on the next Fantastic Beasts.
Screen Rant: One of the things that struck me about the movie a lot was your voice, because we expect a certain sort of cadence from you and you delivered a very different vocal performance. How did you develop that?
Eddie Redmayne: Normally when you are in a film, they send you the script and you work out what a character is. What’s wonderful about this film was when I went in the first day to try and work out what Dug’s voice was with Nick Park, he showed me this model of Dug and some animation – some test animation – they’d done of him, kind of long floppy hair and these massive, optimistic eyes, and basically Nick and I just went and messed around – that sounds incredibly dodgy – in a sound booth for an hour or two. He talked about also how the tribe, which are kind of Dug’s family in the film, they all have different vocal qualities and tones, so I think he had a big sense of wahat they were going to be so he kind of chanelled me into what he wanted.
SR: There’s quite a lot of collaboration there in the process.
SR: Because obviously with animation, the animators do so much work before the voice actors come in – aside from the voice actors – but you got a lot of chance to work with them on that then?
ER: Yes. And what’s weird about it is I knew nothing about this process. I always thought maybe the voice actor records the whole thing and the animators animate it, but actually it’s much more… it takes a long time, a couple of years. And you go in and you work on a little bit of the script, go away for a couple of months, they animate that, then in the meanwhile [they] have refined ideas in the script or come up with things – gags – that they think are funnier and you go back into that a bit, work on that a bit more and do the next part of the script. And so it’s an amazing, continuous process that went up right until just before Christmas when I had to come in and do a tiny bit – the end voice over – and I had a hideous cold, so suddenly Dug was [voice deepens] down here, and Nick, who’s the eternal optimist, was sort of… I was in the booth sort of going “I’m so sorry” and he was going “no it’s good”. [Deep voice] “Dug can’t talk like this”. So that was a bit of disaster, but other than that it was great.
SR: And you don’t just work with Nick Park as a director, he’s technically your co-star: he plays Hognob. Was always the plan for him to do that or did that kind of just… happen?
ER: It just sort of happened. But the thing about Nick you’ve got to realize is he can basically voice every single character better than anyone. So what happens when you’re in the booth is you try each line about 30, 40 different times and if you haven’t got it – and you know with Nick when you have because you normally get a good belly laugh – and if you’re not getting that, eventually you go “Nick, will you just say it?” and he says it and it always sounds about 30 times better than you could, and so you just try and replicate it. So I was thrilled that he played Hognob.
SR: And obviously, Nick Park, Aardman such a British institution really. In terms of the previous movies, which ones had you watched either growing up, or really drawn to? What was the one that you were like, “Oh, I’m getting to work with this guy?“
ER: Do you know, weirdly, I love them all. And of course Wallace & Gromit was particularly extrodinary, but Creature Comforts are my favorites. If you ever want to get seriously lost down a YouTube hole, the Creature Comforts YouTube hole is a good place to go. It’s so funny.
SR: That’s my evening then
ER: Yeah, makes me very happy.
SR: And one final question, you’re also in Fantastic Beasts 2 this year. In the first movie, it’s established that Newt has this connection to Dumbledore, so I want to ask, how did you imagine Dumbledore in your mind when you were playing it the first time, and how was it then actually getting to act with a physical version of Dumbledore and how did that differ?
Really good quesiton. I had talked a little bit with Jo [Rowling] about what Newt and Dumbledore’s relationship was in the first film because it was alluded to. And then when they cast Jude, who I’ve known for a long time, it made such sense because there was a kind of debonair quality to him, but also like a playfulness that felt entirely appropriate. But also there’s kind of a weight to his… he’s got a weightiness, Dumbledore… Not physical weightiness [laughs] But when Jude arrived on set, he just looked so perfect. It all made complete sense.
Early Man is in UK cinemas now and US cinemas from February 16. Check back with Screen Rant then for interviews with Nick Park, Maisie Willaims and Tom Hiddleston.
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