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Behind the Scenes of ‘G-Force’ with Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy & Zach Galifianakis

 Nicolas Cage and Speckles in G-Force

‘Nicolas Cage and his character, Speckles, in ‘G-Force.’

© Walt Disney Pictures

feature film directorial debut with Walt Disney Pictures’ G-Force, a 3D family-friendly comedy mixing

live-action and animation. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and featuring the voice of Nicolas Cage as a mole named Speckles, G-Force follows the adventures of a top secret team of animals trained to be spies. Bill Nighy and Zach Galifianakis are part of the live-action cast of G-Force, with Nighy playing a sinister industrialist named Leonard Saber and Galifianakis playing the creator of the G-Force covert ops team.

 

Hoyt Yeatman, Bill Nighy, Bill Aikin, Jerry Bruckheimer, Nicolas Cage, and Zach Galifianakis G-Force Press Conference

Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges of directing your first feature film?

Hoyt Yeatman: “I think, for me, it’s an amazing adventure to go from literally a conversation I had with my son around the dining room table to seeing a feature motion picture Hollywood film. You know, so, for me, doing digital effects is what I’ve done for many years, and I feel comfortable in that. And so my challenge was being a director and being able to tell a good story and to have good characters that have emotional reactions. And so, that, to me was what I was trying to focus on. I have tremendous support from Jerry and his group creatively in the studio at Disney, and also tremendous visual effect support from Sony Imageworks. So I did have the opportunity to kind of put the hat on in doing it.”

“And because it’s a film that is quite complex technically, I was able to speak, I think, effectively to all the different departments and work creatively with them because we had a tremendous group throughout, working. So it was a very difficult task and probably the hardest thing in the world to do, to direct. It’s a lot of responsibility, but at the end of the day, it turned out well. I’m very excited about the end product.”

If you could talk to the animals, which animal would you like to talk to? And then, can you talk a little bit about the communication you would like to have?

Hoyt Yeatman: “I don’t know. I mean for me, I enjoyed the mice, actually a little bit like that. Because they’re the ones that kind of are stepped on all the time and run around. But I think probably the mouse would be interesting to see what his life’s like, you know, something like that.”

Jerry Bruckheimer: “I think I’m a dog person, so I think I’d like to talk to one of my dogs. See what their world is like.”

Bill Nighy: “Yeah, me too. I have a dog. I have regular conversations with my dog. In fact he was the only person I spoke with for about five or six years while I was hormonally insane, during my teenage years. I asked him just about everything, and I couldn’t possibly tell you.”

Why are you fascinated with animation?

Nicolas Cage: “Listen, I’m fascinated with all kinds of filmmaking. I try to keep it eclectic. I like to explore different characters in the different genres. But right now, I feel there’s a need to keep our children – and when I say our children, I mean children all over the world – smiling. And there’s nothing more sacred than the magical world of children. And with what’s going on in the economy and different elements, families are tense, people are losing their jobs. And I want to make movies that give families something to look forward to, to share with their children. So G-Force is a perfect example of that. The National Treasure movies I’ve done with Jerry, all of that, I think, is, I feel like I’m doing something on the right side of the line.”

How did you come up with the voice of Speckles?

Nicolas Cage: “Well see I’m a fan of Mel Blanc and I grew up watching all the Looney Tunes characters, and to think that one man did the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, is marvelous. And so I thought, when Jerry came to me about this, I said, ‘Well, would you let me change my voice?,’ because I wanted to channel that in some way. I thought this is an opportunity to break ground and do something new for me, to get me excited and hopefully entertain the kids with it.”

Hoyt, how is it to entertain both kids and adults in the same movie? What do you have to do?

Hoyt Yeatman: “Well I think animation is a perfect candidate for that because kids, I think, respond very much to the characters and the physical action that goes on. And then I think the dialogue and how they say it and what they say, can be attributed more toward the adult, you know, toward the parent. And that’s a good way to work in kind of dual storytelling, you know, so it’ll entertain both the parents and also for the kids, which is what we tried to do.”

You mentioned that you wanted to change your voice, but what kind of image does it make for you creating that voice?

Nicolas Cage: “Well Jerry showed me the pictures, and with all due respect, there was no way I was going to be a guinea pig. Guinea pigs just don’t do it for me. I personally think they’re obnoxious. They’re so cute and cuddly and furry, and there’s [nothing] about them I want to be. I need an animal that has a long tail and an attitude that says, ‘Don’t you dare pick me up,’ you know? So when I saw Speckles, I thought, ‘You know, there’s a character I can play. That character has an opinion and a purpose and just tons of personality.’ And so I started to look at his shape and his goggles and his little eyes, and I thought, ‘Well, if I try this voice…,’ and it would match the way he looked.”

Do you still have your pet snake, and how does that work with your little boy at home?

Nicolas Cage: “No, I don’t. I don’t have any pets currently. I moved to New York City and I live in an apartment, and they don’t allow it. So, we had to find new homes for all the animals. And they’re being well taken care of

Zach Galifianakis and Kelli Garner G-Force

 

Hoyt Yeatman, Bill Nighy, Bill Aikin, Jerry Bruckheimer, Nicolas Cage, and Zach

Galifianakis G-Force Press Conference

Jerry, what’s your criteria to choosing a project?

Jerry Bruckheimer: “I just do, ‘Do I like it? Do I want to see it? I don’t know whether anybody else likes it, but I like it.’ That’s the key for me. Is that something I want to sit and watch and have fun with? And this is one of those projects. The characters are so cute. I thought it was a clever idea, and, you know, kids will love it, and adults will get a kick out of it.”

This is for Mr. Cage and Mr. Bruckheimer. This is your sixth collaboration, but your first in an animated project. How different was that? Can you talk a little bit about the process?

Nicolas Cage: “Well, the process is a bit different because you really have to rely entirely on your imagination. There is no camera. There’s no pressure of the camera, and you’re not really interacting with other actors. So, I would go into like a little cubicle, really, like an aquarium with a microphone, and then Hoyt would sometimes be there, or depending upon where each of us were in the world, we could be on a radio. And I would just start riffing, you know. And I would say, ‘Let’s try it five or six different ways,’ and we would just go and try to find some electricity, some spark. And he would select [what worked] and Jerry said what he thought worked. And then we would fine tune it, and we’d go again.”

Jerry Bruckheimer: “Well I think that’s the nature of animation. I just fell in love with the characters that Hoyt created inside of him, and that’s what excited me.”

Jerry, why did you decide to make a 3D now? Why did you wait this long to make 3D?

Jerry Bruckheimer: “Well I think it’s because of the technology. It’s in the theaters. I mean what’s really holding you back is the number of theaters that can project digital production projection. And I think we’re…you know, the studios are working with theaters around the world to try to advance more and more theaters to having digital projection. It’s much better for all of us because the film disintegrates, as we know, and you see all those marks after it’s been run 50 times. And digitally you don’t have any so it’s pristine every time you see it.”

Hoyt, do you have any other interesting ideas you’d like to do?

Hoyt Yeatman: “Yes, I think it’s amazing to hear the imagination of a child, you know, because it’s pure. And in fact, you can get right to it. And as a little boy, obviously he was going through all the phases from liking robots and dinosaurs and, you know, guinea pigs. And so yes, he has lots of ideas. And I have ideas too. So, it’s really melding those together in a commercial form that you can do it. I think what worked well for me from his idea is taking something, like I say, that was very cute as a guinea pig, and I didn’t see that many characters as guinea pigs at that time, and knowing that if I added the proper amount of technology to him, I could make him cool. And those two factors – cool and cute – I think are the strength of the character. And so that is where I thought it was a perfect medium to take into a movie.”

Bill, have you seen yourself in 3D in the movie? How did you like it?

Bill Nighy: “I haven’t yet. I’m going to go on Sunday to the premiere, and I think, you know, like the total experience. I’ve had people England have been texting me saying they have seen me in 3D, and I think I look marginally better in 3D. That’s what early reports suggest.”

How about you, Zach?

Zach Galifianakis: “I have not seen it yet, but I look forward to seeing my beard.”

Hoyt, you actually made two movies, didn’t you?

Hoyt Yeatman: “Yes. […]You have to produce a 2D theatrical release on film, and then you also have to produce a 3D. So, when you’re evaluating the shots, you have to figure out how to so you can plan both. And in 3D it’s actually pretty difficult because of the number of cuts. We have like just shy of 2,000 cuts in the film, in an 85-minute movie, compared to a Pixar movie that is only maybe 1,100 or 1,200. So the speed at which things are moving to support a 2D film, makes it difficult in 3D to make it a pleasurable viewing experience.”

“And so by putting the technology as we did into the post-production process, it’s like anything else. Whether you’re doing color, editing, sound, it’s always at the end, as opposed to traditional stereo photography which is at the head end, and you’re embedding that decision-making into the photography. This allows for a lot of creative freedom in many aspects. So, there’s a lot of choices that you have to make when you’re making two movies.”

Bill, did you change your voice in the film? You sound a bit like Alan Sugar…

Bill Nighy: “Alan Sugar, my God. No, I didn’t base him on Alan Sugar. And even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you because I’m scared of Alan Sugar. Alan Sugar is a big industrialist back home, and he scares everybody. No, it wasn’t really based on anyone. I just went to that department in my head where, you know, I’m not the only one. But there is a part of me that wants to control the world and have everybody behave as they should and as I would wish them to. So, I accessed the inner fascist. But no, nobody specific. And again, I wouldn’t tell you because I’m scared.”

Nicolas, being the movie buff you are, are you a big fan of the new 3D technology?

Nicolas Cage: “The 3D that I grew up with was, it always resulted in a headache. I could see the edge, the line, and you had to wear these uncomfortable glasses that were red and blue. But today, the 3D feels effortless, and I know the work that went into it to make it that way. Where you’re not thinking so much about the 3D coming out at you, but more that you’re falling into the movie. I felt like I was surrounded by the movie, and I didn’t have a headache. So, I think it’s progressed quite a bit.”

 

G-Force

Hoyt Yeatman, Bill Nighy, Bill Aikin, Jerry Bruckheimer, Nicolas Cage, and Zach Galifianakis G-Force Press Conference

What research did you do to play a mole?

Nicolas Cage: “You know, the voice was kind of a voice that I would go into when I was – after like weeks of night shooting and I was stressed out or exhausted, or whatever it may be. Rather than using profanity or yelling, I would start talking in a higher octave. And then I would start laughing because of how ridiculous it sounded. And so then everything – I couldn’t take anything seriously anymore. I would start laughing. So when Jerry asked me if I would be interested in doing G-Force, it was the last day of National Treasure 2. And I just went into the voice and said, ‘Well, can I talk like that?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely.’ So, that was all the research I needed for the mole.”

How about your research, Bill?

Bill Nighy: “The script was so kind of beautiful and perfect, and all the information I needed was pretty much in there. And anything else is kind of an amalgam of figures that you may have come across. And also I was dressed very expensively from Savile Row in London. It makes you feel rich.”

And Zach – your research?

Zach Galifianakis: “I just would find other actors to rehearse with and put guinea pig masks on. And that’s how I got into it.”

Bill, you said recently you’re too scared to turn down jobs. Was that the case with G-Force?

Bill Nighy: “Did I say that? I turn down work. No, but it always makes me nervous when I turn down a job. You know, I’ve been around for a while and there was a time when I didn’t turn down anything. It’s a luxury, really, to turn down anything, and I’ve never quite got used to it.”

“The last part of your question, if Jerry Bruckheimer calls, I don’t really need to hear anything else except the words Jerry and Bruckheimer. Because you have an assurance of a high degree of quality. And as Nic was saying, to be in films that no one’s excluded either by age or background, everyone kind of gets [to] enjoy, it’s a thrill.”

Even though it’s a fun movie, there is also a little moral to the story. What would like the kids to take home when they leave the theater?

Nicolas Cage: “Well first of all, I want them to have a great time. I want them to laugh. I want them to be smiling. But also there is a bit of a message in the movie that I think is a good one, especially as it involves my character, Speckles, who, without giving too much away, goes through this kind of arc. He has a real epiphany at the end about family and where he belongs. And Jerry said in another interview which I like was that your friends can be your family, too. I think that’s a nice message.”

Zach, we expect to see you as more of a comic character. Were you expecting that also?

Zach Galifianakis: “This was my platform to be considered a very serious actor. That’s what I wanted to use it for. No, to me it was more the comedy was coming from more of the animation than perhaps what I was to do. I was more interested in playing him straight and nervous, rather than over the top crazy. I’ve seen that before and I’ve done that before in things. So, I like to change it up a little bit. So, I think that’s why I did it like that.”

Nicolas, what was it like working with Werner Herzog and when can we expect to see Bad Lieutenant?

Nicolas Cage: “Well I’m happy to say that Bad Lieutenant was accepted in competition at Venice Film Festival, and it will be also at Telluride and Toronto, so that’s exciting for Werner, and for myself. I’m not entirely sure when it will be released. I think it’s December 1st. But my experience with Werner was everything I hoped it would be. He’s not like any other director I’ve worked with. By way of example, he does his own slate. He’s in the middle of the whole thing, he’s making eye contact with everybody, the actor, the cameraman, the sound department. And then like a conductor, he says, ‘Okay, go, action.’ I thought that was interesting. He’s got a real eye. He’s a visionary genius. He’s really something special.”

Nicolas, how do you deal psychologically with changing the mood from having a dark part in Bad Lieutenant and at the same time having this comedy part in this movie?

Nicolas Cage: “You know, I try not to think too much about that. For example, with G-Force I think the best work came out of more like a jazz approach where we just had the microphone, and I would start riffing on Speckles. And some improvisation would come in, or just trying to find the right sound and not think about it. Bad Lieutenant is a whole other matter. I haven’t really got my head in that place right now. I’m thinking about Speckles. But it was more of a, ‘How do I want to approach that character and what did Werner want?'”

“The first Bad Lieutenant was very much a Judeo-Christian program where there is guilt and repentance and things like that. And in the second, our Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, was more about existentialist. You know, chaos happens. There isn’t always guilt. There isn’t always repentance. And so it was more of a philosophical debate. With Speckles, I was just trying to hear the voice and feel the music. You know, I didn’t want to think about it too much

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August 9, 2009 - Posted by | 1

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