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Zachary Levi Talks About ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel’

 

Zachary Levi in 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.'

Zachary Levi in ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.’

© 20th Century Fox

Chuck star Zachary Levi takes on the lead role opposite the most famous singing chipmunks in the world in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Levi plays Toby, the geeky cousin of Jason Lee’s character, Dave Seville. When Dave’s sidelined, Toby takes over caring for the loveable squeaky-voiced rodents as they head to high school.

During the LA press day for the 20th Century Fox family comedy, Levi joked that the writers must have had him in mind when they created Toby. “Toby was always envisioned as being me, I guess,” said Levi, laughing. “He’s the burn-out, video game-playing, stuck in a state of arrested development kind of guy, who had a traumatic experience in high school and never really got past that, but loves his video games.”

Levi was able to draw on personal experience to get into character. “I’ve had friends that were very Toby, in my life. I was even very Toby, in my life. I still am a little Toby, in my life. I was trying to draw from all of that stuff. It’s a kid’s movie, so clearly you can’t see him doing anything, but he probably has a substance problem of some kind. I don’t know. He’s there, but he’s not there. He’s Toby,” explained Levi. “That was everything I was trying to put into that, and I think it comes across. I hope it does. I know my manager was like, ‘All right, well, I’ve now seen you play a stoner and that’s good. You’re done. You don’t need to do that anymore.'”

Going a Little Nuts Over Imaginary Chipmunks

Starring opposite Alvin, Theodore and Simon meant Levi was actually working opposite, well, nothing. Asked if talking to imaginary Alvin, Theodore, and Simons drove him a little nutty by the end of the shoot, Levi replied, “I haven’t had any hallucinations yet, but there’s a good chance, especially after the movie comes out and people are calling and saying, ‘Hey, I saw the Chipmunks!’ Then it’s fresh in your mind and, all of a sudden, you’re sitting in your room and Theodore just wants to cuddle.”

Levi admits it was a little difficult actually delivering a performance without his costars there to bounce off of. “You’re acting to thin air. There’s no way around that. You rehearse with stuffed animals, not that that’s much better. It’s still inanimate objects. There were three lovely girls off camera, reading the voices, and prop people who had them on these long antennae, moving them around. But, then there’s nothing there and you’re just a crazy person, talking to yourself. That’s an exercise in sanity,” said Levi.

“It definitely was a challenge, and a good one, especially since, nowadays, more and more movies are made this way, with either green screen or CG in a live-action environment – like Chipmunks is. One of my best friends, Joel David Moore, just did Avatar and he was telling me about all the mo-cap [motion capture] that they did. I don’t even know what that’s got to be like. First of all, you look completely ridiculous. You’re wearing a unitard with little balls all over it, and you’re supposed to take it very seriously. I don’t know how you can take anything seriously, wearing a unitard. And, there’s nothing there. I don’t know what that’s like. But, doing this and just having to emote with and react to nothing, it’s really, really trippy.”

Levi said it was a little scary being the only person on camera during his scenes with the Chipmunks. “That was a little odd. But wherever God puts you, you just be thankful for that, do the best you can and hope that it doesn’t completely look ridiculous at the end of the day. But I think it all came together good. I was really anxious to see how all the eye lines worked out. I was like, ‘Man, I hope I didn’t screw all of that stuff up.’ But, of course, they were watching it and telling you, ‘Hey, you’re looking off into space right now. Make sure you look down at Alvin.’ So when I was watching it, I believed that I was looking at things that weren’t really there, so hopefully the kids will.”

Even before he worked on Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Levi was a fan of the chipper trio. “It’s just amazing that The Chipmunks have been around as long as they have. They’re old. My mom, when she was eight, knew The Chipmunks. When I was eight, I knew a whole new idea of The Chipmunks. I met the Chipmunks when they came out again in the ‘80s with the Saturday morning Chipmunks show and The Chipmunk Adventure. That was a really good movie. Me and my sister watched it many, many times when we were kids,” admitted Levi. “When I met the Bagdasarians, I don’t think they believed me when I was like, ‘I know your stuff. I’m familiar with your work.’ So to be able to be a part of the Chipmunks dynasty, it really is an honor. There aren’t many things like this that have lasted this long and stood the test of time, that are still relevant, no matter how you slice it. Parents, their kids and their kids know who the Chipmunks are. That’s three generations of fans of Alvin, Simon and Theodore, and the Chipettes.”

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December 25, 2009 - Posted by | 1

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