Once again, Levy is lending his trademark baritone to an animated character, this time in the big-screen remake of the 80s cartoon 'Astro Boy.' He plays disgruntled, bumbling, out-of-date robot Orrin, who spends most of the movie futilely serving his human master. Moviefone Canada spoke with Levy about the difficulties of animated film, and what it's like to play an obsolete robot model. Canadian funnyman Eugene Levy knows how to get the laughs. With just one raise of those bushy brows, he can elicit laughter from even the stodgiest cynic. Even when he's not physically on screen, he's able to engage his audience.
Once again, Levy is lending his trademark baritone to an animated character, this time in the big-screen remake of the 80s cartoon 'Astro Boy.' He plays disgruntled, bumbling, out-of-date robot Orrin, who spends most of the movie futilely serving his human master. Moviefone Canada spoke with Levy about the difficulties of animated film, and what it's like to play an obsolete robot model.
Your character, Orrin, is very amusing. What sort of input did you have on your character?
This is an odd process, doing these animated projects. I've learned – this is my fourth animated movie, I think – that you have to go into them not really prepared too much. You have to be ready to give a variety of readings for the director. In terms of input, it is my voice...I think it's kind of a 50/50 collaboration with the director.
How familiar were you with 'Astro Boy' before you signed onto this film?
I'm 60-something, and I'd never heard of it.
There's an interesting parallel in this movie between robots and humans – it kind of reflects the issue of racism in our society.
That's a very true parallel, I think. I also think the whole issue of technology will happen sooner than we think it is. There will be little robots or machines that do household chores for us. I'm sure in our lifetime they're going to be affordable. The interesting thing about 'Astro Boy,' in terms of my character, is that he's not top-of-the-line. He's almost like a relic, so there's that angle going as well. He's certainly not in the high end of robot-dom. Orrin knows that he's on his way out.
How does it feel to walk into something like that? Is it scary, or...
It's no different than just walking onto the set of a new movie. 'Curious George' was already an established character when I did that. 'Over the Hedge' was a new kind of storyline. You go in and contribute to that new venture. To me, 'Astro Boy' to me was a new project; I didn't grow up watching it, I didn't know anything about it.
I see you're working with another Canadian, Donald Sutherland, on this movie. Is it fun to get together with other veteran actors and create this kind of thing?
First of all, we don't get together to create it, sadly.
The odd thing about these animated projects is that you don't really get a chance to work with the other cast members. You're in a sound booth by yourself with the director, and you go through your lines without having heard anyone else. The amazing thing is that all the parts are put together in a seamless sort of way.
Is it harder for you to play a character when the audience doesn't actually 'see' you on screen?
[Laughs] Actually, it's pretty damn nice.
You can roll onto set in your pajamas?
That's it, exactly. Growing up in this business in Toronto, there was a lot of commercial and radio work, so we spent years doing it. You didn't have to get there two hours early for makeup, you just grab a coffee, you have the script in front of you, you don't have to do any memorizing, and that's it. It's a really interesting acting exercise – going through 7, 8, 9 different ways to say a line.
You've played many iconic characters. Where does Orrin fall in the spectrum of things?
I've said over the years, I tend to gravitate towards characters that aren't the sharpest pencils in the drawer. I've always had more fun playing those types of characters. In this case, Orrin is not a dumb character, but his nerves have been shot thin by the abuse he's taken. He's a live nerve end. Your heart goes out to the oppressed, and Orrin is certainly oppressed.
'Astro Boy' opens in theatres across Canada on October 23.