By Michael Ordoña, Times Staff Writer
November 15, 2006
This time he's a dancing penguin in director George Miller's eco-friendly animated film, which turns on the unique mating calls of emperor penguins.
Wood, who also stars in the upcoming ensemble film "Bobby," gives voice to Mumble, the sole dancer among a tribe of singers. (Costar Robin Williams has called it "March of the Penguins" meets "Riverdance.")
In jeans and gray sweater vest, slight of frame with a scruffy beard that accentuates his grad student appearance, Wood sat down in the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel to talk about his new role.
What drew you to "Happy Feet?"
I was a fan of [Miller's] movies, particularly the "Babe" films -- especially "Babe 2." It's like Jean-Pierre Jeunet made a "Babe" movie. It's this weird, impressionistic, strange acid trip of a "Babe" film!
The idea of doing an animated film was exciting because I am a fan. It's such a freeing experience; you're completely unencumbered by the physical.
What are some of your favorite animated films?
I love the "Ice Age" movies ... "Triplets of Belleville" is amazing ... There are a few Japanese films, "Akira" and "Ghost in the Shell," that are extraordinary, that set the bar for animation in regards to who its audience is. In America, we're a little behind that. We don't have a lot of animated movies that are made strictly for adults.
I understand you're a fair singer. Most of your costars get to show off their pipes in the movie, but not you. Were you disappointed?
I can sing OK, but it was a lot of fun to be called on to sing poorly. I remember that day, specifically trying to sing "Somebody to Love" by Queen, which I really couldn't sing properly anyway because Freddie Mercury's voice is beyond. They said, "Go for it, sing as badly as you can." And it was a blast. They actually added real penguins squawking on top of me to make it sound even worse.
I take it you didn't mind having Savion Glover handle your motion-captured dancing?
He's an absolute genius. When the character is so defined by his ability to dance and express himself through tap, it was so important that we have someone with that kind of rhythm and that kind of ability.
What was it like working with Robin Williams?
I had to keep up! But it was kind of perfect because Mumble is kind of overwhelmed, initially, by these Adelie penguins. So, in a way, my natural reaction to the Latino comics who played the other Adelies and Robin, when they would improvise back and forth, my natural kind of stunned reaction was actually right on.
You've been making some pretty quirky films since "The Lord of the Rings."
It's not really by design; they just happen to be the movies I've fallen in love with. "Eternal Sunshine," perfect example -- I mean, I would have done craft service on that movie.
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