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Enchanted - James Marsden interview

James Marsden in Enchanted

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JAMES Marsden talks about the appeal of playing a prince charming in Disney’s Enchanted, making the most of his passion for singing and coping with wearing his outfit in New York!

What attracted you to Enchanted?
James Marsden: Really, the fact that it was a Disney film. I grew up watching the classic Disney movies and the idea of being a part of a Disney film, much less one that pays homage to the classic ones, was very appealing. The musical element was also exciting, as was the opportunity to work with Amy [Adams] and Susan [Sarandon]. But mostly, very selfishly, it was the character. At the time I was auditioning, they hadn’t cast the role of Robert yet [now played by Patrick Dempsey] and my agent was asking me whether I wanted to pursue the prince or Robert. But personally, I found the prince to be more fun and I responded more to that character. So, I pursued it and auditioned for it because I thought it was a very clever concept to take these characters and juxtapose them against a modern day cynical New York. It was an interesting concept.

Amy Adams has previously mentioned that her dress weighed quite a lot. How comfortable was your outfit?
James Marsden: [Laughs] It was pretty uncomfortable and it was tricky to get out of if you ever had to run for the loo! You had to really manage your time. If you knew that they were about to put the costume on, you’d go straight to the bathroom first. It became really hot and humid in New York, which made it more uncomfortable. But it looked great and it definitely helped me to transform in the character, so it was a small price to pay.

Did you get many funnny looks from New Yorkers when your dashing down the street on location?
James Marsden: A few! It’s funny in New York because it’s hard to get a reaction because they’re just so used to seeing everything, especially if you’re shooting in Times Square. It’s like: “Oh, you’re in some show? Whatever…”

I’d imagine the Central Park song and dance sequence was fun to shoot?
James Marsden: That was fun – running around Central Park and standing on some of those landmarks. I just thought the prince was very pure, very simple minded and naive, but innocently narcisstic. He also managed to be confident and love himself – but not in an unhealthy or off-putting way. And that was important to me, that you still rooted for him and didn’t appear a jerk.

You also seem to be enjoying your singing at the moment, what with Enchanted and Hairspray in quick succession. When did you decide to start singing?
James Marsden: Well, in the past it was always a hobby of mine but I was never professionally trained. I was a mimic – I had a pretty good ear and I would emulate other vocalists. I was in a band in high school and college, so I was always fairly musical, but it was never something that I pursued professionally. But then I did a TV show about a decade ago and the producer found out I could sing, so she incorporated that into almost every episode.

Was that Ally McBeal?
James Marsden: No, that was before Ally McBeal. But then Ally McBeal was another thing, where David Kelly found out I could sing and I was doing Frank Sinatra tunes almost every other episode. But I gave that tape to Alan Shankman for Hairspray and got cast as Corny Collins in that. But I think on this film, I don’t think it was ever Kevin [Lima]‘s intention to hire actors that could sing. He thought: “We’ll get the actors and then we’ll hire Disney voices to come and sing.” But I said I’d love to do it, so Kevin gave us a crack and we qualified.

How did you cope with having a CGI chipmunk as a co-star for a lot of the time?
James Marsden: It was fine [smiles]. Obviously, when you shoot those scenes there’s nothing really there except a paper clip with a piece of paper attached to it for you to look at, so that your eyes are actually focusing on something. And there’s pieces of tape everywhere to indicate where the chipmunk jumps around. But I decided not to worry about it too much. I thought I’d just look somewhere and let the animators deal with it – they’d have to pencil him in wherever I looked. There’s so many elements to this movie, though, such as the CGI chipmunk, the live action part, the animated part and the musical part… It’s really a hybrid and I can’t think of another movie of its kind.

Enchanted is a rare breath of fresh air in a movie season that’s been largely dominated by message movies and serious Oscar contenders. Was that another part of the appeal?
James Marsden: For sure. It’s something that’s nice and wholesome. It’s inspiring, it’s happy and I’d like to see a return to those types of films. I think we’ve gotten a bit callous and nowadays it feels like everything that’s out there is special effects, cars exploding and violence. So it was nice to get back to something that’s sweet and pure.

It’s an homage to classic Disney movies. It has some fun with them but never in a disrespectful way, otherwise Disney wouldn’t have made it. I remember someone asked me: “Can we ever make those types of movies again, or is the innocence lost?” But I don’t believe that at all. It’s one of the reasons that I think people will see this movie and it’ll prove that there’s still an appetite for these types of films.

Do you intend to continue diversifying in your roles – because we’ve now seen a completely different side to you than was witnessed in the comic book films X-Men and Superman
James Marsden: Well, I always try and keep it different. Within my options, I always try and do something that’ll be a nice contrast to what I’ve just completed. Looking at X-Men and stuff like that I felt: “Oh God, let’s lighten it up a little bit! Let’s do something fun to show you can do comedy.” So that was the genesis behind doing Hairspray and Enchanted and I think now it’s time to do something completely different from those films.

And what is next?
James Marsden: Well, having said that I just completed a romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl [27 Dresses] – but no singing, just lots of dresses! It’s about exercising your talents and doing something different without overstaying your welcome in those genres [laughs]. You don’t want to become the musical guy, or the superhero guy. There’s worse problems to have, I guess, but for me creatively it’s more interesting to change it up.

Will you be doing the next Superman film if there is one?
James Marsden: I don’t know. I don’t know anything about that movie, I swear to you. Hopefully, they’ll make it and I’ll be a part of it but it’s the God honest’s truth that I can’t even speculate. We’re the last ones to know, really and unfortunately.

b>Read our review of Enchanted

b>Read our interview with Amy Adams