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Enchanted - Kevin Lima interview

Enchanted

Interview by Rob Carnevale

KEVIN Lima talks about the many challenges of directing Enchanted and finding the perfect leading lady to play fairytale princess Giselle.

He also talks about the joy of working for Disney, paying homage to past classics and how he first got involved with filmmaking…

Was part of the appeal and challenge of Enchanted the fact that it combines so many elements – from romance to animation to musical…
Kevin Lima: You know, those were the scary things about it! When you actually look at them you go, “boy, it’s a romantic comedy, it’s a musical, it’s an action-adventure, it’s 2D animation, it’s 3D animation and it kind of scares you to take on all those forms and create a balance. That was really the hardest thing about the movie, keeping the balance together. And not letting one overtake the others.

Did you ever find yourself having to reassure yourself that you were going in the right direction?
Kevin Lima: Yeah, I knew that it would always be a loving homage to Disney. I always had that in my heart. I grew up on Disney movies, I wanted to be an animator from the time I was five-years-old, so I knew I was capable of not crossing that line and being hateful. But I wasn’t sure that I could balance everything and day to day that was the journey. Is it too big? Is it too cynical? And I tell you, you don’t really know until you put it together for the first time and really look at it. Sometimes, we’d find that an idea hadn’t quite come off, so we shaped it a little bit, or it was too mean-spirited, so we’d rework the scene.

Did you show it to test audiences?
Kevin Lima: Yeah, we showed it twice and they went incredibly well. In fact, they were a little bit of the barometer when things got a little too mean. There were a couple of lines here and there that came up that seemed like too much for them.

Do you find test audiences to be a useful process when making films?
Kevin Lima: I do, especially on a big movie like this, that’s meant to be a crowd-pleaser. You want to elicit an emotional response, so it can only be helpful.

Q. What was it about Amy Adams that appealed to you for the character of Giselle?
Kevin Lima: I looked at probably 300 girls before Amy walked in. And I was really worried because I didn’t think we were going to be able to make the movie because I hadn’t found anyone who could fit the glass slipper – I just thought of that [laughs]. When she walked into the room, I was really sick with a fever but I perked up. I thought she looked like a Disney princess – she has fair skin and round eyes… I thought: “Please let this be the girl, please!” So, we did one of the scenes and 45 minutes later I forgot I was sick and knew this was the girl. And the reason was that Amy was the only one who knew how to embody the character without commenting on the character; without stepping outside of the character she’s playing and telling the audience that what she was doing was ridiculous. She wasn’t commenting while she was playing the character – she was 100% that character.

In the auditions we did two scenes – a very early one where she arrives at the house – and then a later scene when she first feels angry, because I wanted to see whether or not on top of it all she could play the transition from a Disney princess to a real woman. Not just physically, but emotionally. And she was brilliant.

Q. Did you deliberately hold off going for a Julia Roberts/Reese Witherspoon-style A-lister?
Kevin Lima: You know, I didn’t want the audience to think about the actress playing the character. I wanted the character to live first. Amy is very accomplished and she’s made many films but she’s not yet a superstar. I didn’t want the audience to be thinking about the private life of the character while they were watching Giselle. I wanted it to be Giselle first. It’s kind of like Splash!, where nobody really knew who Darryl Hannah was; she was that character. Or Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – nobody knew her as a personality. It wasn’t easy with the studio because they originally wanted a star in the lead role. I had to convince them that this was a better take on the character – that it would help to create a Disney character that would live forever.

Q. Conversely, Susan Sarandon had expressed an interest to be involved from the start as the wicked Queen?
Kevin Lima: Yes. This movie had been in development for seven years before I was involved, so it took a long time to get to its final version. But she was involved I think for five of those seven years. So, when the time came I thought who better? I gave her a call, sat down with her and talked about the film and here we are today, with all her theatrical greatness. It’s not often an actress gets to play a role that’s so over the top, so I guess it must be incredibly rewarding to play the baddy and play that ultimate evil.

Q. Is there a number for how many references you’ve managed to include?
Kevin Lima: I don’t know if there’s a number but I recently had to put together a list for the DVD because they’re going to do a game that you play with the movie. And I think it’s five full pages of references. It goes pretty deep. There’s the stuff you see, that you know, such as the hag from Snow White, and the apples, but then you get into a much deeper level, such as the name of the law firm, Churchill, Harline and Smith, which is the name of the three songwriters from Snow White. So, it gets pretty geeky. If you know your Disney history, then you could watch this movie a hundred times and still find things.

Q. Audiences will ultimately be the ones to decide this probably, but if given the opportunity would you like to revisit the characters with a sequel?
Kevin Lima: Yeah. I’ve been thinking a lot about it to be quite honest. We haven’t talked about it, we haven’t been approached about it, but there’s been a couple of ideas that have been swimming around about what the next step is in this character’s life.

Q. What do you like about working with Disney?
Kevin Lima: It’s so hard to talk about because it’s always been a part of my life. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t in my blood.

Q. So how did you go about getting yourself into this medium?
Kevin Lima: Well, I always drew to begin with and I went to school for animation and became an animator first of all. And before that I’d done other things – I was a puppeteer and I’d done some theatre, so I had that little bug in me as well. But after working as an animator for a little bit I thought I wanted to direct as well. I’d done some theatre while I was animating and so I just basically moved up the ladder by asking for it.

I had to ultimately leave the studio a couple of times… When I asked to be an animation director there were no films for me, so I left and started exploring how I could do that in other ways. And then Disney called and said: “Hey, we have a Goofy movie, do you want to do it?” So I ended up back there. After I’d done Tarzan, I decided that it was time to go and explore some other venues in filmmaking. And Glenn Close, who was in Tarzan, said: “You’re really good at directing actors, you direct like a live action director, have you ever thought about doing that?” So that put a little bug in my ear. And so I went off to explore being a live action director and then they called and said: “Hey, we have 102 Dalmations. We talked to Glenn about it and she’d be thrilled if you directed.”

So I found myself back at Disney again. No matter how hard I tried to leave, I always get pulled back. But it’s a good marriage, though, because it’s my sensibility. I think it would be really hard for me to do something like Saw 7 – something like that just doesn’t live in my body.

b>Read our review of Enchanted

b>Read our interview with Amy Adams