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Flushed Away - Hugh Jackman interview

Flushed Away

Interview by Rob Carnevale

HUGH Jackman talks about making his animated debut in Flushed Away and the pleasure it subsequently gave him…

Q. You’ve been quoted as saying that you didn’t think you got to grips with the whole voice thing to begin with. Is that true?
Hugh Jackman: Well I think it just took me three or four sessions before we really found the character. The character did change – he originally had these hamster servants, Gilbert and Sullivan, who I really loved. He was more upper-class and a little snobby, I suppose. I don’t know, it just took me a little while. I remember a session where we went in and I said: “Ah, I’ve got it now.” But we ended up going back and re-voicing most of the stuff we did even if there were changes.

So when you think about it, it’s a character like any other. With animation on one hand, you have the freedom to just go in and flick the switch and you’re away. From the first second, you’re working and you’re recording. I think the guys – Jeffrey [Katzenberg] as well as Sam and Dave – were just really helpful in finding who this character was and for me to really make it my own. It’s fair to say it was challenging – more challenging that I expected.

Sometimes I remember getting notes like: “We need to see more of this emotion coming through.” And I was like: “Wow, I thought I was doing that!” But you get used to film where you have so much more available to you to convey thoughts and emotions. So I did find it challenging but I loved it and I remember laughing a lot.

In terms of the look of the character, my son is six and a half and he knows exactly what animation is – he knows what live action drama is and all that sort of thing. But he looked at me about halfway through the movie and said: “Dad, that’s you isn’t it? That’s not animation!” I was slightly depressed at that point, and said: “What do you mean!”

Q. What attracted you to this project in the first place?
Hugh: Well, with most movies you get a script and the way I recall it, I had a phone call from Jeffrey and I knew it was DreamWorks, who I think are the best in America at doing animated movies, and Aardman. I’d been a huge Aardman fan – in fact, I kind of felt I’d discovered them. I used to give out videos of their shorts to people once I’d discovered it on TV in the early ’90s. Obviously, I hadn’t discovered them, they’d won Academy Awards by that point, but it took me about three seconds to say yes. So that was the attraction for me.

Q. Was the James Bond reference deliberate?
Hugh: Well, I’ve had many questions now about how I found the rat and I’d joke about doing rat workshops or mice workshops, or whatever, but the thing is I think Roddy sees himself more like James Bond, particularly in the beginning. He has this great life, he zips around in this cool sort of car, Barbie is his girlfriend – or one night stand – and he plays volleyball with Action Man [laughs].

Q. I see from the production notes that your singing voice was a key part in the casting process. Was performing the Tom Jones number a particularly favourite moment?
Hugh: I think he’s great. We tried a couple of songs, didn’t we? One of them which I didn’t even know. I wouldn’t say I’m a diehard fan. But I think he’s amazing and it was great fun to do it. The thing I loved about the singing, these guys said: “Just have a go.” The thing is, someone turns on the switch and you have a go and even though it’s Sunday morning at 9.30 you think: “Well, this will never end up in the movie.” And alas, you go and see it and like: “Holy crap, I did that at 9.30am! I’ve got to go and redo this!” It’s the beautiful thing about playing Roddy, a pet doesn’t have to be Michael Crawford, you know!

Q. You’re steeped in musical theatre. If you had the gift of a classical musical you could do in the West End for four months, what would it be?
Hugh: You sound like a producer. Mmm… I’d kind of like to do something new too but I think if I was doing one of the classics, it would be Carousel. That, I suppose, is the Hamlet of musicals.

Q. Do you become easy meat as a target for animation once they know you have kids? And when you started acting, did you ever imagine that one day you’d be standing on top of a 25ft inflatable toilet in Leicester Square?
Hugh: [Laughs] When I started out I was trying to make ends meet by being a really average, bad clown at kids’ parties. When I finally went to a six-year-old’s birthday party and he stood up and said: “Mummy, this clown is crap!” So, I used to juggle eggs and occasionally smashed them, so I got out the eggs and said: “Guys, do you want to just throw eggs at me?” It was just to keep the parents happy and they said “yeah, cool”. So really, going down a toilet is probably a step up anyway. I actually had a blast doing it, it was great fun.

Having kids, it’s an absolute thrill to do a movie. I’m not being facetious at all here. When I was in the theatre with my son, sitting next to him, the look in his face… He said to me afterwards: “This is my favourite movie ever.” He can’t stop talking about it. When he was watching it, he couldn’t stop looking at me and it was one of the great moments for me in the business. He absolutely adores the movie.

For those of you who have kids, you know that if your kid likes a movie, you’re seeing it 100 times because they watch it over and over again. This is one of those movies that there’s a lot in it for adults – it’s funny. I find it funny.

Read our review of Flushed Away