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Gulliver's Travels - Billy Connolly interview

Gulliver's Travels

Interview by Rob Carnevale

BILLY Connolly talks about the appeal of joining the cast of Gulliver’s Travels and why Prince Charles provided the inspiration for his performance as King of Lilliput.

He also talks about the dangers of relying too much on green screen as an industry.

Q. What was the appeal of taking on Gulliver’s Travels?
Billy Connolly: I always like it when a film shows up… usually in my life, it’s twice or once a year that a movie will show up. It gets me out of the stand-up routine. It’s lovely because my own act is kind of anarchy… there’s no rule book and there’s nobody to tell me what to do. So, I do exactly as I please. But in a film, I’m kind of bound by cues because there’s other people relying on me, so I have to behave myself. So, it’s a great discipline and it’s very good for me. But the appeal of this one was the people involved in it.

Q. What did you like about King Theodore? What did you try and bring to him?
Billy Connolly: Well, I wanted him to be nice and calm and casual. If I was a king, I’d be a cool king. If I was a king, I would be the way Prince Charles would be if he was a king. I’d be cool about it, you know… grow organic food and be nice and involved. I would get people together and show people that you care about them, the way Prince Charles does. So, that’s what I tried to be… an easy going guy who thought he had landed on his feet.

Q. You mention having to be bound by cues, but Rob Letterman [the director] was talking about how much improvisation also went on… was that enjoyable for you as well? Did it come easy to you?
Billy Connolly: Well, they had more than me to do. My lines were very, very predictable. It was more like: “Don’t do this…”; “Do that!”; “What is going on here?” They were my kind of lines. But there’s were much, much more esoteric. They had a lot more to make up than me. I’m the king… I’m solid as a rock. There’s not an awful lot you can do with my lines.

Q. But I gather Chris O’Dowd likes to mix things up with each take? And you share the what-eth and why-eth must-eth we speak-eth with ‘eths’ scene…
Billy Connolly: Oh yes [laughs], that was fun and we did that differently every time.

Q. How do you get on with green screen?
Billy Connolly: I’m not the biggest fan of green screen. I understand it and I understand the glories of it but it can be very boring. You could lose the will to live doing that for a living! The thing that terrifies me about it is that there’s a Hollywood school who are using it to save money and therefore cutting down on sets and actors, so eventually it’ll all be like that where they’re concerned. So, I don’t look forward to that and if it came to that I wouldn’t do it anymore. It would just be too boring.

*Q. But I gather Jack Black made it more bearable by being on set when he didn’t have to be, in order to be with the actors?8
Billy Connolly: He’s an astonishing guy and he’s the real deal. He’ll do that every time. He turns up at parties that are very small and dinners and makes himself readily available all the time. He shows up at all the press junkets as well. He’s done all of them… he’s done Sydney, Australia and blah, blah, blah. And I must say, hand on heart, I’ve never heard him whine once! So, he’s the real deal and what you see is really genuinely what you get.

Q. With all your royal connections vocally on film and related appearances in film, can you expect an invite to the royal wedding next year?
Billy Connolly: I don’t think so [smiles]. I don’t know them very well. I’ve met them a couple of times, I think. I was meeting his father for something else and he came along with his brother and he was very funny… they were both very funny about their father! But I don’t think that gets you an invite to the wedding [laughs]. I wouldn’t turn it down though!

Read our review of Gulliver’s Travels

Read our interview with Jack Black