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Happy Feet - Brittany Murphy interview

Happy Feet

Compiled by Jack Foley

BRITTANY Murphy talks about animated movie Happy Feet and the messages it contains – both personal and environmental.

How did you get the role of Gloria and why did you decide to take it?
Brittany Murphy: I got a phone call from George Miller [the director] asking me to play this role. We sat down and he showed me on his computer a documentary-type montage sequence of real penguins swimming, in an Esther Williams synchronized sort of way, and doing things I have never seen them do. Then he explained his vision of the film, asked me to read the script and to voice the character. I was cast a little bit later, and he let me do the singing as well!

Do you enjoy singing?
Brittany Murphy: I’ve been singing my whole life, since I was a kid; but never formally as a career. I did it in plays when I was younger, and I sang all styles of music: everything from Italian opera to blues.

Are you also a natural born dancer?
Brittany Murphy: I’ve been trained in dancing and I used to be quite good, though I am a bit rusty right now. But I could probably brush up in a couple of months. The funny thing is that I actually took classes from Savion Glover, who worked in Happy Feet, when I was a kid. Isn’t that wild? I was part of a selected group that was brought into New York from New Jersey (which is where I’m from) to study, every Saturday: ballet, jazz and tap. It was a musical comedy group. And one day I got to meet him because he was teaching Broadway dance. It was a little after Tap came out and he was very young. He wouldn’t remember me, but it was quite amazing. And now I’ve met him as an adult!

You do quite a bit of singing in the movie. What was your favourite song to perform and why?
Brittany Murphy: My favourite song is Someone To Love. That is more like me than the other stuff, as it was the only one I was actually able to create from the bottom up. I call it an homage, not a remake. It is an homage to Freddie Mercury, because I don’t think people can really remake Freddie Mercury. That’s why we did a gospel version.

What was it like to play an animated role?
Brittany Murphy: It was really fun and intimate in a way. Working with George Miller is exquisite. Gloria is different from anything I’ve ever played before. The first time I saw the characters in the studio I remember thinking that Mumble looked just like Elijah, with such a cute and endearing face. I don’t think Gloria looks that much like me.

What are your thoughts on the themes of the story, like individuality? Do you think kids will respond to it?
Brittany Murphy: Individuality is vitally important. When people start to lose their individuality is when I believe they start to lose themselves. I think children are born with this message, and it shouldn’t be taken away from them. I hope they walk away with it after seeing the film, and adults too. And I notice it also with myself, because the older I get, the more I embrace my own idiosyncrasies.

I would hope with all my heart that people understand this and see it in the film. And there are also other messages in Happy Feet, like racial and environmental ones, but none of them are so overt. George has made a great story about penguins with a lot of humanity in it and audiences can follow a species we don’t know that well.

Have you grown thanks to this experience? And if so, how?
Brittany Murphy: I’ve grown environmentally. I’m far more cautious, although I always have been; but more now. And I have grown a lot professionally by working with George Miller.

Read our interview with Elijah Wood

Read our interview with Robin Williams