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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – Jim Sturgess interview

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JIM Sturgess talks about lending his voice to the role of hero owl Soren in Zack Snyder’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, and getting animated himself in the recording booth.

Q. What was the appeal for you in lending your voice to the character of Soren?
Jim Sturgess: There were so many different reasons for doing it and so many positive reasons for doing it. I always wanted to be in an animated film but I really wanted to be in an animated film that was exciting to me, that’s different and unique, and it’s definitely all of those things. So, to be involved in something that was alien to me… it was a whole new experience because I’d never done anything like that before.

This was an amazing story and totally bizarre that these warrior owls were fighting in the sky and all this other amazing stuff. But then to find out that it was going to be directed by a young director like Zack Snyder, who I knew hadn’t done any animation films before… this was a whole new platform for him to work on. But his films are so visually breathtaking, so it was about what he brings to the table as well. For me, the sky was the limit.

Q. What did you find was the most challenging aspect of it? Were you surprised at just how animated you got in the booth? I’ve seen footage…
Jim Sturgess: [laughs] I did, yes, that’s true! There’s all these video tapes and there must be piles of them showing me flapping my arms and doing all the motions for the character as you’re in the moment. So, yeah I would never want to see those and I’ll pay someone good money to get them deleted! But they exist and I’m sure they’ll turn up on the DVD extras at some point. But you did have a self consciousness when you were doing it. You’re stuck in a room with a microphone kind of acting out these scenes, really, and doing it as though you’re in the film as much as you could.

Q. What did you think when you first saw Soren on the screen? I mean, a lot of animated characters retain some of the characteristics of the person voicing them, but not in the case of this film…
Jim Sturgess: No, I was just so amazed with the facial expressions that they were able to put on an owl’s face. I thought the whole thing was amazing. But I think that was the greatest buzz for me… sitting in the cinema, with my popcorn, as the film starts, and this beautifully animated creature comes onto the screen and then my voice comes out of its mouth. That was a real trip. So, that was part of the journey that I wanted to get on and it was nice to watch the animation develop as we all worked on it together. I never saw it in its full glory until we saw it at the premiere in Los Angeles.

Q. How weird for you was it having Zack direct you in a different country at times?
Jim Sturgess: It was weird but it worked. He had to really focus all his senses on my voice, so to be as far away as Australia and England could have been a help rather than a hindrance. He’s so infectious, and such an animated character himself, that it never felt like he wasn’t in the room. In fact, his face was twice the size on a big screen, so he was probably more intense!

Q. One of the themes behind the movie, about holding onto your dreams, must resonate particularly strongly with you as an actor, given the sort of path you set yourself on when first embarking on your career… In your case, it’s been wonderfully realised…
Jim Sturgess: I guess so, yeah, it’s a nice way of putting it. If you believe in something, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not real and certainly you’re older brother!

Q. So, are you happy with the way your career is shaping up?
Jim Sturgess: Definitely, yeah. I’ve been doing all the films I could ever imagine I could want to do. When I got into acting I didn’t have a plan or career path, or no idea of what I was doing even… I was going in blindly just because I like acting. And if I wasn’t doing it with this, I would probably be in some fringe theatre doing it there. I just sort of enjoy the whole process of it, so it’s really nice that I can work with such tremendously talented people on such a wide variety of projects.

Q. You’ve got One Day coming up, with Anne Hathaway, and directed by Lone (An Education) Scherfig…
Jim Sturgess: Yeah, I literally just finished on that this week. It’s great. It’s based on the book by David Nicholls and is a really lovely story… about a couple who first meet during their graduation in 1988 and then proceed to reunite one day every year for the next 20 years. I had a lot of fun on that one. Lone is another really smart director and she was so funny to work with as well.

Read our review

Read our interview with Zack Snyder