Producer Chris Meledandri Talks Dr. Seuss Biopic and DESPICABLE ME 2; Confirms Biopic Will Probably Be Live-Action with Animated Seuss Characters

     February 7, 2012

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Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, the beloved children’s story that’s also its author’s favorite work, opens in theaters on March 2nd. To promote the film’s release, Collider got to participate in the press junket and sit down with producer Chris Meledandri (founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment).

While we will run what he had to say about the film, closer to its release date, we did want to share what he had to say about the development of the live-action film Illumination is doing on the life of Theodor Geisel, the man behind the work of Dr. Seuss, that is being produced by Johnny Depp, who will possibly star in the lead role. Meledandri said that he takes the protection of the Seuss legacy very serious and will not move forward with the film until they believe it’s right, and that they are planning for it do include a mix of the animated characters of his creation. He also said they’ve just started animating Despicable Me 2, and how excited they are to have Al Pacino making his animated feature debut as the villain. Check out what he had to say after the jump:

Chris MeledandriQuestion: Is it extra daunting to take on a live-action story about Theodor Geisel’s life, knowing that you’re representing him, as well as these characters?

CHRIS MELEDANDRI: It is incredibly daunting to take on a live-action story. I think that it adds a level of complexity to the responsibility that goes beyond what I’ve experienced on these two films (The Lorax and Horton Hears a Who). I take his legacy very, very seriously. I know others may disagree because he’s made such an impact on so many people that response to work becomes very personal, so people will have different points of view. But, at the core of this, I take the protection and the extension of his legacy very, very seriously. It’s a very important part of my life. When you take that to the next level of guiding a group of filmmakers to actually depict him, it’s even more challenging. The one that that I think everybody involved believes is that we won’t move forward with this until we believe it’s right. There’s no deadline that a movie has to be made by. We have to believe that we have served the responsibility, however long it takes us to get to that point.

Is it going to be a mix of live-action with the animated characters?

MELEDANDRI: Yes. The idea right now – and it may evolve – would be a live-action movie where some of his characters would be animated. To me, this movie is very much about the creative process. One of the things that fascinates me, endlessly, about him is the act of creation. As part of the expression of that creative process, we want to have some of these characters of his creations come to life. That’s the idea now. But, as it evolves and develops, I’m sure we’ll discover things that we just don’t know right now, in terms of the ultimate expression of it.

dr-seuss-imageAlong with Johnny Depp being a producer, there’s also the possibility that he may star in the lead role. What is it about him that assured you that you were both on the same page with what you want to do with this film?

MELEDANDRI: Well, the truth of how this started was that it actually started with Johnny. We were brought together through Audrey Geisel. I was the beneficiary of hearing their interest and their ideas, and I was quite taken with their ideas.

How far along are you in the process for Despicable Me 2?

MELEDANDRI: We just started animation.

Does that give you a level of pressure to live up to the success of the first one?

MELEDANDRI: You know, I find that making these films is all pressure. Making the first one is pressure, and living up to the first one is pressure. It’s all just different forms of pressure. But, absolutely, we all, collectively, are united in our hopes [for the film]. It’s very hard to set your sights on, “Will we live up to it?,” rather than, “Will we continually push ourselves to take what audiences loved about the first one and then go beyond it, so that we never feel like we’re playing it safe?”

How exciting is it that Al Pacino will be making his animation debut, voicing the villain?

MELEDANDRI: So exciting! That’s a highlight of one’s career. That’s crazy, wonderful and incredible.

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