With Aardman Animation’s Early Man now playing in North American theaters, a few days ago I got on the phone with Eddie Redmayne to talk about voicing a character in the stop-motion film directed by Nick Park. During the exclusive interview he talked about how he got involved in the project, what people would be surprised to learn about the recording process, how things changed during production, his earliest memories of Aardman Animation, and so much more. In addition, he talked about his early work in Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd and how that project changed in the editing room, how making Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald compared to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, when he starts shooting Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts with Felicity Jones and if they’re trying to be the British Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, why he recently took some time off from acting, and so much more.
If you’re not familiar with Early Man, the film takes place during the crossroads between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age and follows a young caveman named Dug (Eddie Redmayne) who gets whisked away to a Bronze Age city ruled by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston). Dug then takes part in a soccer tournament where the future of his cavepeople is on the line. Maisie Williams plays a local soccer player recruited to help Dug’s team. For more on Early Man, read Matt Goldberg’s review.
Check out what Eddie Redmayne had to say below.
Collider: You doing a lot of press today?
EDDIE REDMAYNE: It’s one of those days, but it’s all good.
You really can’t go wrong promoting an Aardman movie.
REDMAYNE: No, you know what- it’s one of those dreams to be a part of.
I would imagine. What’s your earliest memory of Aardman?
REDMAYNE: I think it was Creature Comforts. Do you know those Steve?
REDMAYNE: They went and recorded the voices of people across the country and then animated them with creatures and I just found them hilariously funny. I think that’s when my love for them started.
I love those ones in the zoo.
REDMAYNE: Well, I don’t know if you’ve seen the one with the seals in the foreground being interviewed with a penguin in the background doing a sort of full swallow dive from the diving board and he’s getting stuck in the ice. It’s all happening so small in the background and it’s one of the great moments of comedy.
I completely agree. Talk a little bit about how you got involved in Early Man.
REDMAYNE: I was genuinely just asked if I wanted to do it and I have had some slightly shoddy experiences with voiceover work before, where people hire you because you’re an actor and then when you find yourself in the booth, you sort of open your mouth and you see their look of frights and shock- where, perhaps, they don’t love your voice as much as they thought. So, because I had so much love for Nick Park I didn’t want to be the one to butcher it. When I was offered it, I asked him if there was any chance we could have a session in which we mess around with it, so he could just check that he wanted to hire me. So, we had the most amazing couple of hours trying hundreds of different voices, and him showing me some early animation with Doug and all this and it was great.
That’s actually a pretty smart move.
REDMAYNE: Yeah, so I didn’t get fired.
Totally. What was it about the story and script that really excited you?
REDMAYNE: I come from an incredibly sporty family and I am incredibly useless at sport, particularly soccer. So, Nick describes it as: he always wanted to make an underdog sports movie, being the least sporty person in the world. It was also my opportunity to make an underdog sports movie by having a severe lack of talent. That was one thing. The other thing was I just love the heart of these films. They have such a joy, and warmth, and humor to them that, yeah, I felt like it would be a lovely thing to get to swim in.
One of the things I appreciate about Nick and Aardman movies is that they don’t really go for the cheap joke. It’s not playing to the lowest common denominator.
REDMAYNE: Yeah. I think Tom Hiddleston put it like, “the distance you’ll go for that joke is quite extraordinary and extreme.” You sort of pursue the joke relentlessly and it’s quite brilliant.
What do you think would surprise people to learn about the recording process on Early Man?
REDMAYNE: I would say they’d be surprised by how many times you say the same line. Nick is ridiculous- he’s like the most generous spirited man in the world, but you can do one line hundreds of times and you can tell because he has always got a smile on his face but you begin to read when he’s super happy and when he is just sort of okay. So you’ll do it for 5 minutes or 10 minutes on the same line and eventually you’ll go, “Nick, when you say the line,” or whenever he says it his voice sort of explodes into Wallace and Gromit and every single one of his characters he has ever played, and he does it so perfectly that you then try and copy that, basically.
Completely. I would imagine that this is probably the most important question I’ll ask today: did you ask him to record anything for an answering machine message?
REDMAYNE: Oh, gosh! What a wasted opportunity! I did get him to- he signed my script and did quite an amazing drawing of Doug and Hognob and that made me very happy. That’s one of those things I’ll probably frame.
Without a doubt. I can’t believe it’s not already framed.
REDMAYNE: I can’t believe I didn’t make him do my answering machine message! [laughs]
Guess what you’ll be thinking about the next time you see him.
If this isn’t the perk of being an actor- getting to meet these people and work with them and get little perks like that, what’s the point of being an actor?
REDMAYNE: I know, you’re absolutely right. I should think more about that.
Anyway, enough of my joking around. [laughs] Often time with animated movies, a lot can change along the way. I’ve spoken to people that have worked on Pixar movies or Walt Disney movies, and it’s a dramatic change from when you first started to what people see on screen. How much of Early Man changed from when you were talking about it to what people see?
REDMAYNE: That’s a good question. The answer is the script was endlessly being fanoodled- I think I just invented a word. As you say, that world of animation- we would record once every two months and record for a day and then two months later you come back and they would have animated some of the stuff you recorded last time. You would go and re-record other bits where they’ve refined the script. It was a massively organic process. What was weird was that you never read the script from start to finish. So it was really, more than any film I’ve ever done, when you saw it, the final cut of it, it was super surprising. It was wonderful to watch because you didn’t really know what you were making as you went along.