Jeff Bridges and Shia LaBeouf Interviewed – SURF’S UP

     April 13, 2007

Yes I meant to post these interviews last weekend. I had a plan to get a ton of stuff up on Sunday and be caught up with everything. Then I got sick for a few days and I’m just now catching up.

Here’s what you need to know about these interviews from Surf’s Up. They were done awhile ago, before today’s official announcement that Shia is in Indiana Jones IV. Back when we did the interviews it was just a rumor and as you can read in the interview he denies it. I’m sure back then he was cast and was just under orders to say nothing.

So to get you ready for the interview, here is what I posted when I did an article recently about the film.

What is Surf’s Up?

It’s a CGI animated penguin movie that Sony is putting out this summer. Now I’m sure a lot of you are thinking another penguin movie…didn’t we just see Happy Feet? The answer is while it is another penguin movie it’s nothing like Happy Feet, or for that matter, anything that’s been done before in animation.

When filmmakers make an animated movie they follow certain rules. The biggest one is to never have two actors recording their lines in the same room. They always record each voice actor separately, and sometimes two people who are acting in the same scene never meet until the day they’re doing press for the final product. It ends up that the editor of the film has to find a way to get an emotional performance out of the voice tracks, which can be quite a challenge.

What the filmmakers of Surf’s Up did was highly unconventional. Instead of having each actor record their lines separately, they would get everyone in a scene together and have them record their lines at the same time. What would happen is people would go over each other’s voices and the end result was a much more organic scene, one that sounded real.

Now with certain animated films this might not work. But Surf’s Up could allow this process due to what the film is about. The film is done like you are watching a documentary. You have characters talking to the camera, getting interviewed, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen from a big budget CGI film and I’ll say it looked great.

For the first time when watching an animated movie I thought the characters sounded real. The way they recorded the voices absolutely added to the actor’s ability to craft a performance.

Also when I interviewed the directors they said that tons of the movie was improvised and they would only tell the actors the outline of the scene, allowing them to bring their own ideas to the characters they were portraying.

One of the great stories they told was when Shia LaBeouf was supposed to be at the recording session with the people who played his parents and family. It ended up he was a bit late but the rest were already in the booth recording. When he arrived they sent him in and told the actors to act like his character was late for an interview that they were all supposed to do in their family home and what would they say to him. That scene was one they showed us when we saw some footage and it’s one that absolutely used the way they recorded the movie as an asset. You had voices over one another, yelling, it felt like a real scene rather than an animated one.

While we only got to see about fifteen minutes of the film I was really impressed with not only the animation but the way they are going to tell the story. Having the frame act as a camera is a great stylistic choice and it’s also quite original. Also some of the shots went in and out of focus as the person who was supposed to be filming was running to try and catch up with a character. Another great shot was when Shia LaBeouf’s character was on a surf board and the camera was mounted on the board with him so it couldn’t move but sometimes water would splash on the frame. It was a little touch but it worked quite well.

Sony has posted a trailer for Surf’s Up and it shows what I’m talking about with the camera and how they’re going to tell the story.

Now about those interviews….

If you’d like to listen to the Jeff Bridges and Shia LaBeouf interview click here.

I also have two interviews that I won’t be transcribing but you can listen to them as MP3’s. The first is with the Chris Buck &amp Ash Brennan (the Directors), Chris Jenkins (Producer) and the second is with Mario Cantone &amp Diedrich Bader. Each of them plays a character in the movie.

And without and more words from me, here is Jeff and Shia.

Someone mentions Jeff Bridge’s new bald look

JEFF: They told me, it was a dirty trick, he said, ‘We’re all shaving our heads,’ and then…

SHIA: I like the look a lot.

JEFF (to me) Now is that real or an attachment? (He’s talking about my beard)

Frosty: It’s a Hollywood special effect.

Is that (the baldness) for Iron Man?

JEFF: Yes.

Q: They told us that you came in first and you came with a little different pitched voice, and they were like no, we want your voice.

JEFF: (in a high pitched voice) Actually this is my real voice. (he laughs) I don’t know, I never heard that story. I don’t know, a different pitched voice, I figured it would just be normal. I don’t know, I didn’t know that no, I just thought play it as real, and one of the things that was appealing about the whole project to me was this kind of documentary quality, this Spinal-Tap kind of take on it all, playing it pretty serious and find the humor in that.

Q: Shia, how did you get involved?

SHIA: I started hearing some of the castings that they were throwing around, Jeff was always first choice and I’ve always wanted to work with him, so that was a huge appeal, and then you meet Chris and Ash and they start letting you loose and you realize how much free-flow thought you can put into it. It’s always fun to have that much control, you know. Plus it was a new concept, it was this hybrid version of animation that had never been done before, it’s good to be a part of new things, it’s stretching the art form a bit, so you want to be part of those types of things.

Q: How free were both of you to go off on the script?

SHIA: Freedom

JEFF: Oh yeah, they always encouraged that. They would have a script that kind of gave you the bones of the scene, but they were always calling on me, ‘Use your imagination and bring whatever you have to bring.’ That’s always the most fun, but you know when you’re on a regular movie when you’re called upon to – you’re going to have to rise to the occasion, sometimes they don’t have the scene and you just have to do it.

Q: Shia in the acting world, who was your Big Z when you were little?

SHIA: Dustin Hoffman, then I found Gary Oldman, and there are a lot of them. Who your Big Z (to Jeff)?

JEFF: My Big Z, well, Robert Ryan, I got to work with him. You know who Robert Ryan is?

SHIA: No.

JEFF: He’s a really interesting actor, he always kind of stood alone for me, didn’t really seem like an actor. I think he got into acting quite late, maybe in his late thirties of forties.

SHIA: Was he in westerns?

JEFF: He did some westerns I did The Iceman Cometh with him. I had most of me scenes with him they were long 20 minute scenes.

Q: What did you admire about him?

JEFF: I remember one time we were at a table and we were sitting there getting ready for one of our long scenes and he had his hands like this on the table and he was like this, and the guys said, ‘Okay, we’re ready now Bob,’ and he put his hands down and I see these two big pools of sweat on his hands, and I said, ‘Bob, you’re frightened after all these years?’ And he said, ‘I’d really be scared if I wasn’t scared.’ And he taught me that fear thing is something that’s always with you and you’ve got to kind of befriend that, and that’s your buddy, so that calmed me down quite a bit.

Q: Was it cool to be able to work together in the booth on this – that’s very unusual.

JEFF: (to Shia) Billy Budd was another great movie. You remember Billy Budd, Terence Stamp – yeah, Billy Budd, check that out.

Q: Were you surprised that you were even able to overlap your dialogue?

JEFF: No, they encouraged that.

SHIA: That’s part of that different style though the cadence is different in this animation as opposed to something like any other animation you’ve ever seen.

Q: Did either of you get a little worried when you heard about Happy Feet?

SHIA: This is four years of fruition to get here, it wasn’t as though we – yeah, you get worried but then you see how successful it is, it’s almost uplifting, you go, ‘Oh, okay,’ it was happenstance that all these movies conversion happened all at once, it wasn’t as though we were copycatting, it’s impossible in animation, because it takes so long to make these things and bring them to where they are.

JEFF: When it came out, it was not exactly fear but I’d go, ‘Ohhhhh.’ Because there’s an element that kind of horse races and stuff to making the movies, and you want your horse to do as well as it can, and like Shia was saying, maybe it’s good news for us, maybe it’s bad news, I don’t know, but there will be that day when, ‘And they’re coming up the stretch,’ you’re routing for your guy.

Q: There’s a very funny line that Cody says, “I don’t sing and dance.’

SHIA: Yeah, we added that after.

Q: It’s also like you have an established superstar going for you already with the penguins.

JEFF: Oh that’s good, yeah, alright, I like that.

SHIA: Surfing movies are big now.

Q: You’ve been staying really busy for the last couple of years, what makes you choose one project over another? You’re not a struggling actor

SHIA: Yeah, thank God. These are just things that excite me and make you want to show up, and it’s a lot of work to make these movies, it’s not just show up and put some pretty make upon and let’s have a good time always. Sometimes it’s a struggle, movies like Transformers or Iron Man are not easy to make, they’re really difficult, and if I could have been in Iron Man I would have been in that too.

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Q: How did Indiana Jones come up?

SHIA: Again, that’s just a rumor.

Q: It’s in Variety.

SHIA: But again, it’s a rumor and I know that when I have a job I sign contracts and I talk to directors and I haven’t had any of that happen, so until that happens I’m out of work. I’m looking into a whole bunch of different things, and if that happens of course I’m on board, it’s a dream job, but it’s a rumor right now and a dream.

Q: He even has a fedora (Jeff puts his hat on Shia’s head). You were about Jeff’s age when he got started in acting, did you get any advice or gave any advice about being a young actor.

SHIA: I think I was too nervous to ever ask, I was just too nervous to ever ask, it’s a tough thing to be like, hey, we’re equals, why don’t you tell me how you did it, it doesn’t feel that way ever, still, so to ask for advice in a situation that – I just don’t feel like I’m going through the same thing, or I’m at any kind of – so we didn’t have those talks, we talked about his ukulele, we talked about Montana and we talked about penguins and we’d come up with little things to say –

JEFF: Music

SHIA: Music, we talked a lot about music.

JEFF: I though it was – I related to Shia just the way he approached the work is kind of very much the way my father taught us how to approach it. He worked with a lot of joy and has a lot of fun, and that’s kind of contagious, and it kind of gets back and forth in that it creates that kind of cool friction to make the fire, and that’s how I like to work. It’s interesting, you work with so many different approaches to it, you work with actors who don’t go that way at all, you get called by the character’s name, different ways to go, but Shia kind of reminded me of how I like to do it.

Q: So Jeff I guess you’re not going to do a picture book on this movie?

JEFF: No, I kind of fazed out of that a little bit, I’m doing some on Iron Man, maybe I’ll do some more.

Q: Do you consider this character the ‘Dude’ of penguins?

JEFF: Yeah, you could say that possibly, I don’t know, they both surf, they’re kind of laid back guys, the penguin is into clams the Dude does weed.

Q: The penguin’s into clams?

JEFF: Oh you didn’t see that scene.

Q: What attracted you to Iron Man, to be in the film, and Shia, what has been a surprise about Transfomers?

JEFF: Well, it’s the group was a big draw, the fact that we had Robert Downing Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard, and our leader is Jon Favreau, I’m a big fan of Swingers which he wrote, and so it was great to have a director who’s a writer, so in a tough spot he could work it out. And the story of Iron Man, it’s interesting, it’s not your typical superhero where he’s got some kind of super power necessarily, Jon wants to ground it as much in reality as possible. It’s about dealing with weapons manufacturers and the politics of the world, and so forth, it’s kind of interesting, so I got hooked. I do my best to try not to engage in a movie, because as Shia says, they’re hard to do and once you commit to it all these other doors close, you do this then you can’t do all these others and you don’t even know what those other things are yet, but they could be great. It was an interesting group of people to work with, that was probably the big draw for me.

Q: What do you play in it?

JEFF: I play Robert Downey Jr.’s mentor, Obadiah Stane

Q: What’s going to surprise us on Transformers?

SHIA: I’ll just tell you this, we went to go get our MPAA rating and it’s a movie that’s for the masses, you know, and so they show the movie and we get a rated R rating because of intensity, not because of curse words or nudity, but because of shear intensity, it’s aneurysm inducing. And so Spielberg fought the good fight and we’re back at PG-13, but just the fact that they put us there, it’s so intense, man, and there’s not a lot of breathers, it’s just whooooo, and you’ve never seen any animation like this, ILM, and the people that talk to ILM say that this is the most intense graphics they’ve ever done in the history of their company. ILM has done some pretty magical, wild things, just Megatron’s arm has fifteen thousand moving pieces that all converge like a Rubik’s cube. Michael Bay with these chase scenes, it’s like just the chase scenes alone are insane, but then you have two forty-foot tall machines on the 405 freeway boxing, it’s like, it’s just nuts. The biggest surprises will be visual, only because it’s never been done like that and it will be fun to see what happens.

Q: Lorenzo said they are going to start moving forward with Constantine 2 – have you heard that yet?

SHIA: Are they? Wow, did he really? Wow, I didn’t think Keanu would want to jump back on, Keanu went through a lot of shit on that movie. Wow, yeah sure, I’m game if they do it, but I haven’t heard anything so maybe not.

Q: You might also be very busy with something else.

SHIA: Or maybe not.

Q: When would we hear something about the movie with the hat and the whip?

SHIA: Look, when I hear something I’ll tell everybody, I can’t keep secrets very well. Literally, it’s an internet rumor that’s turned into this insane thing and its fun to watch everyone talk about it, but again I don’t have the part or a deal or anything set. Sure, I’ll tell you when I hear.

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