Priyanka Chopra stars in Disney’s new 3D animated comedy, Planes, voicing the character of Ishani, the reigning Pan-Asian champion racer from India who’s easy on the eyes, but ruthless in the skies. Exotic and mysterious, Ishani becomes Dusty’s (Dane Cook) love interest when the rookie racer turns to her for advice. Opening August 9th, the all-new action-packed adventure from Disneytoon Studios is directed by Klay Hall and features a talented voice cast that includes Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Carlos Alazraqui, Roger Craig Smith, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Sinbad and Gabriel Iglesias.
At the film’s recent press day at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying, Chopra talked about why Ishani was a fun character to play, how it was a cool experience to see her voice and mannerisms come out of an animated character, why she hopes Ishani’s confidence will inspire children, how she thinks the film will be received in India, why she loves to fly, how her competitive spirit inspires her film choices, her new single Exotic with Pitbull, and her upcoming films including Zanjeer, Krrish 3, Gunday, and an untitled biopic about Mary Kom, the Olympic, five-time world champion boxer from India. Check out the interview after the jump.
Priyanka Chopra: I was approached for Planes about three years ago. It was relatively random. It just came about and it seemed like something interesting. I love Disney. I’ve always loved Disney and this was the closest I could come to being a Disney princess. I thought Ishani’s character was really interesting because she’s a Pan-Asian plane and she’s very sexy. She’s this confident girl who believes in herself and doesn’t believe in the fact that just boys can have fun. It was great to do that. She’s Dusty’s love interest and he’s always crushing on her, so it was flattering, too. It was a fun character to play.
What do you hope children will take away from your character?
Chopra: For me, Ishani’s character spells out a lot of morals of the story in a way, and that you can make mistakes in life, but as long as you understand them and accept them, then you can just step up and have the courage of your convictions. That’s an interesting thing that Ishani does in the film. Secondly, she’s someone who believes in herself a lot. I would love for kids to see themselves as it’s okay to be you. You don’t have to try to be anybody else. Whatever you are, however you are, it’s fine. Nobody’s perfect.
You’ve been acting for a while now. Have you done other voice work before this?
Chopra: No. This is the first time I’m doing this.
Did it surprise you a little bit that they approached you or were you looking to do voice work?
Chopra: I think they were looking for me. (laughs) Planes found me in a way. We’re familiar with voice work in India because we dub a lot of our movies. We have live sound, but we do a lot of dubbing because of sounds. So I was familiar with what happens in a dubbing studio. But the magic of animation for me was that I was taped when I was talking, and then to see my expressions on Ishani was like, “Oh! I do that!” That was really cool, because her eyes become big and then her eyes become small. I was doing all of those things when I was saying my lines.
I know you also have a music career.
Is it similar to voice recording and studio recording for music or are they completely different?
Chopra: Similar, I would say, except that you sing in there. But what is different about doing animation for me was that I was creating Ishani while I was going along. I was adding things to her lines. I was giving her a character and a special voice and the way she spoke, and all that, the creation of it, was beautiful.
Did you have a chance to improvise?
Chopra: Yes, a lot. Klay was very open to that, and he actually wanted it, to just improvise and add a few things. That’s what makes characters unique.
Chopra: Well India is a huge market for movies that come from here. And hopefully, we’ll be doing Planes in Hindi, too. So that will be cool. I think there’s a huge excitement about the movie. I know a lot of my friends and their kids are planning on having birthday parties which are Planes themed. It might have a little bit to do with me, but (laughs) it’s exciting. I’m happy about that.
Will you be in the Planes sequel?
Chopra: That’s a question that will have to be asked of Klay and Disney and not me. I have no idea. I hope so.
Maybe you and Dusty will fall in love?
Chopra: Yeah. Maybe we will have little plane babies.
That’s going to be fun explaining on the big screen. Maybe they were conceived in the air?
Chopra: (laughing) Right. How did that happen?
What was your funniest moment filming this? Did you have any funny bloopers while you were doing the voiceovers?
Chopra: I had a lot of bloopers. They could make another movie with my bloopers. I’m a blooper kind of girl. I’m a blooper kind of actor. Yeah. While we were trying so many different things, I would end up saying funny things, or I’d end up doing funny things. I just hope those tapes never leak.
You started out doing pageants. I would imagine that you need a competitive spirit to do that. Do you still feel competitive in some ways and how does that come out?
Chopra: I’m very competitive. I’ve always been very competitive since school. I always had to come first. I always had to be a part of all the teams. I always had to get the best grades and be in every play. That’s just something that I was. Even winning Miss India and Miss World was not really planned. My mom sent in my pictures for Miss India. I was just 17. I didn’t even know, and then, I got picked. And of course, because I was competitive, I won. And then, I went for Miss World, and again, it was the same thing. It just happened. I was one of the youngest Miss Worlds. And then, after that, it was my movies, I guess. But I’ve reached a point now where I’ve started competing with myself. Every movie that I do, I always try and better myself in the next one and try and find a part which is more challenging. It’s a little vulnerable to do that, to always push the envelope. You position yourself for a lot more flack or a lot more critique, I guess, because you’re trying to do something different. Sometimes you’re good at it and sometimes you’re not, but it’s a chance you have to take to make life exciting.
Chopra: Flying is my favorite time in the world. When I’m sitting in a plane, especially when I’m coming from Mumbai to L.A. or from L.A. to Mumbai, it’s a 22-hour flight, and it’s amazing because it’s quiet and there’s no cell phones and no one to talk to you. It’s my favorite time. I read all my scripts. I catch up on my movies. I sleep. It’s the best. There’s no one telling you, “Time to go!”
How much time have you spent in the U.S.?
Chopra: I went to high school in America. I did in Queens, New York and in Newton, Massachusetts. Right after high school, in fact, is when I went to India and became Miss World. It was literally out of twelfth grade.
Your character has what I would describe as a bedroom voice. Was there any coaching to change your voice?
Chopra: No. Clay told me to just speak like myself. (laughs) I guess he did think I had a bedroom voice. That’s a good thing. Like I said, Ishani is the glam coach in the movie with the bedroom voice and a hot propeller. That’s my favorite line in the movie when Dusty looks at her and says, “Wow! Look at her propeller.”
Have you seen the toy yet?
Chopra: Yes! Oh my God, yes! In fact, it was my birthday just a month ago, and I had so many people buy the little Ishani plane and send it to me as a birthday gift, like fans from around the world. It was so cute. That was the first time I saw it. It was adorable.
Is your voice on it? Do they make sounds?
Chopra: No. The toys don’t make sounds. That’d be fun actually.
Is it a nice change of pace from having to get all glitzed up to just go into a sound booth in sweat pants?
Chopra: I know! I mean, I still got dressed up but not that much. (laughs)
Not 8 hours of make-up.
Chopra: It was jeans and a T-shirt. It was fun because you could just go in there and do your thing and come out. It was really magical. For me, the magic happened when I saw it. I’d done all my lines. I’d done the voiceover. And then, when I saw Ishani saying the lines, I was like “Whoa! That’s cool!” It was weird in the beginning to hear my voice coming out of an animated character, but it was fun.
Chopra: Yes, it would be a great experience to do it again. Now that I’ve understood it a little bit, I’d probably be able to be even better, so it would be great. I’d love to do it.
What is next for you?
Chopra: After Planes, I just had my single come out about ten, fifteen days ago which is called Exotic. It’s with Pitbull. That just happened. So I’m in the middle of promo for both Planes and the single. After that, I have two other movies that will release this year in India, and then two more for early next year. There’s one called Zanjeer which is coming out on September 6th. It’s a remake of an old Indian movie. Then the next one is in November. It’s called Krrish 3. It’s a sequel to a superhero movie I did about six years ago which is a big superhero action movie. And then, next year in February, is a movie called Gunday which I’m doing which is an 80’s period drama. And then, there’s another one where I’m playing a boxer. It’s a biopic of an Olympic, five-time world champion boxer from India (Untitled Mary Kom Biopic). That was tough. It was hard.
What did you do to get in shape for that?
Chopra: (laughs) Besides breaking my thumb? Yeah. I was in a cast recently, and [I injured] my foot.
Was there training?
Chopra: Yes, I had to learn how to box completely. That took a month and a half. Since she’s such an accomplished national icon, there’s a lot of pressure. I’m excited about that movie because she’s my age and she’s accomplished so much. I want the world to see her personality in the movie because she’s a living, breathing person who will be around and people will know. I want to be as close as I can. It’s really challenging.
Have you had an opportunity to meet her?
Chopra: Yes. I had to meet her. I spent so much time with her so that I could get as much from her. She probably thinks I’m stalking her. She probably did. (laughs) I was just watching her.
Did you find that doing voiceover work you had to be nicer to your voice in everyday activities with all the promos and everything?
Chopra: I’m supposed to be nicer to my voice anyway because I’m singing now, but my profession doesn’t necessarily allow me to have that kind of discipline. I always have a messed up throat. I always do. But yes, over the last two years since I’ve started music, I do have to be kinder to my voice which I’m usually not.
Chopra: Stay hydrated. Stop speaking, which is very hard for me. It’s really difficult to give myself voice rest. That’s what my doctor recommends the most, but it doesn’t happen.
What about touring?
Chopra: Yes. That should happen soon. Since the single has just come out, it will definitely be something that should be on the plate for sure.
Will you be touring in the United States?
Chopra: It’s an English album, so yes.
Do you live in India?
Chopra: Yes, I do. I shuttle between L.A. and India, but I primarily live in India.
Are you looking for more Hollywood opportunities or are you perfectly cool with being a big Bollywood actress?
Chopra: I love what I do, and for me, acting can be anything. It could be in America. It could be in India. It could be in England. It could be anything. As long as it’s an interesting part and an interesting opportunity, I would love to do it.
Are you looking at potential Hollywood movies?
Chopra: I mean, I’ve had a few things come to me, but I’m very particular about the films that I do, even back home. The parts that I pick have to be something that pushes me and challenges me and is interesting, or a big movie that’s interesting. If something like that comes along, why not?
Would you be interested in something like being a Bond Girl or would it have to be more of the proactive heroine type?
Chopra: Well, in India, I’ve done both. I work in a lot of genres. I’ve done action. I’ve done drama. I’ve done comedy. I’ve done the whole Bond girl thing, like not Bond girl, but the Bond girl-ish thing. So I like to mix it up a little bit. I don’t like restricting myself. It’s fun to be able to dabble in everything. Some of it works and some doesn’t, but what’s fun if you don’t try everything?
Is there a role that you’ve always dreamed of playing that you’re just waiting for the opportunity?
Chopra: The harder the better. Definitely. When somebody turns around and says, “She can’t do that,” then that’s the one I want to do.