The other day, 20th Century Fox hosted a special presentation of footage from the upcoming animated feature Rio, due out in theaters on April 15th. Prior to a Brazilian celebration that kept in theme with the event, director Carlos Saldanha (known for the Ice Age films) enlisted the help of voice actors Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx and George Lopez to introduce clips of each of the main characters and give members of the press an overview of what audiences can expect from the vibrant and fun film that includes song and dance numbers, featuring its stars.
Rio tells the story of Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a domesticated macaw from small-town Minnesota, who travels to Rio de Janeiro, where he meets the fiercely independent Jewel (Hathaway). The two take off on an adventure that will lead them to make new friends, band together to fight common enemies, explore their feelings for each other, and follow their dreams.
Following the presentation, the director and actors held a press conference to discuss the process of making the film, the appeal of voice-over work and recording the music that gives the story a real flavor. Check out what they had to say after the jump:
Question: Jamie, is this your first voice-over? Did you enjoy the process?
JAMIE FOXX: Yeah, this is my first one. For me, I was just trying to act. I was doing all these things and (director) Carlos [Saldanha] was like, “You’re not actually on film.” You actually have to get the voice right, which I felt was the greatest challenge. We just saw some of it for the first time and it blew me away. It’s got the wow factor.
Anne, what is it about doing voice-overs that makes you continue to do it?
ANNE HATHAWAY: I love employment, and it’s never, ever guaranteed. As much as I love doing animated voices, I just love working. I love the people who have asked me to do it, and it’s been an honor. I’ve worked on The Simpsons twice, and now I’ve done this. I just keep getting these opportunities that I can’t say no to. No one could.
Your scenes with Jesse Eisenberg seem to have a real rhythm to them. Did you get to work with Jesse in the recording booth at all?
HATHAWAY: No. I haven’t seen Jesse, except for socially, throughout this whole process. Interestingly, Jesse and I played brother and sister on a Fox Television series in 1999, called Get Real. I was his older sister, Meghan Green, and he was Kenny Green. I’m very happy for all of his success.
Jamie, did you get to work with Will.i.am?
FOXX: Yes, Will and I worked on the music. That was hot. Will.i.am and I performed at Wango Tango. That’s when my daughter said that I had made it in music. We’ve seen each other a lot. We did the “We Are The World” joint. Then with this, it was just mind-blowing, to be able to do that Samba joint and watch Will.i.am. Will.i.am does the engineering and the producing, at the same time. Usually, it’s one or the other, so that was fantastic.
HATHAWAY: Yeah, Will and Sergio [Mendes] were there when I did my voice part too, but none of the actors.
Anne, were you nervous about singing in the film?
HATHAWAY: (Director) Carlos [Saldanha] can get me to do anything. Every time I would come in, he would show me more footage, and it was just breathtaking. It really was. So, when he said, “Can you sing?,” I couldn’t say anything, but yes. But, it is intimidating to sing in front of Sergio [Mendes] and Will.i.am, as I’m sure you can imagine. That morning, I had an extra cup of coffee to steel my nerves.
Now that you’ve done some singing, are you eager to do more?
HATHAWAY: Singing has always been something that I’ve loved to do, but I never thought about doing, professionally. I always felt more drawn to acting. But, who knows? I’m doing things that I never, ever thought I would do, in front of a lot of people, so anything is possible.
George, did you get to sing in this at all?
GEORGE LOPEZ: I was not going to let them all sing and just sit there, flying around. I sing in the end song about Rio. It’s fantastic.
CARLOS SALDANHA: It was good. All these guys sing a little bit in the finale. It’s a re-introduction of the cast, at the very end. They did amazing.
LOPEZ: I also rock out. I throw in a little “Girl from Ipanema” to charm my wife, to allow me to go Carnivale. It’s so bad that it works.
SALDANHA: It was great. It sounds perfect.
Anne, will viewers get to see a different side of you, when you host the Academy Awards?
HATHAWAY: I will turn myself into an animated blue bird and fly at the Oscars. No. I hope so because that means I will get to meet a new version of myself. The best part about working is that you never know what you’re going to learn when you start out. Oftentimes, what you wind up learning is very different than what you expect.
Carlos, was this always going to be done in 3D?
SALDANHA: We originally planned on doing 3D. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was the first 3D movie, from Blue Sky, that we did. We decided this one would also be in 3D, so I got to prepare a little bit ahead of time. Coming from the experience of Ice Age helped me quite a bit.
What were the biggest challenges with this film?
SALDANHA: One of the many challenges of this movie was creating a carnival parade. That was not easy. Even the birds themselves, with the feathers and how the feathers would perform, was very difficult. It’s just a complex movie, in terms of scale. It’s probably the biggest thing we’ve ever done at Blue Sky.
Jamie, George and Anne, you really are living a fantasy and you face adversity every day. What advice would you give to kids, to not give up in the face of adversity?
FOXX: I’m 43, and a couple of days ago, me and my boy calculated, “Hey, man, in 35 or 40 years, we won’t be here. We might as well get it all in, as far as living and enjoying life.” If you look at how long the Earth has been here, we’re living in the blink of an eye. So, whatever it is you want to do, you go out and do it. I remember meeting President Obama and looking at him, thinking, “Damn, this dude is really our President. He really went out and did it!” If you look at stories like that, and other stories that I’m sure you could compare to, it’s just about freeing your mind and taking those guards down.
LOPEZ: In the movie, when Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) wants to fly and he’s afraid to, it’s because he has to feel it in his heart. You have to feel it in there to be able to let yourself go and fly.
HATHAWAY: I think the only thing in life that you really have to worry about is how you treat other people. If you mess up and treat someone else badly, you apologize, and you don’t apologize for anything else. Be yourself and go for it. And, this is such a dumb example, but I don’t love exercise. Some of it is more fun than others, so what I do is, if I’m on the treadmill and I don’t want to finish, I look at it and say, “Okay, this is 20 minutes, versus the rest of my life. I’m going to spend the rest of my life doing so many other things, so I can do this for 20 minutes.” I just think that, if you break it down into achievable goals, you’ll wind up achieving more than you ever thought you could.
Anne, your character in the film, Jewel, plays extraordinarily hard to get. Would you recommend that as a way for a bird to find someone?
LOPEZ: I believe you must always respect your bird.
HATHAWAY: I believe you must always respect other people’s birds too. I am a girl without game. I’m not interested in games. I think that, if you are someone who playing hard to get comes naturally to, go with God and do that. For me, I’m a wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve, fall in love-at-first-sight and go with it sort of girl. It’s all about having fun with someone and learning how to communicate with someone, in a way that you enjoy. If you’re with someone who enjoys having people play hard to get, maybe that’s the way you’re supposed to do it then. I don’t know.
LOPEZ: And, some things don’t fit. You have to go for the fit. Sometimes, you meet somebody and it doesn’t work, and you have to be smart enough to say, “I’m not feeling that.” You have to be honest enough to tell the person that.
FOXX: It’s tough in L.A., too. When your movie is hot, your options are crazy. In L.A., I think girls have to play a little hard to get because we come with so much bravado.
LOPEZ: Also. if you’re at dinner and the phone is face down, you might have the beginning of a problem. On the iPhone, the text message pops us, so when you see a phone face down, you’ve got the beginning of a problem.
Carlos, obviously having marquee names in your cast helps get attention for your film. What was it about the tonal quality of the actors that you cast that made you want them for this?
SALDANHA: Well, in animated movies you don’t see their faces. You don’t see who they are. You just hear who they are, which is very important for me. You have to listen to their voices and the way that they act, and that makes the decision, in terms of who’s going to be in the movie. I create a profile of the character and I say, “This is the personality of the character.” Then, I will search for different names and put their voices against that character with the image. I do a little bit of hearing the voice while looking at a picture of the character. Then, I try to get used to it and see how far I can take that. Once I make that decision, then I go after the talent and make sure that we talk through the character and how they feel about it. For Anne, we got a bunch of clips from Rachel Getting Married and from other movies that she’s done, and we actually animated to that. It was so funny because one of the scenes was Get Smart, and we did a scene with her and Blu, being Steve Carrell with her in a cage, trying to find a way out of the cage. It was fun. We do a lot of testing before we go after the actors. And then, the process is very hard for them because they don’t have anybody to interact with. They have to interact with me, and I have to play different roles.
It seems this film has the potential to do a lot for the international image of Rio, Brazil. How do you feel about that?
SALDANHA: It definitely does because my movies are broad. Ice Age played all over the world. Of course, any movie that I make, that is released everywhere, gets a lot of exposure. With the title being Rio, it goes without saying that it is something that will, hopefully, bring pride and understanding and a little bit more knowledge. There are a lot of movies that take place internationally, like Kung Fu Panda portraying a little bit of China, and Ratatouille portraying a little about Paris, but it’s hard to find a movie that portrays Rio or Brazil. I thought this was a good way to show a little bit of it.