Bryan Singer’s fantasy-adventure film Jack the Giant Slayer is now playing in theaters. Starring Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class) as the title character, the big-budget fairy tale follows Jack the farmer as he leads an expedition into the land of the giants in order to rescue a kidnapped princess (Eleanor Tomlinson). The film also stars Ian McShane, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Eddie Marsan, Bill Nighy and Warwick Davis.
Recently, I landed an exclusive phone interview with Tucci, who plays the film’s villain. We talked about making the movie, script changes, doing press, how he got into acting, filming with 3D cameras and CGI monsters, collaborating with Singer, and more. In addition, we also talked about his work in Captain America: The First Avenger, if he’ll make an appearance in the sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, DreamWorks Animations Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant, adapting City of Women, and so much more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
TUCCI: I’m not quite sure at this point.
There’s something to be said for the big Hollywood movie where they really put you out there and make you talk.
TUCCI: Yeah, oh boy, that’s for sure. We did 33 interviews the first day, 66 yesterday.
When you signed on did you know what you were getting yourself into?
You’ve done that before with other movies haven’t you?
TUCCI: Oh, yeah I’ve done it before, but I haven’t done it for a while so it’s interesting.
I put on Twitter that I was going to be talking to you and I got a lot of questions, and rather than me asking you the same old same old I figured I’d throw in a few different ones. A lot of people wanted to know, how did you first get into acting?
TUCCI: I don’t know, I started doing it when I was a kid in school and I just fell in love with it. I just felt very comfortable on stage, so it just seemed to make sense.
Recently you’ve been doing some bigger projects with Jack the Giant Slayer, Hunger Games, Captain America; were you looking for these big Hollywood roles or is it just that these were the best scripts you were offered at that time?
TUCCI: These were some of the best things to come along for me, the best roles and films, and then in between you do smaller movies like Margin Call, Easy A, or The Company You Keep, Robert Redford’s movie. So you try to balance it out, but these are great because you get to play these fun characters and put a little money in the bank.
I really enjoyed Margin Call a lot.
TUCCI: Oh, you did, thank you.
Jumping into Jack and why I get to talk to you today, I imagine one of the things that’s great about this role for you is that you get to sort of play a villain, you get to do some action, there’s a lot to your character; it’s not just the staple twirling your mustache, if you will. Was that one of the things that appealed to you?
TUCCI: Yeah I thought it was really quite funny, sort of witty and purely evil archetypal villain and that was very attractive to me.
TUCCI: It changed quite a bit. I think it was a bit longer. It changed constantly, which was sometimes frustrating, but in the end I think we ended up with something pretty good.
Talk a little bit about working in the 3D environment. I apologize for not knowing was this your first 3D film or have you done it before?
TUCCI: No, it’s OK. It was my first one, and because it was shot in 3D- although Captain America was in 3D but it wasn’t shot in 3D, they did it later, this was shot in 3D and because of the cameras- the cameras become sort of cumbersome it took a bit longer than it should have.
3D is still in its infancy and obviously they’re still working out many of the quirks, what was the process like for you as an actor? Was it something that you’re now like, “I don’t want to do 3D again?”
TUCCI: No, I can’t say I don’t want to do it again, was it fun to do? No, its tedious, its tedious for everybody, it’s hard for the crew, it’s hard for the actors. It adds more time. It’s more technically complicated, so that just adds more time and takes a little more time away from he acting and that’s kind of frustrating but to say “I’ll never do 3D again” that doesn’t make any sense.
Talk little bit about working with Bryan Singer, what was he like in pre-production and production as a collaborator?
TUCCI: We had a good time. He has a very clear vision for what he wants for the film, what he wants it to look like, and he’s very good at saying, “Hey, this is what I’m going to do. This is going to be this. This is going to be that.” So he explains it to you so you kind of get what’s going on, that’s very helpful.
I did a set visit on your movie and saw the way that he works with the two monitors, showing the pre-vis, showing what he was filming, it seemed like it was a very complicated shoot obviously do to all the CGI. Talk a little bit about working with that much CGI and creatures that are not there.
TUCCI: It’s hard because you can’t really imagine- I mean, of course you have to imagine, that’s your job, but it’s hard because there’s so many technical aspects to it and ultimately what you end up doing is acting to a guy holding a pole with a tennis ball on the top of it and your focus is the tennis ball and somebody’s shouting the lines off screen. So you have stay very focused and not get distracted [laughs].
I’m going to switch gears for a second and say how much I enjoyed Captain America and obviously your great in it as the doctor. Was this one of these roles where you’ve had a lot of people talking to you about it, in comparison to some of the others? What was your experience making the movie?
TUCCI: I loved making that movie, I had a great time. I really like Joe Johnston; I think he’s a wonderful director. I also love the look of the film and the tone of the film, and the character was great. I was thrilled to be able to play in that, I was just sad that I died because I wanted to come back and do another one. It was great to be offered this sort of old, German scientist. I thought “Oh, that’s great.” I couldn’t tell though if I was really flattered or insulted.
I think flattered. I believe that out of all the Marvel movies Captain America has the best love story.
TUCCI: Oh, it does and Hayley Atwell, whom I just had dinner with last night, we’ve become good friends and I really love that, I love that relationship between the two of them.
There’s a lot of talk that the sequel to Captain America, which is filming this year, is going to have some flashback scenes, have they asked you to come back for any flashbacks?
TUCCI: No they haven’t unfortunately, I’m really sad. I know that Hayley is going back to do a flashback scene, but I have not been asked.
Jumping into something else, The Hunger Games switched directors to Francis Lawrence and I’m curious what was it like working with him on the next film?
TUCCI: He was great, he’s lovely. I think Gary [Ross] did such an amazing and Gary’s such a nice guy. They’re very different directors and personalities. Gary’s very garrulous and Francis is very quiet, but he’s very talented and I had a really nice time with him.
Obviously people have read the book, but what can you tease people about the next one?
TUCCI: [Laughs] I can’t, I really can’t, I’m sworn to secrecy number one, but also you have to remember I’m only there for a week and I shoot all my stuff on a stage and then that’s it, so I’m not even privy to what’s going on.
The Hunger Games is a huge franchise now. Were there any difference for you in terms of when you’re making the first one you’re not really sure if anyone’s going to come out for the movie, then it comes out and it’s this massive hit. Did you feel any pressure going back for the sequel? Or was it sort of like you did it and you can do it again?
TUCCI: Yeah, I think that’s what you feel, you just want to do it as well again, that’s all. You never want to rest on your laurels. You just want to give it 100% every time.
Jumping into something that I think you can probably talk about a little more, which is Mr. Peabody & Sherman, that’s something I’m looking forward to. Talk a little bit about how you got involved in that and how many voice sessions have you done already?
TUCCI: Oh my god, I only did one session so far, literally for like an hour. I play Leonardo da Vinci and It was really, really fun. I love doing animated movies. I love it. It’s some of the best work any actor could have. And it’s so funny because I remember watching that when I was a kid, that cartoon.
How did you get approached for that film and is it one of these things with your love for animation where you’re like “I’m in, let’s do it”?
TUCCI: Yeah, for the most part unless it’s something really weird and disgusting [laughs]. I love doing it, I’ve done a bunch of them and I just think it’s so much fun. They just call up your agent and say “were making this offer to him.”
I’ve seen the original show and obviously you have as well, how did you think it compares to the original? Is it the same tone and the same kind of vibe?
TUCCI: Yeah, it seems to be, yes, from what I could tell, from what I could tell from the script and the images it seemed to be, yeah. But, of course, it’s not done so it’s very hard for me to say.
Jumping into another subject, I figure you’ve answered a million Jack the Giant Slayer questions.
TUCCI: [Laughs] I appreciate it, really.
You also did the Percy Jackson sequel, talk a little bit about who you play in that. Have you seen a rough cut yet?
TUCCI: I have not seen a rough cut. I play Dionysus. I was there for a couple of weeks shooting in Vancouver. It was really fun, lovely director, and fun to play that character, he’s very funny and sloppy and it was fun to get made up and do all that stuff.
You’ve done a lot of different characters, are there specific roles that you’re now seeking out that you’d like to play? Or is it whatever the best scripts are, whenever you have time, that’s what you want to do?
TUCCI: Well, whatever the best scripts are and you just want to play roles that you can really sink your teeth into. That’s always the goal no matter if it’s a good guy or a bad guy, or a comedy, or a drama. It doesn’t matter, you just want something that’s substantial you can sink your teeth into and that you haven’t done before, something that’s really going to challenge you.
TUCCI: [Laughs] Yeah, my friend wrote this very funny script and he asked me to come in and just do a day on it. He said, “Can I just use your name? If I get the money we’ll make the movie” I was like, “OK, sure” and he got the money, so we’re going to shoot it in LA when I go visit.
That title is amazing.
TUCCI: So funny, I know, he’s completely out of his mind. He’s very funny.
Is it really just about a renegade flight attendant?
TUCCI: I can’t answer any of those questions [laughs].
You’ve done a lot of great roles over many years, is Devil Wears Prada still the one that everyone wants to talk to you about? Or is there another role that when you’re waiting in line at Starbucks that people always want to talk to you about?
TUCCI: Devil Wears Prada, Lovely Bones, Hunger Games, Big Night, Undercover Blues, which is a film I made a long time ago, and Julia & Julia.
I would imagine there’s a lot of different people that would ask questions about all of those.
TUCCI: Yeah and now also people love Easy A too, which is great.
That’s a great film.
TUCCI: Yeah, it is a great film.
Talk a little bit about the history of your acting. I ask this of all actors and I apologize if I asked you this already at a TV junket, but let me ask you again if not. A lot of actors prefer the Clint Eastwood method of two takes and some actors prefer the David Fincher method of 50. I’m curious, what do you like to do and what’s the most you’ve ever done?
TUCCI: The most I’ve ever done was twenty-something, but that’s wasn’t because I wanted to. I feel like to me it’s usually somewhere between two and- no, it’s very hard to say because it really depends up on the shot, you know? If it’s a complicated master shot and you know that this is the only thing that you’re doing for that scene, a complicated one-er, you’re going to maybe end up doing a few more takes than you normally would. But I’m not a big believer in doing tons and tons and tons of takes. I believe in just getting it right and that just depends on who the actor is or what the shot it, what kind of day it is, what the emotional content of the scene is, and how much rehearsal we’ve had. So there’s so many factors, I’ll only say that once were doing more than 10 takes probably something’s wrong.
Right now it seems to me that TV is doing a phenomenal job, you have all these cable channels producing great dramas. Great television is going on right now. Could you see yourself ever taking a TV role and playing the same character for many years, or is that just a little bit too much with one character?
TUCCI: Well, it just depends. Right now I don’t know if that’s necessarily what I want to do and part of that is because I want to spend more time with my kids, and if you’re on a drama five days a week that’s your life and you don’t see your kids that much. That said, if you do something like that for five or seven years you usually never have to work again if you don’t want to, that’s tempting. But I think it just depends. It’s our intention to move to London so I think doing a television series at this point in America wouldn’t really be the thing I would do now, but in this business you can never say never.
There’s a lot of quality television being produced in London as well.
TUCCI: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Do you know what you’re doing later this year? Have you committed to anything?
TUCCI: No, I really don’t know. I’m hoping to do this movie Your Voice in my Head if we can put all of the elements together and I hope maybe I’ll direct a play in New York, and maybe direct a film too, but honestly I don’t know. I’m in the middle of adapting a book for film, so I have to finish doing that.
Can I ask what book it is?
TUCCI: Yeah, its call City of Women and it takes place in World War II in Berlin. It’s about a young woman who gets involved in helping Jews get out of Berlin, but all of her sort of very complicated relationships. The majority of the roles are for women.
There’s obviously been a million films made about World War II and the different situations that happened to so many different people, but it’s still such a fertile area for filmmaking. Do you agree with that?
TUCCI: Oh my god, yeah, you could do it forever. I mean, think about it. I think making a film about what’s happing away from the front to people who are not fighting on the battlefield, but are fighting a different kind of battle at home, particularly all these women. And as Nazi Germany starts to crumble the chinks in the armor start to become very clear and everyone starts to doubt each other even more and their doubting their fatherland for the first time. So there’s so much stuff there to mine. You could tell stories about it forever. Think about the devastation of that war. 25 million Russians died in World War II and we can’t even conceive of that number today. 55 million people died in that one war in a period of like five years.
Yeah, it’s staggering.
TUCCI: Just imagine how many stories that can be told.