The fun family flick Sonic the Hedgehog is now available to watch in your own home (currently available on digital from Paramount Home Entertainment, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and for rental on-demand on May 19th), and some versions even have a variety of extras that include a new animation, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, the origins of the speedy little blue character, and commentary. In this adventure, helmed by director Jeff Fowler, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) embraces and is enjoying his new home on Earth, until he accidentally catches the attention of evil genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and finds himself needing the help of Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) to save the planet.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor James Marsden talked about why he wanted to sign on for Sonic the Hedgehog, acting opposite a non-existent co-star, what stood in for Sonic on set, and whether he’d be game to do a sequel, after production picks back up again. He also talked about where things are at with the Enchanted sequel, and whether he’s watching Season 3 of Westworld while he’s having to stay at home.
Collider: This is not the only, or even the first, time that you’ve had a co-star that doesn’t actually exist, in real life. Could you ever imagined that would have happened to you once, let alone have that not be the only time that it’s happened to you?
JAMES MARSDEN: Not really. But I don’t really have a full plan of, “Okay, this is what I’m doing this year. This is what I’m doing next year. Here’s what I’m doing, for the next 10 years.” Hop is gonna get some showtime with Easter, which is gonna make it look like I shot them back to back, but that was 10 or 11 years ago. So, I try to stick to maybe no more than once every decade, acting with an animated character. It’s one of those things where I’ve got three kids and those kinds of movies do well and people seem to like them for family movies. And then, you’ve got all that stuff in the middle that sometimes people forget about. I always try to not do the same thing, over and over again, even if it looks like I’m doing the same thing, over and over again. I guess it’s just me going, “Oh, this sounds like fun. There’s a big huge following with the video game, and I used to play it when I was younger. Jim Carrey is involved. This sounds like a party. Yeah, I’ll do that again.” But I’ve probably hit my quota.
When the idea of a Sonic the Hedgehog movie came your way, did you think it sounded cool, or were you hesitant about doing a video game movie, especially not knowing how the main character would look until it was done?
MARSDEN: There was a little bit of hesitation, but you can over-think things like that sometimes. You look at it an go, “Do I like the director? Do I like the script? It there some fun stuff in there? Is the script better than your run of the mill, average, cookie cutter this type of movie?” And I didn’t feel like that was the case with Sonic. I felt the writing was really sharp and skewed more towards teenagers and adults. Obviously, it’s a family movie, but it doesn’t underestimate the intelligence and the sense of humor of young people nowadays, which is far more advanced than I was, when I was young. The jokes were smart, they were clever, and there was heart to it. It was very well-balanced and it was a good animation studio. And I wanted to work with Jim [Carrey]. You weigh a bunch of things, when you go into something like this. I can’t look at it very black and white. There are a lot of different variables that I factor in. At the time, it felt like something fun to do. I didn’t know at the time, but after that, I went to do something a little darker, with Stephen King’s The Stand. So, I always try to diversify a little bit.
Actors talk a lot about how much it pushes them and makes their performance better when they’re acting opposite someone who’s bringing their A-game. What is that experience like, when you have to do scenes where your scene partner isn’t there because they’re created later?
MARSDEN: I like it. You do have to have faith in the editor and the director and the actor who’s doing the voice. But I knew Ben Schwartz’s work, and know that he’s one of the sharper comedians out there and a great writer, as well. So, I knew that he was gonna get in the vocal booth and really make it smart and sharp and funny. That was a safety net there, creatively. And I got to spend some time with Ben beforehand, and we got a sense of each other’s sense of humor. On set, it afforded me the latitude to give ideas to push it more towards seeing how close we could get to making this PG-13 or even R, occasionally. We wanted to have the arrow pointed in that direction, so that we could then pull it back for the kids. On set, we had a guy, who’s a local improv guy named Scott Patey, that came in and read Ben’s lines, off camera, just for me, so I’d have somebody to riff with. It was so important to be able to read with somebody who could mess around with you. We decided to come up with things on the day. You’re always mining for ideas, and scenes can evolve and change, as you start to make the movie. You just have to have a really nice imagination when you’re acting with a tennis ball or a stuffed animal or sometimes just a blue bean bag. It does make you tap back into your childhood and use your imagination. It’s fun. Nothing really replaces the rhythms you get into when you’re acting opposite real people, and how powerful eye contact is. We’re getting close to the point where it’s pretty damn seamless, and I’m proud of how it turned out.
I also am a big fan of the work that you did in Enchanted. Even though all production is on hold right now, it seems as though there’s finally some actual active development for the Enchanted sequel. Have you read a script? Have there been actual conversations with you about it?
MARSDEN: I’ve not read a script. I hear they’re working on it. I hear they’re working on the music. I’ve had a couple of texts from some people involved. That’s the extent of it. My fingers are crossed. I’m to the point now where it’s been so long since we’ve done the first one. Every year that goes by, we talk about it and I get my hopes up, but it doesn’t happen. I’m glad to see it gaining some steam ‘cause I do think it would be a lot of fun, getting that band back together. But I also don’t wait for it, really. You’ve just gotta go forward with other things that are real. It looks real. I don’t wanna say it doesn’t look real, but I’ve been burned before. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Have you been watching Season 3 of Westworld from home?
MARSDEN: I have been, yes.
What have you thought about it?
MARSDEN: It’s strange to watch it without seeing me in it. To be honest, the design of the show is such that, even in the first and second seasons that I was a part of, there’s so much happening in other storylines and on other sets that don’t include you, that when you sit down and watch it all, there were still things for me, as one of the actors who was involved in shooting it, that I was trying to figure out, as well. I read every script, but that changes during the season. It also changes, once the principal photography is over with and they get in the editing room. They get clever with certain ways to edit the scenes and move things around. Even in the first and second season, it was like watching a show that you’re not really a part of. Now, it really feels like a show that I’m not a part of, but I’m just a fan of. It’s a cool thing, to be a part of something that you’re also a super fan of. This season, I get to sit back and just be a super fan, which is cool.
You’ve said that you’re kind of at your limit with invisible co-stars, between Hop and Sonic, but would you like to see a Sonic sequel happen? Is it a world that you would want to return to, if a sequel were to happen?
MARSDEN: Oh, for sure. Yeah, absolutely. I wanna say that we got lucky, but I think we made the movie that Sonic should be. You’re never gonna please everybody. I have three kids, one’s seven, one’s 14 and one’s 19, and we always have that conversation, “What kind of movie can we sit around and watch, all together, that’s going to entertain me and the little one, that’s not too adult for the little one, but that’s also gonna entertain the older one?” And this is perfectly it. It has that perfect balance, where everybody can have a good time. There’s a plenty of action, set pieces, and heart. I know everyone always says this when they promote a movie, but I’m really proud of the end product. I’m happy that we listened to the fans and adjusted his look. I think we got lucky when we released it. It was one of the last movies to come out before this whole world shut down. And it was so much fun to watch Jim Carrey return to form. I’d love to do another one. I think people would be excited to see it.
Sonic the Hedgehog is available on digital from Paramount Home Entertainment, and will be on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and for rental on-demand on May 19th.