Shia LaBeouf and Jon Heder Interview – SURF’S UP

     June 5, 2007

I think we can all agree that the summer of 2007 has been off to a mediocre start. Most of the big ticket summer extravaganzas have missed their mark and the majority of movie theater patrons are walking out of their local Cineplex wishing they had saved their time and money.

Thankfully the tide is starting to turn as “Knocked Up,” “Oceans 13,” and the movie that this article is about – “Surf’s Up” have all delivered the goods. People can now go to the movies and walk out satisfied.

Recently Sony held a press junket to promote their newest entry into the crowded summer market. While most junkets are held at a local hotel in Los Angeles, with the movie about surfing the studio decided for an exotic location and Hawaii was the lucky destination for a number of journalists.

At the junket I was able to interview a few people from the cast and this article is the roundtable interview with Shia LaBeouf and Jon Heder.

In the movie Shia plays Cody, a teenager who is obsessed with surfing. After Shia gets permission to enter the Big Z Memorial Surf Off, he leaves his family and home in Shiverpool, Antarctica to travel to Pen Gu Island. It’s there that he meets Sheboygan surfer Chicken Joe, who is played by Jon Heder. For a better idea of their characters and what the movie is about I recommend watching some of the video clips that I previously posted.

During the roundtable interview they both discuss making this film, what they have coming up, and they both talk about what it was like to host “Saturday Night Live.” And while I would love to say Shia talked all about Indy 4… his lips were sealed.

And before getting to the interview, I’ve posted a lot of other things to help promote “Surf’s Up.” If you missed the red carpet video interviews from Hawaii click here. To see some photographs from the premiere click here. Finally, if you want to see some behind the scenes photos from my trip click here.

As always you can listen to the interview as an MP3.

Once again a big thank you to Sony for inviting me to Hawaii. “Surf’s Up” opens this Friday and it’s absolutely worth seeing. And with that… here are Shia and Jon.

Shia LaBeouf: Did you go to that thing at Cinespace? That ‘Transformers’ the movie thing?

I didn’t, but I heard about it. You would have gone?

Shia LaBeouf: Hell yeah, I just wasn’t in town. I wanted to go bad.

The interest in ‘Transformers’ is very…

Shia LaBeouf: I think it would have been a cool crowd, y’know?

I think they would have appreciated you being there.

Shia LaBeouf: Well, yeah, maybe. Or not.

Before we get into ‘Surf,’ can you talk about the new footage that’s been revealed for ‘Transformers’?

Shia LaBeouf: It’s nuts. It’s just nuts. Yeah, it’s crazy. Anyway, Jon you have some slick pants buddy.

Jon Heder: I could have chosen this.

Shia LaBeouf: But you want to be friendly with me.

Jon Heder: No, I’m just being professional. No, I’m doing the Hawaiian thing man.

Shia LaBeouf: Yeah, I know. I’m a loser — I didn’t pack well.

Going into the studio and doing this, not getting to surf or anything, what was the experience like? Because you got to work with some of the other actors which is different.

Jon Heder: For me, I have never had a normal — I did one voice on another movie, ‘Monster House’ and even then I’ve never done a normal voice over, because that was all motion capture. So, that was like shooting a film. Like, we had props and everything. And this was the closest because we had the little music stand with our dialogue and stuff, but it was kind of in a big open room. And I saw a lot of the footage…I mean, for me, I only have one scene that we did it with – I mean a couple with Shia and then one with Zooey, and then yeah, it was kind of cool and different because it was interactive because we would actually wrestle and move around and that helped around.

Shia LaBeouf: The only cartoon I did you had to stick to script a lot of the time. And when you have a lot of the actors in the room you get to adlib and Chris and Ash would encourage it, because it was reality show live. So, the cadence was different. It’s not like the ba-dunch-dunch, joke. It’s more ‘Spinal Tappy.’ So, there are these little intricate moments that you get when the other actors there. Noises you wouldn’t write down on a piece of paper in scripted form. So, it was great that we were encouraged to do it and that Sony let us encouraged us to do it. So, we were in a really good environment for this.

How did you get a full-bodied performance with just your voice?

Jon Heder: Well, when you are doing – y’ know, when you are in a scene and there is some kind of action laid out and you are kind of doing it along even though you know the camera is not going to see any of this. I’m not sure if they showed it to the animators, sometimes they watch it, but it just helps you get into your voice and kinds of shows through your voice when you are like pushing each other. There are a couple of scenes where we are like kind of pushing each other and wrestling a bit and I think it kind of plays through the voice even though you don’t ultimately see us. You see a chicken and a penguin.

**couldn’t make out the question** something about animated films

Shia LaBeouf: Well, I am a huge animated film fan period, especially in the last ten years. Animation has completely changed and I’ve always been a big fan. And it’s always been like – it’s not even the actor thing, it’s become something else. I dunno, are you talking about the myth of being in something like this?

**again, hard to hear ** think the question was about making something his family will enjoy years from now.

Shia LaBeouf: Well for me, I was going through puberty while we were making it. That was tough. So it was very strange.

Jon Heder: They had to tweak his voice.

Shia LaBeouf: It was very strange.

What are your favorite characters or animated movies?

Shia LaBeouf: ‘Toy Story.’ ‘Toy Story’ that is one of my favorite films, not just in animation. And you meet people involved from that, so that was reassuring. So, I guess you just go into it like you would in any other film. It’s not like your performance changes just because you’re in animation. If that would happen, that would be very strange – for me.

What makes your characters so great? What makes Cody so great?

Shia LaBeouf: I dunno if he’s a great character.

Jon Heder: Yeah, I dunno about that. (Laughs.) What makes him endearing?

Shia LaBeouf: Cody is just a – Cody wants to be a winner and he comes from a family of people who aren’t encouraging him to follow his dreams so he’s the underdog. He’s very normal. We are not playing up a lot of the penguin thing — he’s very human. And often times in animation you don’t get that. You don’t get the reality in the character. Sometimes it’s just too shticky. Banana peel, slip. ‘Ah, ha-ha.’ And in a movie like this, you get to find the thread of the soul of the character and get to explore a bunch of stuff you wouldn’t normally have in animation. Especially the fact that he doesn’t have a father. That’s pretty dramatic for animation. Stuff like that was fun. Jumping around from joking with Jon and having all those laughs and then going into this romance with Zooey. And then going into the father-son thing with Jeff, that was a lot of fun for me. Just as a performer period.

What does it take to play a penguin? What sort of research goes into that?

Shia LaBeouf: You gotta talk to other penguins. (Laughs.) You gotta get into the mind of a penguin. We would have a lot of great penguin actors who had come off ‘Meet the Penguins.’ And had come on to our set who were like some of the best in the business. They are very prima donna-types though.

Jon Heder: I didn’t meet them. I worked with Chickens.

Shia LaBeouf: That’s right. That’s right.

What were your thoughts when you were working on this film and the other penguin movie ‘Happy Feet’ came out?

Shia LaBeouf: Well, we started before they started. Our movie has been five years in the making. It took them like two or three to make theirs. So have that!

Jon Heder: They were way too easy. This was surfing. That’s just penguins being penguins.

Shia LaBeouf: Cakewalk!

Jon Heder: And singing! Yeah, that’s true, but…

Have you lost the joy at all ever? Do you loose it when something isn’t a hit?

Jon Heder: I think if you have something that isn’t a hit, than you’re like, ‘I’ve got to try harder.’ It can be a combination of anything. But, still, to me it’s not so much about whether a movie is a hit or not, if you enjoyed your own performance or you buy it. Of course, at least I am thinking with most actors you are going to be critical of your own work. And you are watching it and you’re like, ‘OK, I dunno if this is going to be a big hit or not.’ You want it to be, obviously you want success, but even with a successful film you are still critical of, ‘OK, I can do this better’ or ‘Alright, I can see how I could have done a better job here.’

And Shia, how about for you. Do you still find the joy in it?

Shia LaBeouf: If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s not like I’m forced to do this. Financially I’m pretty stable. It’s not like I’m, and the last couple of movies haven’t been financial gain in major ways. I mean, I’ve been getting paid less and less, it seems like, but I’ve been enjoying it more and more. It sucks. My rate is dropping, plummeting.

There has got to be some joy in hits? Especially with ‘Disturbia’ and ‘Blades of Glory’?

Shia LaBeouf: What changed? What changed?

Jon Heder: I love, I mean it’s the whole process. I mean, shooting the film is really fun. I mean, the pre-production and of course you’re getting really excited when you read the script and then you shoot it and then you have a lot of time. And then it’s really just the waiting period. ‘Alright, let’s see what happens when it comes out in theaters.’ And you want it to do well and you see the preview and you are excited. Whether or not it does well, I love seeing the finished product. I love having my own little private screening…

But ‘Blades’ being a big hit must have been kind of fun…

Jon Heder: I mean, it feels good. I dunno, what is fun about a big hit? It’s not like you are playing jacks or anything. I mean, of course, it feels great because you’re like, ‘Alright, we did something right.’

Shia, what about the surprise success of ‘Distubria’?

Shia LaBeouf: Well nobody really expected it to do, so when it did really well and it continued to do really well and the drop offs weren’t major and it took ‘Spider-Man’ to knock us out, it was like, ‘Wow. This is incredible’ And good movies came out in our time, like ‘Fracture’ came out and I really like that movie, but sometimes it’s not even about the quality of the film. It’s just we hit a group of people that really wanted a movie like this at the time. So, and your involvement in that. And marketing is a whole other side of this that we’re not really involved with directly. There is a science to it. It’s a whole different thing.

Certainly, ‘Indiana Jones 4’ won’t have a lot expectations.

Shia LaBeouf: Of course, nobody expects anything from that film.

Shia, can you talk about watching ‘Transformers’ with Hugo Weaving and when was the last time you saw footage?

Shia LaBeouf: Yeah, I have seen pretty close to final. Mike is working on a couple of more things, but we are done shooting and they are getting down to the final voice over stage. And Hugo is great in it. And again, from a fan’s point of view, Welker’s voice sounds different than it did. So, I know all the fans are like, ‘Welker’s not playing Megatron.’ You say ‘no,’ but I know ‘yes.’

Jon Heder: Isn’t he doing some of the other voices?

Shia LaBeouf: He’s doing some of the other voices, but Hugo is a great Megatron. It’s different, but it’s great.

Have you looked in the mirror with a fedora on?

Shia LaBeouf: I don’t think my character will be wearing a fedora.

Now that they have finally announced it, before you had said you had specific concerns about what you wanted to do next. Are you happy with how the character has evolved?

Shia LaBeouf: I still haven’t read the script.

Well, how nice is it to be able to make those demands to Steven Spielberg?

Shia LaBeouf: Well, you don’t make any demands to Steven Spielberg. You just say, ‘Yeah, alright, great. That sounds like a good thing to me.’ And Lucas isn’t involved as Spielberg with the actors, it’s all Steven, but I don’t imagine I’ll be questioning anything he says. Of course you have to find your voice as an artist, you have to have the tools you gotta have some say. But I don’t imagine it’s going to be very easy to say, ‘You know Steven, I don’t think that’s correct. I think I should do it that way.’ I dunno. We’re still trying to figure it out. We haven’t gotten in any rehearsals. It’s just been a lot of stunt rehearsals and weapons training and stuff like that.

How is that stunt training going?

Shia LaBeouf: Great.

Can you tell us any more about it?

Shia LaBeouf: Can’t.

For both of us, can you talk about other projects you have coming up?

Jon Heder: I’ve got this movie and ‘Mamma’s Boy’ comes out, I believe, in November. And for now, that’s it.

Shia LaBeouf: Yeah, I’m in the same boat. You know all the projects that I’m involved in. Just ‘Transformers’ and ‘Indy.’

When do you start filming?

Shia LaBeouf: Ah, probably late June I imagine.

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Jon, is there any discussion at all to Napoleon Dynamite 2…

Jon Heder: No, not really. We have never said no to it, I think it’s just a timing thing just seeing everyone else is involved in other projects. I mean, I wouldn’t get your hopes up, but I’m not saying it would never happen. We’ve never said, ‘Oh, absolutely not.’ So, right now? No.

Shia, I know you have taken some bigger roles to get your smaller movies funded. Are there any pet projects you’re working on you think you might do after ‘Indy’?

Shia LaBeouf: Yeah, there are a couple of them. None of them are fully developed to the point where I’d want to start tell you guys about it. But, yeah, there are a handful of things that you start…especially when something like ‘Disturbia’ happens; it’s one of those things you think about. You go, ‘Oh, OK. Your movie opened and the industry will let you make a small little movie. So, start coming up with ideas.’ So, you start brainstorming with your team and people start finding books and other things and properties that you are involved in. Or life stories that you are really interested in.

I saw ‘Guide To Recognizing Your Saints’ on the plane out here and thought it was very, very good. Are you surprised or disappointed it didn’t do better at the box office?

Shia LaBeouf: Thank you. No, because it felt like just as big an achievement to have that movie come out as it did for ‘Disturbia.’ The numbers didn’t, like Jon said, ‘Yes, it’s great to have a financial hit,’ but I don’t think ‘Guide’ was ever – it was never planned for that to be a financial film. I mean, ‘Disturbia,’ there is a specific – it’s a whole different strategy. I mean, the fact we got to make ‘Guide’ was an achievement in itself. There is not really a lot – you can’t really pitch that movie well to any audience but the one that went to see it which was a small, small section of the populace. And that was what was intended. It was never intended to be ‘Disturbia’ big.

Now that you are here are you going to do any surfing?

Jon Heder: No, no, no. I have never surfed. I may try. I’m not saying I’m not interested. I’m more about going under the water. I like to snorkel and scuba, so.

Shia LaBeouf: I’ve surfed yeah. When I was like 13 and then I stopped because worked started and insurance won’t let you. And when we get out of here, we stop doing press around 5 pm or so, by then the tide is not something you want to be involved in. And there is really no surf out here, but there is surf at Diamond Head.

Jon Heder: Excuses here. (Laughs.)

Have you guys seen the finished film yet?

Jon Heder: I’ve seen the 80% version, but I haven’t seen the finished film.

Shia LaBeouf: Yeah, so have I. Neither have I (the finished film).

Can you talk about working with any acting idols? Any you want to work with in particular?

Shia LaBeouf: Well Bridges is definitely one of them, so that helps.

Jon Heder: Yeah, I’d agree on that too.

Was he the one or one of them?

Shia LaBeouf: One of them. There are two. There are like a list of ten or twenty, where you are like, ‘Oh, man, if I ever get to meet these people, let alone work with them.’ But yeah, they are both in that group. I dunno if I can pick one and go, ‘Boom! That’s the guy.’ But yeah, Jeff was definitely that for me while we were working on it.

Can you talk about what it was like to work with Jeff?

Jon Heder: I didn’t work with him. But, I met him. He’s a great guy. Very cool. (Laughs.)

Shia LaBeouf: Jeff is just really playful. He’s like a nine-year-old with all the experiences he has and the knowledge, but the imagination is that of a nine-year-old. He’ll just riff all day long. He doesn’t care how it sound or how it comes off. He’s very playful and you feel like you are in a sandbox. And it never stops. It never like, there is never a cut off point. There is never a ‘Cut’ and he’s off in his own world again. He just maintains it. There is a lot of joy that he brings to the table when he comes to work. And there not a lot of excuses or complaints or anything.

Jon, you studied animation. Have you fully devoted yourself to performing or will you ever go back to animation?

Jon Heder: Oh, yeah. I’ve always been in love with animation. And getting involved with it this side, I never really expected it, but was definitely kind of jumping it like, ‘This is coo.’ I remember when they asked me to do this role, I mean that’s one of the biggest reasons I took it, because I loved the character design and I loved how they were doing all the technology with the wave. The look of it looked really cool. And I was like, “This looks like a really cool picture to get involved in,” but I definitely would love to, I’m still planning on getting involved with animation on the other spectrum – writing and directing and hopefully producing some day. Features.

Jon, has there have been a time where you have stumbled into a similar situation with the guys in that sauna?

Jon Heder: Yes, that’s happened to me before where I actually stumbled upon a clan of cannibals. Yeah, it turned from naivety to a modest innocent.

Shia LaBeouf: (laughs)

Jon Heder: You just gave it away.

Jon, if you are not surfing, are you going to be involved with any of the athletic activities?

Jon Heder: Hmmm. Yeah, I like to ice sake now. I do. That was my favorite part of learning how to ice skate and a little bit of racquetball and tennis.

Shia LaBeouf: I am a season ticket holder to Dodger games. I go to every Dodger game I can go to. Every single one. And I’ve never been more athletic in my life. Just because of the occupation, y’know? I have to.

Can you guys talk about hosting SNL? And Shia can you talk about the ‘Sofa King’ sketch?

Shia LaBeouf: Do you want to go first Jon? Your picture by the way in the hallway is mesmerizing.

Jon Heder: Which one is it?

Shia LaBeouf: It’s the one where you are going like this (does a muscle pose). Over the shoulder.

Jon Heder: Yeah, It’s pretty awesome yeah. I loved it. It was always a dream to kind of do. I watched the show growing up and then, of course, I got the call it was kind of one of those thing where I got really nervous. It was more like when I got the call. The week of my nerves actually went down surprisingly. Even the day of, I wasn’t that nervous doing it, but all the build up, the month and a half of knowing I was going to do it, I was really nervous. But, it turned out that it was a blast. I mean, it was really cool. And it goes by so fast. I mean, that’s the weirdest part, because it’s an hour and a half. And, you’re done and you’re like, ‘Oh, we’re done?’ You’re kind of happy because you are like, ‘I can’t screw up anymore!’ But it was a lot of fun. And it’s a very lively show. There is a lot of energy, because it is so insane backstage.

Shia LaBeouf: With the wig changing?

Jon Heder: Yeah.

Shia LaBeouf: That’s nuts.

Jon Heder: But, they strip you down. And you’re like..

Shia LaBeouf: Did you get a rash right here?

Jon Heder: No, no. I was pretty good.

Shia LaBeouf: Mine is pretty much the same experience. And ‘Sofa King’ was one of those things where Loren was like, we had a Mario Cantone skit that we didn’t get to do. We had a lot of skits we didn’t get to do. We plan like 12 and we only do eight or nine. And that skit barely made it in, but I remember we were in the final meeting. It’s crazy when you are in the final meeting and all. And Loren was on the cusp about it and he said to the writers, ‘Alright fine. If the actors say, ‘So fucking’ instead of ‘Sofa King,’ and people at the ratings board say, ‘Ok, fine we are going to slap you with a $100,000 fine’ you are going to pay for it.’ And the writer was like, ‘Uhhhhh. OK, fine.’ And we wound up doing it. But for a second there we weren’t going to do the skit, because he didn’t want to wind up paying $100,000.

What are your preferences? Animated or live-action?

Jon Heder: Big last question. Y’know, it’s like each project is very similar in that you still kind of approach the characters the same way. Probably since, I mean it’s really different. Of course I love independent, because starting out you have complete control and you don’t worry at all about, ‘Oh, right. People may see this. People may not. So, who cares?’ You just kind of give it all out. As opposed to obviously a studio movie that you know will be out and you know it will probably have this kind of opening, but I don’t know if I have a preference. It depends on what you are doing.

Shia LaBeouf: Yeah. It’s all fun. It’s all fun. Again. One summer you want to be an asshole. You want to be on set and find those other things in you that you don’t always get to do in a comedy or in a studio film. Sometimes you want to be that surfacey guy. Sometimes you don’t want to be that surfacey. It’s human. Y’know, you are all bunched different. I’m kind of bi-polar. It just fluctuates really strongly. It’s all over the place.

Do you want to be a winner like Cody?

Shia LaBeouf: Yeah, I think that’s in every – I think that’s my biggest flaw. You always want to succeed. You never strive to fail.

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