Breezy Mama‘s Contributing Editor Jill Kloster was invited to participate in a roundtable with the cast of Gulliver’s Travels: Jack Black, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. In it, we get the low-down on what life as a actor dad is like, what it’s like being a giant with small people, and how Gulliver fears the same things as today’s kids.
Die-hard Breezy Mama fans know that Chelsea is our usual entertainment reporter, however, since she recently gave birth to twins Izzie and Bea, a trip to L.A. to cover the movie was somehow shall we say “inconvenient.” I was lucky enough to be asked to participate ( in Chelsea’s absence) in a roundtable discussion with three of the stars from Gulliver’s Travels–Jack Black–the lead as Gulliver, Jason Segal as Horacio and Emily Blunt who stars as the princess. Jack Black, most known for his animated feature “Kung Fu Panda” and his hilarious performance in “Nacho Libre”, was our first victim of the day. . .
Do you have any kids?
Jack: “I’ve got a two and a four year old.”
Are they going to see the movie?
“I think I’ll wait until later to bring Sammy, my four-year-old. I don’t want to bring him to the premier. It’s going to be too intense. He doesn’t really know that I’m famous yet, know what I mean? He might freak out if he realizes he’s sharing me.”
The film has a lot of potty humor, shall we say–.
Even literally. How you deal with that kind of stuff in your house?
“Potty humor? I think it’s just in the DNA. It’s accepted. I’m not going to say it’s encouraged, you know? We didn’t introduce him to the concept of potty humor. But, kids naturally think its funny stuff, you know. Poop, and pee and farts, it’s all just very funny. And I think it’s good, because it gets them over their issues with going to the bathroom by themselves and similar situations. I think it’s all pretty positive.”
At one point in the movie, I really thought you were talking to the little people–especially near the end. So, how did you psych yourself up to do that? Was it all green screen? Did you have small models as stand-ins? How do you get into it? Because it looked great!
“Thank you. Well, it doesn’t sound like real professional actor preparation, but, I do play with a lot of toys to get ready for the giant and tiny person relationships. And luckily I had a bunch of toys at home, because my kids have them everywhere.”
Did you see the original Gulliver’s Travels?
“No. I did not see any of the old productions. I didn’t want to see them, because I didn’t want to, have any preconceived notions. And ours was such a new take on the old classic.”
Did you read the original Swift book?
“Yes, I did.”
So, I’m assuming that you’re kind of a silly person in real life.
“I do have a silly side, yes.”
Do you see any signs of that in your kids, other than the normal, shoving crayons up the nose and eating dirt?
“My boys, especially my oldest, he loves to ham it up. He’s the real performer in our household. He loves the attention and a captive audience. If you come over, you will see. He will entertain you.”
How about that theme throughout the movie of getting over your fear of failure? It was an adult character, but you could relate it being a kid as well. I saw a lot of ties to being a kid and overcoming failure, throughout.
“That’s a theme that we thought would be great that’s not really in the book. But, since it deals with, a giant and tiny people, we thought it would be cool to have that that insecurity theme about being a small person in a big man’s world and being, insecure about being lost in the shuffle. And I think that ties in really well with kids’ insecurities about being the little guys and wanting so desperately to be big, famous heroes.”
And also, the fact that he was trying to convince so many people in Lilliput that he was somebody else, and that he was, for example, Wolverine from that big blockbuster movie. Kids always want to be a superhero. And that’s great for their imagination, but that it’s also important for them to know that who they are is exactly who we want them to be.
“Yes. I think you nailed the central theme. In a nutshell its basically you don’t have to pretend to be the president or you don’t have to be a big shot. You just have to have a big heart and be kind to your loved ones. That’s what it comes down to.”
Now that you have kids, would you want to live in Lilliput? Don’t you think it is a simpler life? They were able to just think of things in the simplest way.
“It’s a fun place for an adventure. But, no, I wouldn’t want to live there. You know why? Because it’s lonely being a giant. There’s no one big enough to give you a hug.”
Was there ever a time in your life that you really had to, put yourself out there, make a big leap?
“Somewhere along the line, I realized that whenever you don’t want to do something, you have to ask yourself, Do I not want to do this because I really don’t like what I am about to do, that I don’t think it’s a worthwhile project because I don’t think it’s going to be good, OR is it that I’m just scared? And if it’s because I’m just scared, then I have to just do it. That was a very important lesson in my life, and I’ve tried to live by it ever since.”
Do you think that doing modern versions of the classics makes people more interested in reading and literature, or do you think they’re like, “I don’t need to read the Swift book. I saw Jack Black’s movie.”
“No, I think it’s a helpful bridge to actual literature. I think a lot of kids that see this will later on read the book.”
Jason Segel is one my favorite actors. If you haven’t seen “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” please go rent it immediately. In Gulliver’s Travels, he plays Horacio–an imprisoned subject of Lilliput who’s only quest is to win the hand of it’s ever so complacent princess. . .
You were so good in the movie. How hard was it to be the little person, because in real life you are so tall?!
Jason: “I viewed it the opposite. We were normal size, and Jack was huge. That’s how I always viewed it. We were to scale of all the buildings around us so we were just acting regular. Jack did most of the green screen.”
So most of your scenes, you are looking up into the sky.
“Yeah. To look up at Jack.”
How did that work? Did they show a picture of him somewhere so that it felt you were talking to him?
“It was a tennis ball. It was either a tennis ball or, sometimes there was just an X in tape. But, if he was moving, there was a tennis ball on a giant fishing rod. It is a little weird. It was the first time I’ve ever done anything like that. But, it was fun. We made it work. You know, I’ve been waiting to work with Jack for 10 years. He gave me my first writing job. I mean, we may have done, little cameos together. But, he gave me my first job when I was 19 as a writer.”
What did you do as a kid. . . to lead to your success now?
“I was a weird kid. I wore a Superman cape under my clothes until I was 12 years old.”
How old did you start doing that?
“Six years old. I was the only Jewish kid at an all-Christian school. And I was also six four since I was 12. The kids didn’t really like me that much. I was very shy. Very, very, very shy. And my parents sent me to the local, Community Theater to take acting class just to help get me out of my shell.”
Did you have any qualms about the potty scenes, or potty mouth scenes?
“No, I mean, I come from R rated comedy so I had no problem. I’ve done full frontal nudity.”
You speak so passionately about kids and movies and your work in that genre. Do you see yourself maybe being a parent some day?
“If I met the right girl, it’s as simple as that.”
You know, you’d be a kid’s idol.
“Well, I have really amazing parents. And one of the things they taught me is the most important thing is to be nice. And not to be rich or famous or anything like that. And so, there’s something real nice about making a kid smile.”
Your character in this movie is great. It is clearly much more innocent than your other characters. Was it hard for you?
“No, it was actually great.”
Is it really true that you were naked when you were broken up with once?
“Yeah. It was the worst thing ever.”
Writing versus the acting? I mean, you do so much of both. Do you have a preference, or do you see, in the future where you might spend more time on one or the other?
“I really like the, like, Albert Brooks style of writing your own material and doing it. My goal, if I had my druthers, it would be one a year. I would just write a movie, film it, and then sleep.”
Emily Blunt starred in one of my favorite movies “The Devil wears Prada.” In Gulliver’s Travels, she plays a bored princess who is the object of Horacio’s (played by Jason Segel) affections. The chemistry between their characters makes for a sweet and hilarious on screen relationship. . .
Were you excited to be back in the UK?
Emily: “Yes. It was actually my fourth film in a row in the UK. So, I’m sure my family was thinking, “We’re bored of you.”
They were thinking: “We thought you left.”
“Yeah, “We thought you’d left.”
Congratulations on being newlywed! (Emily is married to The Office star John Krasynski.)
“Thank you very much.”
How is it?
“It feels like old news now. Do you know what I mean? With you saying congratulations? No, it’s just wonderful. It’s wonderful. I just love it.”
It’s not different, right? But, you feel like family.
“I think it does feel different in the way that it’s that kind of wonderful, quiet security that’s just sort of there in the background. But, we still have a blast.”
Would you guys work together ever?
“I think so. It would have to be the right thing, because I think sometimes when couples work together, they’re overly scrutinized, you know–?”
Would you ever do a cameo on The Office?
“Oh, I would if they’d have me.”
How did you like working on a children’s film?
“I really enjoyed it. I’ve never done a family movie before. And it’s a whole different genre. There’s a charm to it and a kind of sweetness and a lightheartedness. I think it’s really important to do make those movies, because people want an escape. Gulliver’s Travels is the perfect Christmas movie.”
So, do you think you’re going to want to start doing more and more of the family movies?
“Yeah, definitely. Because I think that some of the family movies that are made are kind of a bit schmaltzy and a bit kind of run of the mill. I really like it with movies like this, which give hints to the adult crowd, too. And there’s enough wit in it for the parents who go and see it to be like, “Oh, my God, that’s so funny,” And there’s stuff that will go over the kids heads. So, I think it’s a fine balance with a family movie, to make it universally appreciated and not just right for kids.”
So, it was fun playing a princess role?
But, you did it with an edge.
“She’s confident. I love to see that coming out. For girls to see that. I think that’s nice, I think it’s a good message.”
When you were growing up, you were shy and had a stutter. Is that right?
“I did. I actually still have one sometimes when I’m relating a story or on the phone. It’s not something that ever quite leaves you. You’ll always be one if you are one. But, you can learn different tools. The thing that really helped me and that I would really advise kids to do is definitely get help, address it very early, because it gets worse.”
How early did you start addressing it, or did your parents?
“It probably started about eight. I started stuttering around six. I think at first they thought I’d grow out of it. It’s one of these disabilities that’s not really addressed. There’s an amazing organization that I’m a part of called AIS, which is the American Institute of Stuttering. And it is a revolutionary company, and they’re doing amazing things to change peoples lives. They have a very new method of helping people get through it.”
How long did you stutter until?
“Until I was about 14, quite badly. But, the thing that helped me was acting and–because there are so many actors I know who stutter. However, they never do on stage. And I never stutter when I’m acting. I would encourage parents to put their kids in acting classes, drama classes, even if they’re super shy and embarrassed. You often find that you don’t stutter when you’re acting.”
Back to Gulliver’s Travels. How about the scale? Was it a little difficult, kind of talking, you know? Did you, like, act to a tennis ball like Jason?
“Yeah. It’s weird, because, you know, Jack would be over there and you’d be staring up at a tennis ball. Emoting to the tennis ball. You know, everything wants to look at him (Jack). And it’s really–it’s a weird thing to fight against that all the time.”
How did you feel about some of potty humor in the film? More specifically, the butt crack in the “peeing on the fire” scene.
“Oh, the butt crack. It’s Jack Black. You know he’s going to get his ass out somehow.”
To read a synopsis of the film, click here.
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