Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith, David Schwimmer talk about the making of Madagascar 3
Guys would you agree that you keep coming back to the Madagascar movies because they are fun?
Chris Rock: …And cash! [laughs] But fun more than anything.
Jada Pinkett-Smith: Yes, it’s a lot of fun to be part of a creative process like this. I love animation, I always have and as an actor it gives you a chance to work a different muscle; all you have is your voice, which was quite a unique experience for me and I have to agree with Ben… It took a minute to get used to the process, but I feel we all pretty much have it now.
David Schwimmer: It feels like putting on your favourite comfortable jacket. You know, you break it out of the closet every now and then and you are like ‘Oh my god, this is great’. It’s really fun being in the recording studio and just playing. It’s kind of like a childlike process of using your imagination. It’s amazing to see the end result when they cut all of our stuff together and it’s painted and finished. I am always stunned by it.
Ben, what keeps this franchise fresh for you?
Ben Stiller: I love the movies and actually over the years it has become much more… I don’t want to say easier… But the first movie was really tough because it was my first animated film and we didn’t know what the movie was, we were sort of finding it. It was a two and a half year process of doing the voices and not having ever seen it or knowing what it was going to be. Going into the second one and the third one it has gotten to be much more connected to a process because we know what it is going to be and we understand the characters more. Everybody has got used to how to do it and it allows for a more creative experience; it has been really fun. This one was really fun; we had Noah Baumbach who wrote an amazing script and that really helped too. The process has become more and more fun.
How did you practice Alex’s roar?
BS: I don’t have to roar that many times in the movie, thankfully. When I do, it’s substituted with real roars…
TMcG: No, it’s all you.
BS: Really? Oh wow!
Ben, do you feel there are any similarities between you and Alex, since this is the third time you have played the character?
BS: The hair… His hair is much bigger, although my hair was like that in about 1982 [laughs].
Ben, what was it like to reunite with Greenberg writer Noah Baumbach on Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted?
BS: Well I think he is a really great writer who came to the film with a really great sense of humour and an understanding of it. There is a sweetness that he brought… I don’t know how you guys worked together…
ED: We all really worked together on this. Noah is such an even keel guy. He is an incredible collaborator and he brought this incredible depth and heart…
BS: …At one point he wanted Alex to try to commit suicide and I didn’t want to go with that. I said we had to keep it a little lighter for the kids. Otherwise he was a lot of fun.
Ben, how does your character finally show sacrifice and leadership?
BS: First he has to figure out who he is, which I think Alex has been trying to figure out through all of the movies, and again he gets into a situation with Gia where he is trying to say that he is someone that he isn’t. I feel that the theme of the films is Alex figuring out who he is and also the friendship and being there for each other. When we finally get to New York we find out that we are not the people who we thought we were, then we get trapped in the zoo again. There is something in the story about how we are always there for each other and, to me, that is the thing that Alex gets.
Did you have room for improvisation?
CR: I improv a lot; the script’s great but… As a director I always like people that are too big because it is always easier to get them down than to get someone who is to small up. That is the most frustrating thing in the world so I improv all the freaking time until they tell me to stop. They’re like ‘We gotta get this line. You gotta say “circus”‘ and I make sure, after a lot of improv, that I say exactly what they want me to say.
BS: A lot of the time we are alone, but you can imagine the rhythms; I can imagine how Chris is going to be… You have another actor with you when you are reading and that really helps me, because sometimes you will really get into a flow and that’s where a lot of it comes out of for me. I will just pretend Chris is there.
MS: This is such a good script to start with, so you always want to make sure those lines are nailed, and then you will start improvising on top of that and by the time you see it you can’t really remember what was improvised and what wasn’t. I think that’s the idea.
DS: My feeling is that the script is so good and because none of us, for the most part, are in the same room so I just try to do every line 10 different ways to give the directors as many options as possible when they are editing it.
What do your kids think of the Madagascar movies?
BS: Chris and I didn’t have kids when this whole thing started but that was the idea; I thought ‘this will be great for my kids to see someday’ and now they look forward to it and they enjoy the movies, but its really fun to have that.
CR: For sure, it’s amazing. The first movie I took my youngest daughter to see was Madagascar. I remember we watched it at the DreamWorks campus and she turned to me and said ‘Daddy, is that you?’ and it was such a great day.
Jada and Ben, your children acted in the last one…
JP-S: Oh yes, Willow. She loved it so much. She was so excited to be a part of Madagascar 2 and my son called me earlier because he wanted me to ask Jeffrey Katzenberg if he could put one of his rap singles on the end of the movie. I told him, next time. Jeffrey and I have to talk about that [laughs]
BS: They were very happy to be a part of it. Both my son and my daughter were in there for young Alex sounds. I find they love the movies as movies; they think it is fun that I am in it, but when they are watching the movies they are just watching Alex and all the characters.
How long do you think the franchise will keep going?
JP-S: I think as long as audiences keep loving them, we will keep making them.
MS: I also think it’s not only the audience reaction, but the creative accomplishment of it. Its like TV; Friends was on how many seasons…?
MS: …Ten seasons, and every season seemed as good as the last so there was a time when people felt that TV shows shouldn’t last more than 5 years, but I feel that if this is an indication, there should be many many more of the Madagascars. Or just a Stefano spin off… [laughs]
Words : Brogen Hayes
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is at Irish cinemas from October 19th