HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 – Behind the Scenes

We caught up with the cast and crew of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 at the Cannes Press Conference…

This year at the Cannes Film Festival, we had the world premiere of Ken Loach’s JIMMY’S HALL, Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut LOST RIVER and a Jean Luc Godard film in 3D. To take a break from all the seriousness on the French Riviera, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 also screened at the festival, to bring a bit of levity to Friday’s proceedings.The film, which stars Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig and Kit Harington, picks up five years after Hiccup and Toothless united the dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. As the two friends go on adventures to far-flung worlds, they discover a secret ice cave, and the mysterious Dragon Rider.
We caught up with the cast and crew of How to Train Your Dragon 2, at the Cannes press conference to find out more…

Cate, what drew you to the character?
Cate Blanchett: I think it was a singular challenge; when anyone plays a mother on film, there is a whole raft of judgement that comes, as if a mother is a particular archetype, like every mother is the same. Which is, of course, absolute rubbish. We did discuss a lot about the issue [of a mother leaving her baby behind], because there is a judgement of how women parent, and I think the film actually deals with it really beautifully and deeply and emotionally. Valka’s departure was almost an accidental one, and that when she is reunited with her son, even though they have been estranged from one another, there is a deep, genetic understanding of the dragons, and that rebonds them. I think there is an enormous amount of humour in the film, but there is a huge amount of heart that comes from that core family unit of Hiccup and Valka.

America, how did it feel for you to return to the world of How to Train Your Dragon?
America Ferrara: It was really wonderful to get to grow the characters. The film starts five years after the first one, and Jay [Baruchel] and I never really left these characters because in the years in between we have been voicing the characters in the Cartoon Network series, so Astrid and Hiccup have stayed with us for seven years now. One of my favourite parts of this second film was the conversations that I got to have with Dean [DeBlois] about where this character would be, what she would want for herself and ultimately getting to play a female character who is in the centre of the action is so wonderful. We’re not standing on the sidelines; we are in the thick of it and, most times, causing the trouble so I am so grateful to Dean for creating these female characters, and also for it not being an issue; we don’t talk about it, it just is that way. I think that’s a wonderful thing for our young boys and girls to grow up seeing.

Jay, what about you?
Jay Baruchel: Like America said, I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t playing Hiccup, so it’s kind of fun to age him up a bit, and what he is dealing with. In this one, he is trying to bridge the gap between who he thinks he wants to be and who his Dad expects him to become, as I think a lot of kids that age do.

Kit, you are a new addition to the cast, what was your experience working on the film?
Kit Harington: This is my first animated film. I found it a incredibly liberating experience. Sometimes the whole film world, being in front of a camera, it can be quite constrictive, and it’s learning how to be free in front of a camera that makes you a great film or TV actor. Whereas with this, you get put in a room with a microphone and you get told to be as big and expressive and crazy as you like. I found that a wonderful place to be. The problem I found was that when you try to go big you come off mic and no-one can hear you any more! [laughs] I really enjoyed it; I think it’s a very tender movie. I love my character in it, he’s rough and tough, but also very mislead. I enjoyed playing him and I enjoyed being an actor in a purely vocal sense.

Cate, we don’t usually see you in animated films, how did you get involved with the project?
CB: It’s a gift, to be offered a part like this. My children and I adored the first film. So when Dean ambushed me a few years later at an awards ceremony, I was intrigued, because as an actor, you are used to using your face, your body, everything you can, to communicate stuff, and when you have to only do it through your voice, and you’re doing it in tandem with the most extraordinary, state of the art animation… I found it an intriguing ride over the last three and a half or four yours, to watch the character evolve quite separate from me, and how you can change and enhance what the animators are doing. I didn’t actually get to work with the other actors; I actually acted opposite Dean most of the time, which was very interesting! [laughs]

Dean, can you tell us what we might expect from HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3?
Dean DeBlois: That would be a no! [laughs] Without getting into details, one the most exciting things brought to the table by [book author] Cressida Cowell when we were working on the first film was the revelation that she would complete her series by explaining what had happened to dragons, and why they are no more. We have done so much to try and create believable attributes in these dragons so they feel like they might have lived on the Earth at one point. I think, even though our narratives have diverged quite a bit, the idea that Hiccup will complete his coming of age and he will become the wise Chief of Berk that he his destined to be, but also to know that we will explain, in some way, what happened to the dragons is a great mystery and it’s a really compelling one. It’s powerful, it’s conclusive and it’s a great inspiration.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 is released in Irish cinemas from June 27th.

Words: Brogen Hayes