Billy Connolly recently attended the Sydney Film Festival for the Australian premiere of Brave, the new animated film from Pixar.
I was lucky enough to talk with Billy about the film and what goes on behind the scenes of an animated film…
You can download a 3 minute audio extract of the interview by clicking here.
Matt: I know you’ve done voice work before on films like Open Season, Paws and Pocahontas. What’s the secret? How do you keep landing all of these roles?
Billy: I don’t know. I think they like the originality of the noise that I make. I don’t audition or anything like that. They just phone up and ask would you like to do it.
Matt: I was going to ask about how they audition process works for an animated film. Just knowing your voice… is that all they go off?
Billy: That’s all, especially in an animated film. The voice is all you’ve got.
Matt: So when did they approach you about Brave? Did they send you out a script so you can see what the film is going to be about?
Billy: No. You just get your own bit. They just tell you roughly the story and when you get to the studio, you record only your own lines. So it was really exciting going to the premiere as I hadn’t seen the movie.
Matt: So which other actors had you interacted with? Do you do the voices opposite them in the studio?
Billy: No, you do it on your own. You don’t interact with anybody.
Matt: Wow! All the conversations that we see in the movie, you were basically talking to yourself and it’s all mixed together later?
Matt: In terms of your character in the film, the laid-back Scott, King Fergus, do you get any say yourself in terms of the look of the character? Can you throw in a few one liners yourself?
Billy: You can throw in bits and pieces. Sometimes you might not like the sound of a word. You don’t like the way it fits in your mouth or you don’t think it’d be something the King would say. I’d then give them a Scottish word and they’d all panic because they thought I was trying to sneak something dirty on them.
Matt: The mental image I have of directors is sitting in a chair, looking through the camera lens and yelling action. So what’s the relationship between an actor and a director on an animated film?
Billy: It’s lovely! He just sits at a desk to your left and you stand at a music stand with the script nailed to some cardboard. You get one page at a time and you do your bit. He laughs or otherwise and then you move along. It’s a lovely process.
Matt: Does it take a lot of takes to get it just right?
Billy: Yes. There are usually about 5 to 6 takes with different voices. He’d get me to say things in different ways – high, low, loud, angry, funny, sombre, and then go from there.
Matt: You mentioned that you only got to see the film for the first time recently. What were your thoughts on it?
Billy: I thought it was a really smashing film. It’s a great movie to take your daughter along to. I have 4 daughters and I like the way the world is becoming for women. They are encouraged to do their own thing and stick to their guns and go for their own destiny.
Matt: The story is set in the highlands of Scotland and pulls a little from ancient folklore. I was actually curious about the “wisps” that pop up during the movie. Is that part of Scottish legend?
Billy: The will-o’-the-wisps are spoken of but they don’t glow in the dark like they do in the movie (laughs). They’re just a little bit of steam that comes up in boggy ground.
Matt: Now you’re in Sydney for the Sydney Film Festival. What was it like at the big Australian premiere?
Billy: It was lovely. There were a lot of people with curly red haired wigs which was funny. The whole “red hair” thing took me by surprise. I didn’t realise people were going to latch onto it in such a big way.
Matt: Well that’s one of the things that struck me about the film. How red her hair is in the movie. It’s so bright!
Billy: Yes! It’s if her hair is alive, isn’t it?
Matt: I should finish in a quick mention for The Hobbit which I know we’re going to see later in the year. Has shooting wrapped up for that?
Billy: No. It wraps up July 7. I’m not in the first film. I’m in the second film.
Matt: What can we expect? Can you reveal anything about it at all?
Billy: It’s extraordinary. I’ve seen bits of it and it’s beyond belief. The way they’ve filmed it – it’s 3D but they’ve filmed it faster than a film is normally filmed and has more frames per second. It’s given it an amazing clarity so it kind of looks like a cartoon. It’s unbelievably beautiful.
Matt: I can’t wait to see it but in the meantime everyone can check out Brave which I think is terrific, another wonderful animated flick from Pixar. Billy Connolly, thanks for talking with us this morning.
Billy: Thank you for talking to me!
You can read my review of Brave by clicking here.