John Leguizamo is a versatile actor who like to dabble with different genres whether he it is comedy (“The Pest”), drama (“Summer of Sam”) or horror (“Land of the Dead”). Leguizamo is also no stranger to animated films as he has voiced many different characters including Sid the Sloth in the “Ice Age” films. In “Walking with Dinosaurs,” Leguizamo voices Alex, a prehistoric bird who tells the story of a underdog dinosaur named Patchi (Justin Long) who overcome the odds to become a hero. I had the chance to speak with Leguizamo last week when he was down here promoting the film about how he has involved into the actor he is now and how different it was working on this film compared to other animated projects.
How is this project different than any of the other animation movies you have done?
John Leguizamo: This was a completely different situation. They created the movie first and then we came in and recorded. Normally you come in and record and then they animate your voice. This was already done so we would have to comment on it and throw our voices into it. You just have to watch it a lot. We had to study the footage so you can fit your voice into what was already animated.
Did you get sick of having to watch the film over and over again to get the voice right?
Leguizamo: Not really because you want the voiceover to be precise. I am not going to lie. I got tired. This was hard work. It’s not like Chris Rock said, “You just roll out of bed for 4 hours and get a lot of money”. It was a lot of work. This was two months…everyday…long hours to get that voice just right because I am the narrator and the character.
Is the personality of your character based on you or someone you know?
Leguizamo: I tried to give it a lot of personality. All of the silliness is definitely me. The narrator part was fun because it was a different thing for me. Being a dad, you’re always giving advice so it was easy for me to slip that into the movie.
Did you have to try out a lot of different voices for your roles as Alex?
Leguizamo: Yes. With my character Sid from the “Ice Age” movies, it was more open. With Alex, we knew he was from Mexico, since the fossil was found there, so we wanted a Spanish voice. Then I tried all my Spanish sounds. I try to do some one that was just off the boat with a very thick accent. I thought that would be exciting but it was hard to understand as the narrator. We ended up with the voice that was very paternal and pleasant but funny when he had to be.
Are you nervous that because you have done so many animate films that you will be typecast for animated films going forward
Leguizamo: No, not at all. I’ve been like five movies this past year so there is a balance.
How is doing a live-action film different from doing a voice for an animated character?
Leguizamo: It’s different but they are the same. In an animated film, I want to make sure that the voice is not of John Leguizamo. I want the voice to sound like it was made for that character created. Doing a voice for animation is also physical because if my character’s running, I also run. If he’s choking, I’m choking. If he’s drinking water, I’m drinking water. Whatever the character’s doing, I’m doing as well so that there is the authentic quality in my voice. If the part calls me to be out of breath, I’ll run until I’m out of breath. Because you can tell a difference when someone’s actually acting it out of the post just sitting there reading the lines.
Did you get to visit some of the sites they used for the film like New Zealand or Alaska?
Leguizamo: No, they don’t want actors they because it costs a lot of money. I like to fly first class (laugh), so they didn’t want to bring me along. I’ve been to Alaska in the winter and that was not fun. That was a mistake.
How do you think you have changed since getting your first movie roles?
Leguizamo: There have been a lot of changes artistically, personally. I mean things have also changed in the world. It’s great because I think as you mature as an actor things open up to you in a lot of ways, especially if you do work on yourself. I go to therapy. I still go to acting classes. As you keep challenging yourself you keep growing like all of the great actors. The beautiful thing about acting is that you can go your whole life if you stay current and you stay fresh. “Carlito’s Way” was just the beginning. I was just discovering my abilities and my potential and now when I act, I know what I’m doing. It’s a different thing. I am mentoring people now, but back then, I was being mentored by Al Pacino. I like helping people achieve their dreams just like people helped me.
You wear a lot of hats whether it is doing acting, comedy or theater. What’s your favorite? What are you most passionate about?
Leguizamo: I love theater. I think theater, when its done right, is the best, like a religious experience. When it is done badly, it’s the worst thing. It’s just an incredible experience. I just shot my play, “Ghetto Clown,” coming out on HBO on March 28th and it’s my favorite piece that I have done.