At the LA press conference for Legend of the Guardians, Sturgess and Kwanten joined director Zack Snyder and producer Deborah Snyder to talk about finding their characters and handling the voice work.
Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Ryan Kwanten, and Jim Sturgess Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Press ConferenceJim, can you talk about how you found the right balance in voicing your character?
Jim Sturgess: "That’s an interesting one. When I first found out that I’d got the part, I went on to my computer and I started to practice with the voice. I did it on a program called GarageBand, which is on my laptop, and I started to try different things to see how the voice was going to work. Obviously, trying to get an Australian accent was the first thing I had to try and get through. I realized that without the use of your eyes and your face, I thought, 'Oh God, I’m going to really have to amp up my voice and really try and make it as expressive as possible,' so I almost overdid it. I was overkilling it and shooting high. And then, I remember when we came for the first day to do our first session of putting it together, I was like, 'Okay, I’ve got this character down. I’m really going to overplay it.' I guess forgetting that these incredible animators would put in the eyes and would put in all these expressions, so I really overdid it at first and then had to draw myself back and realize that there would be an acting performance and it would be created by these incredible animators that would do that job for me, really. So once I understood that, I could play it as you would if you were making a film, I suppose."
"It wasn’t a radio play. You didn’t just have to use your voice. That wasn’t the only tool that you had. These incredible animators would put in… I saw the film last night for the first time and I couldn’t believe the expressions they were able to put on these owls’ faces and to put the comedy in there just by a look or the intensity in the eyes. It just blew my mind."
Ryan and Jim, do you have brothers and when you were younger, was there a rivalry for your dad’s attention?
Ryan Kwanten: "You go first, Jim, and then I’ll shoot you down."
Jim Sturgess: "Oh cheers, thanks Ryan. I do. I have an older brother and a younger sister so I’m the middle child. Like Kludd and Soren, I am far more courageous than my older brother. I’m better looking and a better flyer. I mean, me and my brother get along really well so we don’t have that kind of rivalry."
Ryan Kwanten: "I am actually an older brother and I too, like Kludd, suffer from what I have diagnosed as OSS which is Older Sibling Syndrome where you feel the need to set an example, a fine example, and you don’t necessarily possess the natural gifts of your younger brothers. I know I didn’t and Kludd certainly doesn’t. I think the older brothers too also suffer from a need to be overly ambitious. I try and use that for good. Kludd, on the other hand, was easily persuaded to the more darker side."
Zack, is it a tricky balance between doing something that would keep your fans of 300 and Watchmen happy and doing something that families and kids, who might have no idea who you are or what other films you’ve done, would enjoy?
Zack Snyder: "Who are these kids? [Laughing] No, I’m just kidding. I honestly didn’t think about it that way because the truth is we started working on the movie about three years ago. Before we started shooting Watchmen, we were working on this movie so it doesn’t really fit in the chronology exactly. Like, 'Okay, you’ve made all these hard core movies, so what are you going to do?' Honestly, I didn’t really think about it that I had any fans. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to disappoint."
"I guess our approach was really just to try and love the story and try and make some awesome pictures that supported the story and whatever language it chose, that was the language that it was told in. And, again, I didn’t think about it in a chronological filmography kind of way. I just wanted to make a movie that is enjoyable and that can come at any time in your filmmaking life."
Deborah, were you surprised that he wanted to do a family film after all these rumors that you won’t do anything that isn’t R rated?
Deborah Snyder: "No. Zack has 6 children and none of the kids were ever able to come to any of the premieres. They never saw 300. They kept saying, 'When are you going to make something that we can see?' And when this came about, we thought, 'Listen, this is a great story and not just for kids, but for the whole family.' Because I know a lot of times we’d take the kids to see these animated films and we’d be like dreading it, and we’d say we want something that kids will like but there’s also something in it for parents."
Zack, can you talk a little about doing an animated film after doing all the live action movies? Animated films are so much slower, did that ever frustrate you? And what is it like working with the actors when you just have their voices to work with?
Zack Snyder: "You know, it’s weird. I guess, first of all, working with the actors, these guys have done an amazing job and actually the process of when you record just a voice, in some ways it’s a lot faster and a lot easier. I won’t say easier because it’s all, from their points of view, they still have to do all the work that they would do. But I think that because you don’t have a camera and there’s no crew around and really it’s just a microphone and a conversation, it’s a slightly different process and that way I think that you can get at a lot more ideas quicker. And that part is rewarding and fun and it also gives us, when we were putting the performances together, or the film itself, the voice."
"I felt like there was a little bit more variety because a lot of times with a non-camera performance there’s something about the look or that one take where maybe the words were not exactly as they were written or not exactly at the idea, but there was something in the performance that was so compelling that you’re like, 'Okay, I got it. That’s the take. It’s got to be that take. There’s no other way around it.' It’s interesting in an animated film how, just like building the pictures, it’s amazing how obsessive you get over single words. You’re actually listening to every word. 'The way you said the was odd'... in a way you would never do with a photographed performance because you just don’t."
Jim Sturgess: "It was exactly the same for us too as well, because usually you are hindered by maybe you’re losing light, maybe you didn’t grab your prop on the right line. There are all sorts of things that hindered us as well, but then to be given that sort of freedom, just try it again 16 different ways. 'Let’s see what happens. Let’s see what pops.'"
Deborah Snyder: "We did the video tape of all their performances and it’s really fun because the animators always had a visual reference of the take and it really helped them. It’s very funny now to see the animated character and then to see our actors in the little video because a lot of times a head movement or something was really incorporated. Their movements became the character and that was a really interesting process for us to look at."
Jim Sturgess: "I never want to see those tapes."