Night at the Museum: Battle of the Museum was, according to 20th Century Fox, the first film to be allowed to shoot in the Smithsonian and so it was only fitting the cast and behind the scenes team gathered in Washington, DC, to talk about the movie. Joining returning cast members Stiller, Wilson and Robins for a press conference to chat up the film were Night at the Museum newcomers Hank Azaria and Amy Adams, as well as Night at the Museum 1 and 2 director Shawn Levy and writers Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Press ConferenceBen, did you think about your own rise to success when you were approached him the second time?
Ben Stiller: "Well, I thought that it would be something that would be different than the first movie. Really, I thought it was important to have a way into the second movie that was different than the first movie, because we had already done the idea of everything coming to life and Larry being amazed by it, and the guy sort of had nothing to do with his life, and the night guard becoming the thing he was happy doing. So to start the second movie, I felt we had have a new idea – the idea of being successful and then in some way that not making him happy. The idea of what he thought would make him happy, not make him happy? I just felt like it was a new idea to start the movie off, and that was really the idea behind that."
Amy, your portrayal of Amelia Earhart is very spunky. How much of that is based on the research you did on her versus your own personal interpretation of the woman who flew across the Atlantic?
Amy Adams: "You know, we wanted that spirit of adventure in Amelia, definitely - so did Ben. Somebody who could hold their own in a man’s world, someone who wasn’t going to take that, and she became such a fine, spunky character to such a foil to Ben. I followed the script and followed history and put them together in one way or another for the movie."
Shawn, what do you think this movie teaches not only kids, but their parents?
Shawn Levy: "Well, we certainly never set out to with any purely moralistic or educational agendas. But for me, what I did was going off with what Ben was saying, I think it was astounding when I realized that the title of Amelia Earhart’s autobiography, one of her memoirs, was The Fun of It. And I kind of couldn’t believe it when I stumbled on that title because it encapsulated the theme of the movie, which I don’t think is necessarily limited to kids, which is the blessing of doing something you love with people you love and respect, and getting - frankly, like most of us that are here - to go to work every day and do something that you enjoy. I think that’s a fantastic lesson, and certainly a great aspiration to young people."
Ricky, you play the stuffy, bumbling director. Who was the inspiration for that?
Ricky Gervais: "I like playing awkward sort of putzes. The most fun for a comedian, the kind of character to play, is a man without a sense of humor because it’s already funny, because you know this man wants to be respected and articulate and all those things. But he just hasn’t got the tools."
Should people consider The Smithsonian stodgy?
Ricky Gervais: "I don’t think any form of learning is stodgy. I’m fascinated with both natural history and science, technology and all those things. I think the reason I made him flawed and have a huge sort of blind spot is because that’s funny. The relationship with him and Larry’s really sweet because I think Larry likes him really because he likes [him struggling] but he knows that he’s not a bad person. And I like both endings of the films, where there is sort of an acknowledgment. But I play a many who is so out of touch with his feelings, he’s just such...It’s that English person who can’t say anything nice. That’s very sweet as well."
Hank, where did you get your inspiration for your statue persona and how did you come up with all those voices that are so different than your villain voice?
Hank Azaria: "That was done on the fly. We really just kept those in while we were shooting, We didn’t know that they were going to end up in the film. Lincoln was hard because you want to not diminish him and yet you want to try and be funny. We went through a lot of versions of that. And I still wanted to keep doing them, but they cut me off."
Shawn Levy: "Hank would still be laying down new Lincoln voices if I allowed it."
Hank Azaria: "I really would still be because I wanted another four cracks at it. I couldn’t stop."
Shawn Levy: "In truth, Hank really did those voices as a favor for me so that I could edit the scene. The intention always was to hire other voices. In fact, I did go out and hire other voices but no other voice, no other actor was working quite as great as Hank’s was, so they stayed until the end."