Having lent his talents to a number of animated features in the past, he’s back once again playing the titular figure in the adaptation of the famed Dr. Seuss book The Lorax. Chronicling the plight of the environment and its defender, the Lorax (who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler) the film was a roaring success at the US box office earlier this year.
Currently winning plaudits for his role in the West End production of The Sunshine Boys at the Savoy Theatre in London, DeVito dropped by the London Comic Con MCM Expo recently to publicise the film (which is released in UK cinemas on the 27th July) and HeyUGuys were there to attend a round table with the star.
Talk began with the film’s ecological message and DeVito was asked if these themes were close to his heart.
“Basically, I’m a green leftie. I drive a Nissan Leaf which I bought a year ago in the United States, and it has no emissions. I don’t ever go to the gas station. I am totally 100% behind the message of the movie in terms of sustainability and what we have to do to clean up the mess that we’re making all over the world.”
“In the movie I think the idea of what a fragile place this planet we live on is handled really well. It’s a little in your face but it’s done with fun, love and care.”
But The Lorax’s environmental struggle wasn’t the only aspect of the film which initially won over the actor:
“I think the beginning, where its starts out as a catalyst for a romance between the boy and girl really made me feel good [about the project] too. Boy I’m telling you, you can move mountains when you fall in love. And that’s what happens with Zach Efron’s character] here. He falls totally and madly in love with his neighbour voiced by Taylor Swift, and rightly so. She’s gorgeous.”
“Her character is also a tiny bit older than him, and guys out there know that thing, even in school, when you had the girl who was maybe a grade or two ahead and you would have done anything to get next to her. It’s the same for Zach’s character here.”
On the endearing appeal of Dr Seuss:
“I have three kids and when they were little I started them out with picture books and beautiful stories they could look at. As they got a little older, we moved into word books with images and that’s where I discovered Dr Seuss, and not only is he fun, but he’s also got the silly-ass rhymes going on and I loved that stuff. It makes everything that much more palatable and enjoyable as a parent and it’s the best way to reach the minds of your loved ones.”
“The Lorax is a ball of fury, particularly after he’s finds out what’s going on with his environment, and in terms of being bombastic and crazy myself, I love that kind of thing. One of the great aspects of the Lorax is he’s not a guy who keeps his feeling to himself and I can really relate to that. I see something I feel needs to be taken care of and I just say it. I’m not trying to win friends and influence people. If something’s on my mind, I gotta speak up. I could stay quiet, but that not my MO.”
“In the Sunshine Boys, my big problem [for my character] is for 43 years, he’s working with a partner who really had enough at the time, and has left me 11 years ago with an act where I ask questions and there’s nobody there to answer. I’m already old and it’s very hard to break into new things when you’re at a certain age, but if you still have the desire to work, you’re caught between and rick and a hard place. So the thrust of this wonderful play is both guys have the chance to get back together for a TV special but, my character still resents and holds a grudge against his partner.”
DeVito recently wrapped on this sixth directorial project (a post-apocalyptic thriller called St. Sebastian) and was asked about it:
“Yes. I’m working on it now. It’s one of the those things when you bite off something big and I said to myself that while I’m doing the play I can edit it, but I haven’t had a moment! It’s got a great cast. Lance Reddick who was Col Daniels in The Wire is my partner in it. He brought the project to me when he guested on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. A terrific actor named Bill Fichtner is also in it.”
“It’s a serious city under siege-type movie about a cop and drug dealer holed up in a hospital whilst all the carnage is happening in the streets. I’ve actually started working on it with my trusty Final Cut. I have all the material with me and I send stuff back and forth to my composer in the US for music and sound effects.”
When asked about his work as a director coming from a darker side:
“I like the slap-stick, slipping on banana peel stuff, but there’s something about comedy which lends itself to darker stuff and I’ve taken that and applied it to The War of the Roses and the absurdity of two people fighting over material objects, and turned it into a funny story where I get to kill the two leads. I like that and I enjoy the fact that I was mean to Matilda [in his 2004 adaptation].”
“In my film Death to Smoothly, I had Ed [Norton] dressed as a big cuddly kid’s character who is strumming on a ukulele during the beginning, singing a song about heroin!”
“Yeah, that’s gonna happen. We talked about it and once you get to that stage and have dinner about the project, you’re done for. I had a meeting with Arnold [Schwarzenegger] first and a couple of agents and studio people were there, which is always a terrible thing to have with you (laughs). Once the studio wants it, they’ll string up your first born to make it happen. But we like Universal and they actually did The Lorax. They’ve been really good to me so I’m really looking forward to it. Someone had an idea that maybe we should do triplets, and we thought who better to play a part than Eddie Murphy.”