Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Matt Lucas on "Wonderland," Depp and Burton

Matt Lucas may now be best known to people outside of the UK as Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice in Wonderland (this is his first American film). But for playing such rotund "fat boys" (as the Red Queen describes them), Lucas looks different, says the Los Angeles Times.

“I’ve lost 50 pounds since I made the movie,” said Lucas as he declined a free bucket of buttery popcorn at the world premiere. “No popcorn for me.”

Lucas admits that he isn't exactly Hollywood's vision of pretty, but that doesn't stop him.

“I adore watching people like Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill but I wouldn’t necessarily cast myself in those roles,” Lucas said. “They are people that audiences can easily identify with. I don’t play so easily the regular guy. I might be more like a Wallace Shawn who always plays the quirky guy, the eccentric characters.”

For Tweedles, Lucas went for “corpulent boys, both childish and child-like, juvenile in the extreme.” To help Lucas pull off twin duty, actor Ethan Cohn was brought in as a double to stand in as the “other brother” while Lucas was doing his lines. Cohn became fast friends with Lucas and says it’s been hard to watch him suffer in the wake of McGee’s death.

“God knows how someone deals with what he went through, but he’s gone about it in a very smart and logical way,” Cohn said. “He’s grieving and he’s going through the emotions that people go through, but he is always moving forward.”

Lucas said he likes Los Angeles – “Some people think it’s a cynical place but I admire its ambitions” – and he was dazzled by working on a film with such a strong cast and director.

“You get warmth in spades from Johnny and Tim [Burton]. You get briefly included in their warm friendship. In Johnny’s trailer, and this betrays a confidence perhaps but I hope he will forgive me, on the refrigerator there's a drawing of the Mad Hatter by Johnny’s kids. And it said, ‘Good Luck Dad.’ I found that so wonderful.”

Making Wonderland was a complicated process. But even with a picture with a budget of over $200 million and stuck in a sea of green screen, Lucas admired Tim Burton's professionalism, and the trust he invested in his cast and crew, many of which he has collaborated with before.

“He employs people he likes then he really trusts them to build the character and the performance,” Lucas said. “I was surprised that the first take is always the actors’ take. With all the money invested into the project and how little time people have to make the movie. He let actors have the first take and then work with them to craft – keep that, turn that bit down, try for this. He gave a lot of guidance and I was grateful for that, but it came with trust.”

Lucas was less enamored with the green-screen set. “It can be grueling to be in a large green room where everything is just…green; Consistently, constantly, undeniable, unashamedly green; and not even different shades of green at that. It’s a snot room. The booger world.”

Some of the actors found the green screen nauseating and difficult, but Lucas worked through it by imagining the world that would appear on the screens when the project was completed.

“It was very notional,” Lucas said. “You have to imagine there are trees and castles and the ground. And instead of the Bandersnatch there’s a man holding a stick with a cross on the end of it made out of masking tape, which you have to imagine is the most terrifying thing you’ve ever seen. And I don’t have stick phobia. Masking tape, however, makes me cringe. And weep. You have to use your imagination quite a lot but that happens in television, too. You need to pretend there isn’t an old man in the corner chewing his gum and checking his watch and waiting for you to finish the take and give a very emotional performance.”

Lucas said he hopes to work with Burton again, especially since the filmmaker works in worlds where eccentric characters are at every turn. He also said he hopes to absorb some of Burton’s sense of wonder.

“He brings with him the enthusiasm of someone making their first film,” Lucas said. “You have the expertise of someone who has been doing it a long, long time but there is still something boyish in his excitement. I think the same can be said of Johnny Depp. It was just ambition on display and enthusiasm and excitement and craft. They seemed pleased to be there. I know I was.”

Click here for the entire Matt Lucas article from the Los Angeles Times. Lucas goes on to describe his career and ambitions beyond Wonderland and more.

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