Smurfs: The Lost Village just opened and we were lucky enough to screen the movie early AND interview Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello, Mandy Patinkin, and director Kelly Asbury. In this post, here’s a recap of our interview with Mandy Patinkin and director Kelly Asbury.
In this fully animated, all new take on the Smurfs, a mysterious map sets Smurfette and
her close friends, Brainy, Clumsy, and Hefty on an exciting and thrilling trip through the
Forbidden Forest filled with magical creatures to find a mysterious lost village before the evil Gargamel does. It’s a journey full of action and adventures and they are a journey to discover the biggest secret in Smurf history.
We got a chance to speak to celebrated actor Mandy Patinkin and Director Kelly Asbury.
Kelly says that the familiar world of Smurf Village and the new worlds created for the film have the same original inspiration, “Peyo” – the Belgian artist Pierre Culliford who created the Smurfs back in 1958. “Peyo’s work has a buoyance and a lightness of being. There was an effortlessness to the way he drew,”Asbury explains.
Mandy Patinkin told us felt absolutely honored to play Papa Smurf. While he’s primarily known for serious roles like Saul on Homeland and Criminal Minds, this was his first big voice-over role in a while.
How was it to act alone?
Mandy said, “It was freedom beyond imagination. And it freed your imagination as well. It was a joy beyond words. When Kelly (the director) called me up and said, “Would you like to play Papa Smurf?” I don’t even think I finished breathing in, I just said yes. And it was a total joy. Kelly would direct me and explain to me what I was supposed to say and what the story was and then we’d just get going and we’d start improvising and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun on a job in my life.”
Director Kelly Asbury weighed in, “It was a lot of fun in that recording studio. Mandy gave me a lot of choices and tons of takes. Sometimes he just read everyone’s lines, the entire script out loud so if I needed so if I needed Smurfette to sound like Mandy, I’ve got it. Which may definitely go on the DVD extras”, he joked.
You are the embodiment of Papa Smurf, and for a new generation as well. What are the aspects of yourself, your own character that you brought to the role?
That’s all I knew to bring. I just figured, he said Papa Smurf, but I heard the word Papa. I heard the word Papa before I heard Smurf and I thought, Yeah, I’ll play Papa because that’s what I am, I got two boys, who are no longer boys (they’re 30 and 34). I essentially play a father figure on Homeland. Whatever I do, I enjoy being a father figure more than anything and I enjoy it because when you’re the father, that means you have children and that means you will learn from them. And at this point in life for me (and I’m not trying to be corny) they teach me everything. Whether I’m working with them professionally, people like Claire (Danes) and Rupert (Friend) and all the young, wonderful, gifted people I get to work with, or my own sons Issac and Gideon. Who just wake me up on a daily basis. I just came back from the refugee crisis (Syrian) with my wife and did all this work with the refugees and the international rescue committee and both my sons said to me, “Hey dad, I know you don’t want to be on facebook and you don’t want to deal with all that..but if you have causes that are important to you and you want to get it out there to the world you have got to get on this social media. And we did it for the first time and I wouldn’t have done it without them saying, “This is not an option, you must do it.”
Mandy said that this was a role that let him recharge his soul from a dark world of reality and in Homeland (which he does for 6 months out of the year). So this was an oasis for him. It was a place to get a transfusion of joy and happiness and hope. And to become a child again. He also said, “I know I’m called Papa, but I was really a kid in front of that microphone. Kelly encouraged my kid to come out and I use the word that I’m a kidult. And that’s who I think Papa is. He’s the true, the original kidult:.
The Smurfs was designed to be a TV type of show, did you encounter any type of challenges by making the movie?
Director Kelly Asbury replied, “It was fun, mainly. The challenges are always there when you design a film, working with my production designer, and my character designer and all my modelers to create something in 3 dimensions and still maintain the style that Peyo established in those books. We wanted to go all the way back to that. The fun part for us was what we discovered – Peyo’s world had everything in miniature. Even though the Smurfs are small, Gargamel, if he was a real character, would only be 3 feet high. We did the math. Believe it or not, there is math. Smurfs are about 9 inches high, and we were able to do size comparisons. This world is a strange kind of miniature world and that reminded me of when I was a kid and had View Masters and they had those little models… I used to want to climb into that View Master. I wanted the audience to get the feeling of that. I think the film does possess that type of miniature View Master world that you can now watch in 3D and be encompassed by it. So all those things contributed to the look of the movie. But mainly Peyo established those shapes and that visual language that we translated.”
As for voice acting, Kelly wanted his actors and actresses to be themselves and bring themselves to the character. And they helped us create their characters that way. He told us, “Papa Smurf was not as defined in my mind until I saw Mandy in the part and I could hear Mandy in the part and that helped us develop that character and helped us write that character. So, it’s very important to me that the actors just be themselves.”
Mandy and the other actors gave us a lot of information about those characters.
Mandy added, “For me, a great director is a person who first and foremost, encourages you to bring what you want to bring. I asked you to be in the room, I hired you. How do you see it? How do you hear it? How do you feel it? Please do that and then after you finish doing that, then, what about this color? Instead of playing it red, what about playing it green? Or purple or orange? And dance with you. A great director makes you feel like what you have to bring is good, that it’s worth it. No matter how experienced you are, no matter how famous or whoever you are — everyone wants to feel like they’re doing a good job. If you’re really doing a good job as an actor, you’re not watching yourself — you’re in it. So you need an outside pair of eyes. It’s not criticism. It’s perspective. When you’re doing a play, it’s called a “play”. Everyone forgets that word, but to have someone to play with. Is gold.”
Mandy also said that the saddest part of every session was when Kelly would say, “Great, we got it.”
Let’s talk about the Lost Village (this was my question) — It is so visually beautiful. The senses, the colors, the flowers, the bugs, every single detail was stunning to me. So colorful. I want to know where that came from?
Kelly told us, “I had a team of artists, visual development artists and our art directors, Marcelo Vignali, Dean Gordon, and our production designer Noelle Triaureau, our character designer Patrick Maté, they were all smurf lovers to begin with and they knew Peyo’s work and so we all put our heads together and talked about what could be fanciful about this world and they just produced artwork after piece of artwork, all sorts of exploration, and clippings and we put everything into a big room and everyone just responded to what was strong. And then they were able to take that and channel it and develop it from there and I give them full credit for creating this world that I was hoping for, but it can’t ever come from one person’s head. It’s a team of people, which is really what this movie is about. I’m so proud to say I had my own Team Smurf that helped me make this movie. So while he (Mandy) was Papa Smurf on screen, I got to be Papa Smurf of my own little village.”
Mandy asked to see the behind the scenes process and he saw them working on when the water becomes alive. It’s a magic trick.
The movie features the voices of Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBrayer, Danny Pudi, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Ariel Winter, Mandy Patinkin, and Julia Roberts. the movie is directed by KellyAsbury, produced by Jordan”Kerner and Mary Ellen Bauder Andrews. It’s written by Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon. Based on the characters and works of Peyo. The movie features”“I’m a Lady” performed by Meghan Trainor.
I was not compensated for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.