With How to Train Your Dragon right around the corner, Working Author had a chance to speak to the cast about their thoughts on this animated feature. In the film, Jay Baruchel plays Hiccup: a teenage Viking who wants to be a dragonslayer like his father, Stoick, played by Gerard Butler. Unfortunately, Hiccup doesn’t quite have the skill or size to handle a dragon so he’s relegated to assisting the town blacksmith, Gobber, played by Craig Ferguson. When Hiccup miraculously downs a member of the most feared species of dragons he thinks his success will impress the beautiful Astrid, played by America Ferrera. Hiccup will learn, however, that downing a dragon and killing one are completely different tasks and that Vikings and dragons might have more in common than anyone thought.
As soon as all of the talent walked into the room it was obvious they were in a fantastic mood.
“Put your recording device next to the actor you like best of all!” Craig Ferguson commanded as he and his three other cast-mates took their places at the table. Then they introduced themselves so that they could be identified easier during playback. At which point Ferguson ribbed Gerard Butler for the pronunciation of his name. “That’s a ridiculous affectation that somebody around here used when they came to America!”
Once everyone settled in, Jay Baruchel fielded the first question regarding how he was able to play Hiccup so authentically and if he had to channel his inner rebel. “It was very easy,” he confessed, “I mean, look at me. I spent plenty of time behind closed doors [as a teenager], writing and drawing and doing whatever – escaping into my daydreams.” Then Ferguson leaned over to whisper something in Baruchel’s ear. “That’s not appropriate,” Baruchel responded, but more whispering prompted him to exclaim, “I was training my dragon! Am I right? Am I right? It means masturbation!” After the laughter died down, he continued, “I think for any kind of us weird kids that’s what happens. I think Hiccup’s a great kind of analogy for every kid that isn’t playing sports in high school.”
“I think Hiccup’s a great analogy for every kid,” Butler corrected, “because even when they’re playing sports there’s still that coming-of-age thing where you want to get the girl and you want your friends to love you and you want your dad – your family – to appreciate you. I don’t think there’s any teen in the world who doesn’t go through that process of feeling awkward and feeling the odd one out. I just think it’s very in accordance with myth and history that we all go through that same thing, but I think what Jay is saying is even more appropriate for someone like…Jay who, by the way, still locks himself away to train his dragon. I meant that in the best way!”
America Ferrera added, “Aside from being the outsider and the dorkiness and the wanting to be accepted, I really related to – as a kid – wanting to be great in some way.”
Switching topics, it’s interesting to note that Butler’s character speaks with a Scottish accent, which some may find odd for a Viking. Butler responded by asking, “Why would you choose me when [Jay and America] are doing an American accent? The least Viking accent you can imagine!” As a nod to fellow Scot Ferguson, Butler added, “This was the only movie that I ever made or will make that after watching it for the first time realized that my accent was not Scottish enough, especially after hearing Craig’s. I felt like I was stuck in the middle so I felt like it needed a bit more, because I think a strong Celtic accent lends itself to Viking-ness. I think a strong Celtic accent lends itself to any warrior breed.”
Regarding his favorite part of doing the film, Butler said, “I think maybe the best thing was the treat that you get at the end of it to see it all come together, because really as much as I think everyone in this cast is fantastic, I think the real geniuses are the guys who wrote it, directed it and the animators who created it. Because when you see it you go, ‘Wow!’”
Ferrera, who had seen the film in different stages with rough drawings, echoed his thoughts. “In the scenes where it wasn’t fully animated – where it was a voice to a stick figure – there wasn’t that emotional connection as when the animators do their work and create the humanity in the characters through their animation. They’re more than half the performance, I would say.”
Despite the bawdy humor during the interview, How to Train Your Dragon is completely safe for families looking to have a wholesome time at the theater. Look for my review this Friday.