Updated: Nicolas Cage Channels Mel Blanc in ‘G-Force’?

You’d think that headline’s just an attention-grabbing teaser to get you to read this.

Well… it is, but it’s also not far from what Nicolas Cage is claiming in a video interview with CBS 11 in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX on providing the voice of the mole “Speckles” in Disney’s live-action/CGI feature film G-Force:

“I played a mole in this movie,” says Cage. “And I didn’t want to play the guinea pigs because they’re the heroes, and they have to look…and talk a certain way. But if you play a mole, all bets are off and you can go any direction you want. And that’s the direction I wanted to go in…[does Speckle’s voice] this strange voice.”

Cage adds, “I have an interest in Mel Blanc, who I grew up with, who did all the voices of the Looney Tunes characters.* One man — Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam — and that’s pretty incredible. So I thought, ‘Is there a way I can maybe…channel that.'” [* See my note at the close of this article for a correction on Cage’s statement.]

At the close of the video, the interviewer says they will talk Thursday, July 23rd, with Tracy Morgan, voice of Blaster.

Update: 7.24.2009 — Cage tells CNN, “Mel Blanc is a hero because of what he could do with his voice for all the Looney Tunes, the Warner Brothers cartoons, to be the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig. To me, he’s a great actor. I mean, one of the great character actors, and I knew that if I was gonna be in this movie, I’d want to do something like that and transform my voice.”

Cage also told Business 24/7 that Mel Blanc is one of his “favorite actors…because he created so many different characters.”

In CNN’s interview, Cage describes Speckles as “an outsider…an iconoclast — he doesn’t fit in. He doesn’t get into the fray with the ‘G-Force,’ the other guinea pigs. But his IQ is off the charts, and he’s a technological wizard.” And he adds that he is “comfortable” playing a mole:

“I’m comfortable with the mole, yeah. I mean, yeah, he’s different, he’s got issues, you know? I don’t want a perfect character, I want a character who has, as strange as it sounds, some humanity, some flaws, some needs. But to be fair, I’m not in a lot of this movie. This is Darwin’s movie, um Sam Rockwell and Penelope Cruz’s movie — they’re the stars. I’m only in it at the beginning and the end.”

Cage also tells CNN that he enjoys animated movies and “loves anime” and cites Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle as favorites.

He expands on this in the interview with Business 24/7 when he refers to G-Force as a “beautiful” film:

I’m very excited about the future of animation. I have to admit, I have a soft spot for hand-drawn animation in the grand Disney tradition – those movies in the ’30s, like Pinocchio, are drop-dead gorgeous. But I realize this is a new age and a new era of animation with computer graphics.

I think G-Force has a wonderful look to it. I think Finding Nemo is as gorgeous as Pinocchio, in its own way. And the 3D aspect is great. I always want to feel like I’m near the cutting edge. That to me is exciting, and I haven’t had a chance to make a 3D movie yet, so when I heard about this, I was thrilled.

Cage adds that he likes movies that combine live-action and animation:

I have always enjoyed that mix. I enjoyed this 1960’s movie called The Incredible Mister Limpet, where Don Knotts falls into the ocean and becomes an animated fish. It was different for the time. There was that great mix again with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It’s a great genre, and I’d like to see more of it. The interaction between the live-action and the animation in this film is one of its most fun elements.

Cage further explains his performance as Speckles to MTV (link includes video interview):

“I wasn’t going to play a guinea pig,” Cage told MTV. “That wasn’t going to happen.”

Bruckheimer said he could play whichever creature most appealed to him. Cage, who was feeling the strain of the intense “Treasure” shoot, asked if could use a humorous, high-pitched voice he often employed to relieve tension — a voice he was actually trying out on the “Treasure” set.

“The voice was what I call my frustrated, stressed voice,” Cage explained. “This is a voice that I sometimes resort to if I’m feeling just that. And it’s an octave or two higher than my normal voice — this way I don’t resort to profanity or yelling. And I start talking in that voice, I just immediately start laughing because it’s so stupid and so ridiculous that I can’t help but not take anything too seriously.”

When asked by Business 24/7 what was important for him to bring to the voice and performance of Speckles, Cage says, “I had to create a new voice that was unrecognizable from my own vocal patterns. It was also important for me to go into an area that has a kind of zany intensity to it. To me, that’s what would make Speckles fun to play.”

G-Force opens in theaters Friday, July 24th, and features the voices of Sam Rockwell (Darwin), Penelope Cruz (Juarez), Tracy Morgan (Blaster), Steve Buscemi (Bucky), John Favreau (Hurley), Dee Bradley Baker (Mooch), and director Hoyt Yeatman and Max Favreau (kin to John?) as the voices of the mice. Also, Will Arnett (voices in Sit Down, Shut Up, Monsters vs Aliens, Horton Hears a Who!, Ratatouille, Ice Age: The Meltdown) has a live-action role in the movie as FBI agent Kip Killian.

Elsewhere on the web:

MonstersandCritics.com has photos from the Hollywood premiere.
Movieweb.com has video interviews with Nic Cage and Tracy Morgan.
Movieweb has an interview with Sam Rockwell.
USA Today has a video interview with Tracy Morgan.
MovieJungle.com has video interviews with Will Arnett, Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan, Nic Cage, and John Favreau.
Trailer Addict has an interview with Sam Rockwell.
NewsBlaze.com has an interview with Tracy Morgan.
Access Hollywood has a video interview with Nic Cage discussing his “voice for Speckles and how he looked to …Mel Blanc for inspiration.”
MTV has a video interview with Tracy Morgan.

Previous report: 4.03.2009 — Celebrity Voice Acting Round-Up

* Correction on Nicolas Cage’s statment:

Of course I hold nothing against Nic Cage, because I welcome anyone who’s a fan of Mel Blanc, but it’s a common misnomer that Mel did “all” the Looney Tunes characters’ voices.

Many other great talents provided voices for Warner Bros’ classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, most notably: Arthur Q. Bryan (original voice of Elmer Fudd), June Foray (Granny, Witch Hazel), Stan Freberg (Pete Puma), Kent Rogers (original voice of Beaky Buzzard and Junyer Bear), Billy Bletcher (Papa Bear), Joe Dougherty (original voice of Porky Pig), and several others who provided incidental and supporting character voices. (Wikipedia has a more complete listing, thanks to the animation fans who have contributed there.)

Of all the actors who recorded voices for Warner Bros. cartoons over the course of four decades, it was only Mel who received screen credit for “Voice Characterizations,” which Mel finally achieved in 1944 when studio head Leon Schlesinger rejected Mel’s request for a pay raise, so Mel settled for screen credit instead.

And FYI, here’s another bit of Mel Blanc trivia: Contrary to popular myth, Mel Blanc was not allergic to carrots. Here’s an excerpt from Mel’s 1988 autobiography, That’s Not All, Folks!:

I don’t especially like carrots, at least not raw. And second, I found it impossible to chew, swallow, and be ready to say my next line. We tried substituting other vegetables, including apples and celery, but with unsatisfactory results. The solution was to stop recording so that I could spit out the carrot into a wastebasket and then proceed with the script. In the course of a recording session I usually went through enough carrots to fill several. Bugs Bunny did for carrots what Popeye the Sailor did for Spinach. How many lip-locked, head-swelling children were coerced into eating their carrots by mothers cooing, “…but Bugs Bunny eats HIS carrots.” If only they had known.

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