- Category: Interviews
- Published: Thursday, 07 July 2016 16:35
- Written by Justine Browning
The family-friendly SECRET LIFE OF PETS boosts an impressive cast that breaths life into vividly sketched characters.
Max (Louis C.K.) is a terrier living a privileged life in New York. But when his owner brings home a temperamental canine (Eric Stonestreet), he finds himself on his way to the pound. With the help of a rebellious rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart), Max is able to escape his doomed fate. Little does he know, Snowball is expecting a great deal in return.
At a recent press day for the film, held in Jersey City, C.K. and Hart discussed getting in touch with their animal instincts, being a part of a lighter project and the role fatherhood plays in the films they gravitate towards.
What was your reaction when you got the role, especially a character with two sides? And Louis, how did you get in the head of the dog? How did you see the world? How did you provide the input from a dog’s perspective?
Kevin Hart: Very good question, sir. That was a double banger. Answer to my first part: you know, I was excited. This is my first animation film. Nothing gets you more excited than seeing your character, seeing that your character has two sides. They showed me a picture of the bunny when he was very nice and adorable, and then they flipped the page and he was grabbing his ears and stuff, and his eyes were angry. They said “Kevin, we want you to bring your personality to this bunny. Give us the cute, cuddly side but at the same time make it believable that this guy can start a revolution and have people follow him.” I jumped at the opportunity. You [Louis CK] got the second half.
Louis CK: I got the second half. This movie always made sense to me, that’s why I decided to do it. A dog living in New York City-- I live in New York, and you have this tension between your little home, everybody’s home in New York is small and intimate, and the giant city, the chaos of the city. I always understood Max. Also, dogs are very transparent. They’re easy to read, so I get dogs. Every time we’d be doing a scene and the dog is desperate for the woman to come home, I get it. I totally get it. In a way, when you play another species you can more easily get rid of parts of yourself. Dogs don’t have a timeline in their heads, they don’t have any confidence in the future. They just believe that whatever they’re feeling is what they’ll always feel. I try to remember that.
One of the things that’s really great about this film and the characters is that while on the one hand they seem confident, at the same time there’s a certain inner neediness that you guys have been successful in expressing. Maybe you also express it in your other work. Can you talk about how you taped into that inner neediness?
Louis: These are domestic creatures, too, so they’re really dependent on people. And so they really need someone, to feel ok. You can give a dog all his treats and toys and a bag of food, and he’s not happy unless you’re there. You take a dog out of that, and he’s going to be very upset. That’s easy to relate to, I think. Even with each other, the imagination in this movie is that they go and try to form their own sense of family. [Kevin]’s a rejected animal, who’s flushed down the toilet.
Kevin: Well… He wasn’t flushed down, he was just left behind.
Louis: I think the rabbit is pretty literally flushed down the toilet.
Kevin: I mean, we all end up in the sewer but he wasn’t technically flushed.
Louis: I totally thought that he was flushed down the toilet.
Kevin: The thing about my character is that he’s very insecure. If you guys don’t pick up anything else from Snowball… upon him setting the tone, and being a leader, there’s also a strong sense of doubt in everything he does. With every order that he gives, there’s a question behind it of “was that too much? Do you guys get why I said that? You guys heard? Everybody following me, you guys get why? Raise your hands. Alright nevermind, put it down, maybe that’s too much.” It’s always a lot, and that’s one of the main things that the director talked about. You wanted to ground the guy, and if he just has one note, that one note isn’t that good. It’s not fun to track. But being that he’s all over the place and kind of a mess, when he comes full circle you get why he comes full circle. Ultimately, he wants the same thing that Max and Duke want, which is love. They want that attention, the security that comes with having an owner.
As performing artists, and fathers yourselves, what’s the worst thing and best thing about being an artist and parent as well? Has it changed over the years since you’re so successful now?
Kevin: I think the one amazing thing about being an artist or an entertainer is providing for your family. As a man, you want to be able to give the security to your woman and to your kids, and build a foundation. That’s the plus. But the gift is a curse. The curse is that we have to work: we’re travelling people. Our job doesn’t keep us stable. We’re gone, and sometimes being gone is tough when you’re close to your kids, as Louis and myself [are]. I think it’s a balance that you have to find, and when you find it you run like a well-tuned engine. There are no bumps along the road, because your kids now have an understanding of what their father does and why he does it at the capacity that he does it at. An understanding comes along the way. As a father, you have to make sure that your kids understand that, you have to make sure that you’re instilling those positive images in their head of what Daddy does, and why he’s doing what he’s doing.
Louis: I have sort of the reverse, which is that… I mean Kevin’s 36, he’s a young dad. I’m 48, and my daughter is 14. I find that I can spend more time with my kids, because I have a little more control. If you work in a factory, you can’t go to the factory boss like “I want to go with my kids to the park or something.” You know, fuck you, go to work. So I have a little more control over my life in that sense. Also, it’s a nice model for your kids that you can do something you love and make a living off of it. It’s not realistic, that’s why I get worried sometimes. I always tell my kids, “this isn’t normal. You may have to do something that’s not your favorite thing, and still make a living.” I think the most important thing you can give your kids is an education on how to take care of yourself. It’s a challenge actually, as this showbusiness dad, to model normal taking-care-of-yourself behavior, even though what you’re really doing is making stupid movies and standing on your head and making people laugh, and getting a disproportionate amount of money compared to your actual contribution.
How does it feel different to make an animated project for kids and families now, how’s that?
Louis: It’s nice to make something your kids can watch, that’s a nice thing. My kids can’t see anything I make, except for this.
Kevin: I’m the opposite.
Louis: However long this movie is, it’s the only thing they can watch,.
Kevin: I let my kids watch everything I do. “You go to school and you recite Daddy’s lines to your friends.” No, no, I’m joking. It is good. You want to have material that your kids can watch, can watch with you and laugh. I guess they can say “that’s my dad.” The other things that I do, I can’t let them watch them at this age. There’s some things that they’ve watched, just because you’re their dad, you want to be able to say they saw it with you. But for the most part, animation is the right way to go and I’m glad that I was able to squeeze one in before they get too old.
Kevin, I read an article that said Hollywood is hiding our biggest black actors behind animation and a lot of makeup. Do you feel that Hollywood is really doing that, or that all opportunities are great?
Kevin: I think people will look for any excuse to play the race card in Hollywood. In this day and age, it is what it is. You want it to be more diversified, you want to see more diversity, but a lot of people draw attention to it by talking about it. If you just work and progress, you eventually put yourself into a position where you can help the problem by bringing more people into the business. When you draw negative attention, you’re only going to get a negative response. I don’t believe in adding to it. I bust my ass and do what I’m supposed to. I’ve been promoting movies internationally now for the last 4 years. They said movies don’t transfer to black actors internationally. I don’t feed into that. I do what I do. If other people did the same, you’d look up and see more multicultural films being received by so many more people. I would just say, instead of looking for a reason to say “look at that,” look at the people who are in those positions and applaud them. Applaud those actors that are in those animated movies, regardless of color of skin. They’re working, and creating opportunities for others.