2012 Summer Movie Guide

Eyes on the Pirate Prize

Actor Hugh Grant and director Peter Lord chat about working on The Pirates! Band of Misfits, now playing

April 27, 2012
Aardman Animations for Sony Pictures Animation

The Pirate Captain, voiced by Hugh Grant, stands with his loyal crew aboard their ship.

Prepare to set sail for an adventure on the high seas with Aardman Animation’s The Pirates! Band of Misfits, in theaters today. The 3-D animated tale is based on a book in the Pirates! series, by British author Gideon Defoe. The film follows the Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) and his loyal crew as they try to win the annual Pirate of the Year Award. There’s just one tiny problem: They are really terrible at what they do. Can the bumbling gang get their act together in time to take home the prize?

Recently, Grant and the film’s director, Peter Lord, sat down with reporters in New York City. Read what they had to say about making the stop-motion film. Click here to watch a separate video interview with Lord.

Q:

Peter, what made Hugh Grant the best actor for the role of the Pirate Captain?

PETER LORD:

The biggest selling point for me about Hugh is his physique and his luxuriant beard. [Laughs.] No, the big selling point for me was his ability to do comedy.

Pirates! star Hugh Grant attends a special screening of the film in New York City.
Amanda Schwab—SPE, Inc.
Pirates! star Hugh Grant attends a special screening of the film in New York City.

Q:

Hugh, how did you prepare for the part?

HUGH GRANT:

Well, I panicked, really. I read it on the page, and I thought, “Oh, that’s not very me.” Then I looked at the model of the Pirate Captain that they had built, and I thought, “Oh, that’s really not me at all.” I realized I was going to have to do some acting. So, I just started experimenting with silly voices, and the character came to me that way.

But every time I thought, “Okay, I’m in character now,” they would stop recording voiceovers for three months. I would go away, the filmmakers would do some animating, and then I’d come back having forgotten the character again. But my touchstone was always the Pirate Captain’s beard. I thought if I stroked my beard, I’d become the Pirate Captain. [Grant pretends to stroke a beard on his chin.] I did a lot of beard stroking.

Q:

Did you ever want to be a pirate when you were a kid?

GRANT:

No, I can’t say I did. I really wanted to be in the U.S. cavalry, and I still haven’t given up hope entirely.

Q:

Did you get to record with any of the other actors?

GRANT:

No, on the whole, there was a brilliant all-purpose actor who read the other parts. Otherwise, it was just Peter Lord standing next to me being extremely critical and difficult.

LORD:

There was one session Hugh did with David Tennant [who voices scientist Charles Darwin] and one with Imelda Staunton [who voices Britain’s Queen Victoria].

Q:

Speaking of the historical figures of Darwin and Queen Victoria, the film gives a funny portrayal of those two. What did you think when you read the script?

GRANT:

That was a big plus. I hate those two! I’ve always hated them. [Laughs.]

Director Peter Lord on the set of his new stop-motion animated film, The Pirates! Band of Misfits.
Aardman Animations for Sony Pictures Animation
Director Peter Lord on the set of his new stop-motion animated film, The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Q:

Was it challenging not having the energy of the other actors to feed off of for your performance?

GRANT:

No. The all-purpose actor was so brilliant. People are always going on about how, as actors, it’s so important for us to work off each other. But in a way, animated films sort of reveal the lie to that because you do the voiceovers alone, the filmmakers stick it together in the editing room, and then it sounds fine!

Q:

Are there any messages in the film that you’d like audiences to take away?

LORD:

“Message” is a strange word. I don’t think people come to the theater for a moral lesson. But I think they can come away from this movie feeling uplifted. If they come away from the film feeling happy because they had fun watching it, then that’s enough for me.

GRANT:

Oh, I think there are a lot of hidden lessons in there—don’t trust monkey butlers.

Q:

Did you learn anything from this experience for your next animated film?

GRANT:

I learned that I could relax a bit doing animated movies. I mean, I love to panic to the point of paralysis. But actually, the animators do 90% of the work. You just have to be in the right ballpark. Also, realize they are only paying you a fraction of what you normally get paid, so give them a fraction of your normal effort.

LORD:

This film was bigger and more ambitious than anything we’ve done before. But it was also easier because of the improved technology. I trusted my team, so I felt like I could sit back and relax a little bit. I tried not to worry so much about the details, which animated filmmakers tend to do. Just sit back at the controls, put it on cruise control, and go.

GRANT:

That’s all rubbish, by the way. I’ve never seen a more hands-on director obsessed with minutiae.


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