What's in a Gnome?

TFK chats with actor James McAvoy, the voice of Gnomeo in Touchstone Pictures' Gnomeo & Juliet

Feb 11, 2011 | By Vickie An

William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is one of literature's greatest love stories. Now, the famous play is getting an animated, big-screen makeover—starring ceramic lawn ornaments! Touchstone Pictures' Gnomeo & Juliet tells the tale of two garden gnomes who accidentally meet and fall in love. The only problem? A feud between their families means they are forbidden to be together. Will this longstanding quarrel tear the star-crossed gnomes apart? Or will love conquer all? The 3-D adventure hits theaters today.

Actor James McAvoy is the voice of Gnomeo, a blue gnome. Find out what he thought of his first voiceover experience and what he'd do to win over Juliet if he were garden gnome.

TFK:

What did you enjoy most about playing a Romeo-like garden gnome?

MCAVOY:

It was the first animated thing I've ever done, so it was a whole new way of working for me. I had no idea, for example, that I would never get to work with the other actors in the film. It was a bit of a wake-up call. It took me about a session or two to get my head 'round that. But afterward, I really started to enjoy it. Director Kelly Asbury and the whole team were really good fun. I got to go into the studio and express myself and play around and make up a lot of stuff.

TFK:

You've played Romeo on the stage before, but how did you get inside the head of Gnomeo?

MCAVOY:

That's a good question. What's great about Gnomeo is that he [starts off one way] and becomes someone else by the end of the movie. He's a guy who believes that all the red gnomes are jerks! He also believes in himself a lot. He has a rather large ego. Both those things get challenged quite a lot. Also, to play someone who is so open to love as well is quite nice.

TFK:

Have you ever owned any gnomes yourself?

MCAVOY:

I haven't, but my grandparents have got quite a few gnomes in their front garden. It's quite nice to imagine them running around wreaking havoc.

TFK:

What do you imagine gnomes do when humans aren't looking?

MCAVOY:

Hopefully, they're trying to buy Terraferminators, these gas-guzzling lawn mowers in the movie—as sold by Hulk Hogan! I'm amazed that we got him to do a voice in the film. I had no idea until I saw the movie. I think it was one of the funniest bits. It was brilliant to cast him for that role and such a shame that we never got to work together.

TFK:

What is it about garden gnomes that make them so humorous? MCAVOY:

MCAVOY:

I think the fact that it always looks like they're wearing make-up. And they've got really big bums. Those two things together, especially on a male gnome, make them humorous.

TFK:

Gnomeo has some pretty good pick-up lines in the movie. I especially enjoyed, "Who's your gnomey?"

MCAVOY:

I was quite proud of that one! [Laughs] Although, whenever Gnomeo says that, he always gets into trouble.

TFK:

If you were a gnome, what would you do to win a lady gnome's heart?

MCAVOY:

I'd probably take a good look at myself and spiff myself up a little bit. I'd find a nice spot beside the frog pond or the carp pond, if there happened to be one in the garden. Then I'd tell all the other gnomes to stay clear, because I was going to work my magic on her.

TFK:

The great Elton John is the executive producer of Gnomeo & Juliet. What was it like having him as your boss?

MCAVOY:

It was weird knowing that the Elton John was my boss, because I'm a fan of his music. The theme of the entire film is based on his music.

TFK:

What's your favorite Elton John song?

MCAVOY:

That would be "Tiny Dancer."

TFK:

Gnomeo has a nice chat with a statue of Shakespeare. If you could have a conversation with the Bard, what would you talk about?

MCAVOY:

Probably the same things as Gnomeo . . . something along the lines of, "Why do all the people in your plays need to die all the time?"

TFK:

Which character was your favorite?

MCAVOY:

The voice of Hulk Hogan as the Terrafirminator is definitely my favorite. He would tie with Ozzy Osbourne, who plays a deer named Fawn.

TFK:

I don't think I'll ever be able to think of Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of Darkness, again without imagining a cute little deer.

MCAVOY:

He'll be glad to hear that, I think.