When they put three actors together for an interview, it can be hard to find a common thread to all the comments. Sometimes it’s best to just present their banter, since they end up talking amongst themselves more than answering journalist’s questions anyway.
Garry Shandling, Bruce Willis and Wanda Sykes star as voices in Dreamworks Pictures’ Over the Hedge. Shandling is a turtle trying to help his forest family store food for the coming winter. Willis plays R.J., a raccoon helping the animals cross over into suburbia to forage. Sykes plays a skunk.
In an already cramped hotel room at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, the three stars dominated the room with the show they put on.
Bruce Willis: You’re about to witness an experience that we never experienced in the three years of making of this film.
Garry Shandling: We never spent time together but do not misunderstand that the three of us have been in this room at the Regent before under circumstances that will remain private, right?
Q: How hard was it to do these recording sessions all by yourself?
Wanda Sykes: It was difficult for me because I was trying to find the voice for this character. It wasn’t Wanda Sykes. Usually I just show up. People hire me to come in and just be me and just deliver a joke. I’ve never had a character that actually had an arc so it was like, “I might have to act.” I’ve never done that before. I felt very vulnerable. It was very stressful.
GS: I thought I was the sissy.
Bruce Willis: It’s really hard. It’s like standing there in your underwear. You’re just vulnerable. They take away all the tools. Normally you have the other actors in the room and there’s a give and take, especially in comedy.
WS: They really made me stand in my underwear. Why was that?
GS: You guys are lucky you got to wear underwear. I was standing there with nothing. I said, “Is this what everybody’s doing?” They said “yeah” and I said, “What is this flash camera? Don’t sit there, help me. Why are you taking stills? Are we doing everything at once? Can’t I wear something?” It’s what everybody’s doing except you had underwear on.
BW: There was only one time really. It was an experimental thing. I said, “Can I wear the shell that Garry wears?” They had this big human shell when we first started out. I think it didn’t work out for you to do the lines in your big turtle shell. I had it on one time and it was uncomfortable so I just did it in my underwear.
WS: They filmed me in bed. I don’t understand that. I think they thought that that’s when I really stunk it up. I don’t know. It was weird. He had a whole different experience.
BW: I saw some of that. I actually got a DVD out of it. I don’t know if you guys got one.
GS: I don’t know what this alone thing is. I was naked and there were about a hundred people there.
Q: Was it at all like doing standup, being alone?
GS: She’s going to tell you, you’re not alone when you’re doing standup. There’s no interaction [in voice work]. You have nothing to ground you, nothing to connect you. Right?
WS: Yeah, if you’re alone doing standup, that show is cancelled. If you get out there, go, “Hey, what’s up? I’m in Brooklyn tonight, right? No? There’s an audience somewhere waiting for me.” But it isn’t. You’re not alone.
BW: There’s an immediacy to knowing whether you’re funny or not. We had to wait almost three years to see if we were funny. Two and a half years. And then they show you a rough cut of the film and it’s like someone has just done the most complicated Euclidian geometry problem and gone, “Here is the answer.” And you know why? Because everybody’s laughing. At the end of the day, all this sh*t that we went through that was anxiety causing and vulnerability and lost in the woods and all that all goes away because you hear people laughing. That’s the answer to the puzzle they confronted us all with.
Q: How did you get into the mind of the animals?
BW: I actually went out and lived with some woodland creatures for about three weeks. Didn’t get anything from them so that didn’t work. Had to throw all that preparation away. I was bit by a possum. It, apparently, is called an opossum, did you know that? It’s not a possum and they actually do play possum if they are frightened. Did you ever hear that playin’ possum. And can a turtle actually come out of its shell. I thought there should have been more exploded animals. Come on, that was a staple of cartoon characters..
GS: Like Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner.
WS: A stick of dynamite blew him up.
BW: I ton of dynamite could blow and your jaw falls off or your leg falls off. There’s one explosion in this where the umbrella burns up and we plunge to earth.
WS: One of my favorite moments.
GS: When you list actors that you admire, now you would have to go back and add the Road Runner. Now you can see the difficulty of running into a wall that is painted like a cave and pick yourself up and say, “What are you telling me to do? I would be dead if I did that.” Am I right?
BW: Or getting run over by a steam roller and you’re flat and then just picking yourself up. I thought there should be more of that.
Q: You guys are running wild here. Did you all ad-lib at your sessions?
BW: Yeah, encouraged to in fact.
GS: Those guys are supportive.
BW: I’m not sure if it’s still in the film or not. There were so many things that got tried and because the story and the script continued to change and the animation had to move on a parallel track along with that that I don't know what’s in the film now or not.
CC: Did they film you and incorporate your gestures into the character?
BW: Yes, but you forgot about it because it was a tiny little lipstick camera. I always forgot it was there. In trying to get to some of the wackiness of R.J., I would do stuff and go “Arrrr” or have a look on my face or whatever. And then when I saw the rough cut I said, “They took that animation based on what I did when I was doing the voice.” Somebody though said, “I didn’t recognize your voice in there” and that was surprising. I don't know what that means, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing but the only thing that I found safety in was I never thought, “This is what a raccoon would do in this situation.” I thought, “What would a human being, what would a guy that’s alone do in this situation?”
Q: Would you like to do voices again?
GS: I would never want to do anything live-action again. I wish this was animated. I wish you were all animals.
BW: Furry woodland creatures.