Interview: Jennifer Love And Breckin Meyer

Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties has even more talking animals than Garfield: The Movie. They got the CGI down so good that they decided to get a little bold. This time, Garfield stows away to London to stop John (Breckin Meyer) from proposing to Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt). Once there, he is mistaken for a royal cat and rules over the royal pets.

Meyer and Hewitt have less to do, but the Garfield producers weren’t about to make a movie without John and Liz. Hewitt says she was asked to do the sequel “a couple of months after [the original] had been out.” Meyer recalled the producers calling him.

“John Davis called and I think kind of jokingly said, ‘I’ll see ya for number two’. I’m like ‘Ha. I’ll talk to you later’. We kind of went off and she was kind of doing her show during production but she was back on her show and I was off doing a movie and it slowly just sort of trickled down with rumors and, ‘Oh, they’re really talking about it. Oh, they actually commissioned Joel and Alec to write a new one’. ‘Well , we’ll see’ and then, just slowly, everything became more real.”

The Garfield sequel is the third movie together for Meyer and Hewitt. They first met on Can’t Hardly Wait so now they are old friends. Hewitt said, “When they called about doing the second one, I was like ‘It’s Breckin and I, right? He’s definitely there?’ because I didn’t know what they were going to do and they said ‘absolutely’ and I was like ‘Sold. Fine. Be there.’ So he was the biggest reason that I wanted to come back and do another one with the opportunity to work together. He’s a really good guy and we have a lot of fun and it doesn’t feel like work when we’re together. It’s fun.”

It’s a good thing Hewitt was having so much fun, because she was using up her free time doing the film. “She was working her ass off on her show doing seventeen hour days five days a week,” Meyer admired. “It was just sick, just sick work and then we had to change our schedule a bit so we worked on a Sunday. We worked every Sunday because that’s the only day she had available so she’d do all her work five days a week, have one day off on Saturday, which was usually filled with fittings for our movie, and then she’d come over on Sunday and work with us. It was great for us because I’m doing the whole week by myself with black beanbag sack and then on Sunday, a much prettier sack would come by and I’d get to act with you. It was lovely. It was a lot of fun. I looked forward to the Sundays.”

It wasn’t always black beanbag sacks. The non-talking animals were good old fashioned stunt pets. “It’s freakish how well-trained some of these animals are,” said Meyer. “Tyler and Chloe play Odie and Chloe is so adorable, the sweetest little dog who only wants to be petted. Tyler could not care less about you. Tyler wants to do his job. When we start goofing off on set, Tyler gets moody. He just wants to act. He’s like the DeNiro dog. It’s lovely. It was a messy outside area by our trailers, damn near disgusting. It kind of became an animal bathroom. I don’t know why they parked out trailers right there.”

Even the glamorous Ms. Hewitt was stationed near the animal pit. “They kept us and all the animals together,” she said. “You’d be in your trailer and you’d hear kaw-KAW.”

The CGI work was easier this time too. In the first Garfield, Meyer had to be careful with any interaction with the CGI cat. Now the technicians gave him free reign. “With the first one, we were a lot more hesitant to do things because it was like, ‘Well, that’s 20 thousand dollars every time you touch him.’ ‘So, okay I won’t touch him. I don’t know how to do this’. With this one, Chris Bailey, the effects guy, told me ahead of time, ‘We’ve kind of streamlined it. We really know what we’re doing now so the more interaction you have with Garfield, the better. So, if you’re sitting there talking to him, it’s actually better if you tickle under his chin or if you goof off with his ears because it make it more believable for the audience. They just give me the freedom of wherever I put them. You get tired throughout the day do I’d be like ‘Garfield, I swear’… [petting him way up high above his own head] and they said, ‘Garfield is not a lion. You can’t touch him way up there’. There were a couple of scenes in the first one where I’m holding nothing and I gave him a pet kind of too hard and in the movie they had to make Garfield kind of scrunch down like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ This one, we definitely had more freedom on.”

With either animal chaos or CGI technicalities, the scenes where Meyer and Hewitt got to just talk to each other were a blessing. “ It’s always fun when you’re doing the CGI stuff, to actually get to work with someone who is real, who’s there,” Meyer said. “That was one of the things, also, that was so great about them adding Billy [Connolly] to this. With a sequel you’re always trying to get bigger and better. They went bigger with going to London and filming at a castle and all the London stuff and interiors at the castle and just the animals, so many more animals. Bulls and walruses. It was crazy. And with Tim Curry doing the voice of Prince. Then when they added Billy and Ian Abercrombie as Smithie, it was so great to have more people to react to. It was refreshing because you do get a little bit worried that you’re just working with a sack all day and it was nice to have Love show up and have Billy there. It was a lot of fun.”

Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties opens Friday.