What Aardman Looks For When Casting Its Movies, According To Early Man's Nick Park

Early Man Aardman

Early Man, the new stop-motion animated film from Aardman Animations, features a seriously impressive cast. Not only does it have Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne playing the lead, but features a supporting cast full of names like Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, and Richard Ayoade. Given the talents of these individuals, it's probably not too much of a surprise that they are involved with the film, but as I recently learned from director Nick Park, hiring them wasn't just about having a big list of names for the credits. Said Park,

The casting has always been so important to us. From our early days when we first did animation, and for me, like with Creature Comforts and Wallace and Gromit. Each actor is kind of handpicked for some extraordinary quality they have that they can bring. Maybe just a quality, obviously their acting ability is key, but it's usually something else that makes them extraordinary.

With Early Man in theaters this weekend, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nick Park earlier this month to talk about the ins and outs of making the latest feature from Aardman Animation, and it was towards the end of our chat that I asked him about the process building the cast. It was in his response that he offered there was a special quality about each of the stars that let him know that they were ultimately the right choice of the roles he put them in for the film.

Thankfully, Nick Park wasn't without some examples either. In the movie, Thor star Tom Hiddleston plays the villainous Lord Nooth -- who fans will recognize has a very different accent than the natural one of its star. The fact that Hiddleston was not only able to pull off a wonderful French inflection, but many different vocal styles, was something that Park actually discovered watching television late one night, seeing his future star on a talk show. Said the filmmaker,

Tom Hiddleston was magnificent; he can do any impression. I saw him on a talk show in the UK, the Graham Norton Show, doing a Robert De Niro impression, and I thought, 'Hmmmmm. Maybe if I approach him...' and he was really up for it... It's a wonderful privilege for me now, with the backlog of work to be able to go to anyone and ask them with a chance they might do it. It's nice!

Aardman Animations certainly has one hell of a track record going back to 2000 when they made their feature debut with Nick Park's Chicken Run. Since then they've made some immensely successful and award-winning films, and certainly that clout helps them close deals -- but it's fun to know that it's not just about the size of a star that makes them a proper fit for an Aardman project.

Early Man, which is the seventh feature from Aardman Animations, arrives in theaters this Friday, February 16th.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.