March 3rd, 2011 by Rachel
In this interview with actress Abigail Breslin, Tribeca Flashpoint student Lyn Niemann continues to explore the new animated feature Rango.
The first of a three-part Rango series.
Actress Abigail Breslin, who voices Priscilla, behind the scenes on RANGO, from Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies. Photo credit: Stephen Vaughan.
An Interview with Abigail Breslin
By Lyn Niemann
Recently, Tribeca Flashpoint was invited to sit down and chat with one of the stars of Rango, Abigail Breslin. Rango is an original animated comedy-adventure which reteams star Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski. It’s a ‘fish-out-of-water” or for those in Aesthetics class, a “stranger-comes-to-town” story about a chameleon in search of his identity. Breslin voices the character “Priscilla.”
We met at a suite in Chicago’s Four Seasons Hotel. And I think I must’ve been half-expecting to see the little girl I was used to seeing on film because I walked right past her as she sat on the sofa. Her mother Kim sat nearby so, I checked around the room and, after realizing my mistake, I apologized and introduced myself.
“Your hair threw me off,” I said. I lied. Everything threw me off. In front of me was not a little girl but a young lady in a tasteful burgundy dress and black pumps. She also didn’t have blond hair. It was still long but it was a very rich, dark auburn. And not the rebellious teen “I colored it myself in the sink” kind of red but a very classy red. And it’s no wonder she wasn’t what I expected. Breslin started this film when she was twelve years old. She is now fifteen.
And while she’s used to the cold as a New Yorker, the day’s temperature in Chicago (-12 degrees) that day was still an adjustment from the balmy Miami weather she had flown from that morning.
“I got off the plane,” she said, “and took a deep breath and I was like (coughing and choking) it’s cold! But I love Chicago so that’s ok. But it’s a little cold. I’m not gonna lie.”
It quickly becomes apparent how mature she seems for fifteen. And she appears to have healthy goals and interests outside of acting besides doing the usual teen stuff like hanging out with her friends. One doesn’t get the idea she’s trying to be someone she’s not and for those reasons, she probably won’t be making headlines anytime soon for unladylike behavior.
I wanted to talk about was “the process.” Verbinski used a rather innovative technique that I term “Organic Vocal Recording” (OVR). In most animated films, actors are isolated from each other while in the recording studio. And it’s a great challenge to capture the mood and feeling of a character in a sterile sound booth. Verbinski chose instead to have the actors perform their scenes together, making use of costumes and props on a sound stage in order to capture the “rawness” he was looking for. I asked her about this technique.
AB: We were all in the same room together so we all were playing off of each other. We had wigs on. We all had a little bit of our costume on so it was fun. And being with each other made it better than being behind a booth.
LN: So, were there sets too?
AB: It was mostly costumes and props but for the rest of it we had like, a door or a box.
LN: And how did that work for you?
AB: It was great. A lot more fun than being by yourself where they choose the best take from each scene from another actor and you just sort of have to work it out like that but, we were actually with each other so if we wanted to change something, we could… Even thought you’re dealing with emotions and putting them into animated form, you still have to rely a lot on your voice to tell a story. You really have to make sure that your voice [is conveying the emotion]. I actually forgot midway through filming that we were filming an animated movie. You get the best of both worlds. [You get the feeling of working on a live action film] with all of these people and you get to see yourself animated.
LN: Was there any improv?
AB: I don’t think, well at least for me, I didn’t do a lot of improv because we were working with such a great script already. I didn’t think we needed to add anything. It was already funny enough.
LN: Any plans to work on Zombieland 2?
AB: I’m definitely interested in it although I’m not sure what’s going on with it. But I enjoyed making the first one so, yeah, definitely. And I have a movie coming up called, “Janie Jones” that I sing in actually.
AB: Yeah, so I’m really excited about that. I actually just wrote and recorded a song with my best friend in New York. And then, I’m also filming a movie in New York called “New Year’s Eve.” … I would love to play Lady Jane Grey. I read a book on her when I was younger and I saw a movie that was made in England in the 80’s with Helena Bonham Carter and so it’s a really sort of tragic story. It’s a part in history that’s really interesting.
LN: So do you have time to go to regular school or are you tutored?
AB: I’m home-schooled. So I do my school online and they grade it. And comment on it. (She says this with a touch of humor that says, “Ugh, school.”) I was having a lot of fun until you brought up school! (She laughs.) … And then of course, when I’m on set I get a tutor for three hours a day unless we can get more in, which is really fun. (Then she pretends to be her tutor) “Oh my gosh, like, you got done so early! Let’s, you know, knock out a math quiz!”
LN: Any plans to take time off and go to college?
AB: Yeah, I’d like to go to college. I’d like to do both. I’d like to major in psychology but I’d like to do acting as well. Be a therapist on the side. (She says with a wry smile.)
LN: So which films did you watch over and over again as a child?
AB: “The Little Mermaid!”… “Quest for Camelot” and the “Goosebumps” series… Some of my favorite films of the year were animated films. And I think the message of this movie really gets to you. It’s all about working together and saving this town and also, to be who you are.