Synopsis : From Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation comes the story of Sam Greenfield, the unluckiest person in the world! Suddenly finding herself in the never-before-seen Land of Luck, she must unite with the magical creatures there to turn her luck around.
Rating: G / Genre: Comedy / Original Language: English
Director: Peggy Holmes /Producer:David Eisenmann, David Ellison, Dan Goldberg, John Lasseter, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger / Writer:Keil Murray
Release Date (Streaming): Aug 5, 2022
Interview with Actor Simon Pegg
Q: Do you believe in bad luck?
SP: I believe that we make our own luck. There’s no other agency at work giving us good and bad [luck]. I think that luck is something that we create in terms of how we respond to the opportunities that we’re given. Sometimes, things can feel like bad luck, like you drop your toast on the buttered side, or all the lights are red when you’re trying to get home at night. But ultimately it’s just the ebb and flow of reality.
As human beings we just like to “blame” stuff — if something goes wrong, it can’t be our fault. Or somebody has something against us — it’s like, “Oh, this entity has a grudge against me.” It’s not true. But I do believe that we create our own opportunities, and if you want to call that luck, then that’s fine by me.
Q: This is the first animated film from Skydance; you’ve worked with Skydance over the years. So who picked you and how did they pitch you?
SP: It just came in. Obviously I have a relationship with Skydance, as you say, because of “Mission Impossible” and “Star Trek,” so I’m familiar with the team there. Basically, I got a note with a picture of Bob and a description of the character, and it felt like a no-brainer: “Oh, this is going to be great fun.” So it was an email pitch, I guess.
Nothing beats seeing the character. When you do an animation, if you see a picture of the character you immediately start thinking about, what do they speak like? What are they like? So it was a smart way to do it, rather than somebody just saying “Hey, do you want to play a black cat?” It was like, here he is.
Q: Since this movie is about luck, for you personally, do you think you’re more like Sam [Eva Noblezada] or more like Bob in real life?
SP: [laughs] That’s a difficult question, because the ebb and flow of luck for Bob and Sam changes as it goes. For Sam, because she’s so unlucky, she’s almost… Well, it’s a fantasy story, I don’t think anybody is quite as unlucky as Sam. But I feel I’ve been lucky through my life and career insofar as good things have happened to me. It’s tempting to refer to those things as luck.
I think we take ourselves out of the equation a little bit when we talk about luck because, as I said, we make our own luck. We’re given certain opportunities, things happen to us and it’s all about what we do with them, how we process them. I’m probably a combination of Bob and Sam, if you will. Maybe a little black cat called Sam.
Q: Your style of comedy is very physical.
How did you get that to translate in the animation with just your voice?
SP: The great thing about doing voiceovers — and I guess it’s always been this way — is that you are filmed at the same time as you’re doing your voice. Even though you’re channeling everything into your voice, it’s impossible to give the required performance unless you physicalize it while you’re doing it. Otherwise it would feel unconvincing because you wouldn’t be able to hear that physicality in the voice.
I just give it everything on the day, as long as I keep in front of the microphone and don’t go off here or there. They film it, so the animators can then look at the video of my voiceover.
They can look at my facial expressions and physical behavior, and then can add that to the animation.
It’s more than just my voice, it’s also how I physicalized it in the studio. That’s impossible not to do because you’re trying to put everything you can into your voice. I’m doing it now: how we gesticulate, how we move when we talk, I have to do all of that. A lot of what Bob is doing on the screen, I’m doing in the studio — apart from changing gravity. That was difficult.
Q: The director Peggy Holmes has an interesting career — dancer, choreographer — but this is animation. So what element as a director stood out for you as director?
SP: Peggy is really enthusiastic and with Bob, she was really invested in the material. She worked closely with the writer [Kiel Murray]. The writer was there when we did our sessions in case anything came up to change it. But she was really great at keeping the energy high and making sure that the voice artists — I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure she did this with Eva and Whoopie [Goldberg] and Jane [Fonda] — constantly felt excited because she would get excited about the work. That’s really helpful in a voice session. You need the energy to keep delivering high energy performances, and Peggy was great at doing that.
I don’t know if that was anything from her previous incarnations. She’s incredibly talented. But for us as the voice actors, it was all about her enthusiasm which we never, ever wanted.
Q: You have a career in which you explore different genres and now you approach this kind of project with [your] animated voice. What did you like the most about it?
SP: It’s a very different discipline to live action. It’s a really interesting process. It’s exhausting. You think you’re just standing still, seemingly, in a room and talking, it would be less tiring than hanging off a plane or something. But at the end of every session you come out completely drained, because you put everything into your voice. Everything is a little bigger because all your expressions and physicality increases a bit as well, because you want to try and push it through the camera to the animators. It’s a really, really fun thing to do. Obviously, as an actor, I want to do as many different things as possible to keep my job interesting. And it’s fun. I really really relish the opportunity to work with great animators, great voice actors and great directors like Peggy.
Q: You mentioned that when you saw the email, you looked at the picture of the cat, Bob, and you started imagining what kind of voice he had. Obviously, Bob speaks differently from you and needed to have a Scottish accent. Earlier this year, you did another “Ice Age” movie [“The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild”] and of course Buck [his character] speaks differently. How did you decide on the voice?
SP: Bob’s accent was very region-specific because he is a Scottish black cat. In the United Kingdom, black cats are lucky in Scotland but they’re unlucky in England. So he very much had to be a Scottish black cat. Having done a Scottish accent before in “Star Trek” and having a Scottish family — my wife is Scottish, so half of my family is Scottish, I’m very glad — it was fun to get back and do an accent that I was used to doing and comfortable doing. They always pull me up: if I get it wrong at all, they tell me. So I’m dreading them seeing it in case I did.
But I feel like it’s something I’m used to doing now. The starting point was the fact that he was a Scottish black cat, and then I worked with Peggy to finesse the nuances of who he was and how he spoke.
Q: When people feel unlucky sometimes, they do something to hopefully bring good luck. Do you have any particular way or habit to bring good luck to you?
SP: When I was younger I was more superstitious and inclined to believe in good and bad luck, those kinds of talismans and stuff. There’s a good luck and bad luck tradition in the UK which is: if you see one magpie it’s bad luck, if you see two magpies it’s good luck. There’s other things for subsequent numbers. It’s “one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told”.
If I ever saw one magpie, the way to ward off the bad luck is you have to spit. Now that would obviously be extremely inconvenient if I was inside and saw one at the window. And I would often quietly just [light spit three times] — just to ward off bad luck. But as I say, that was when I was younger and believed in such hocus-pocus nonsense.
Q: One of the major themes that runs through your body of work is the idea of hope — which definitely shines through as luck as well. Why is that personally important to you?
SP: I think hope is a realistic emotion. We’re not depending on anything else for hope. Hope is very personal and subjective. We hope for good things, and we do everything we can to affect those good things or to make good things happen — anything that’s within our power. Hope is a really important human emotion.
It’s more of a realistic idea than, say, faith, which is blind hope. It’s like you’re relying on something that you don’t even know is real. You’re trusting that it’s real because other people have told you that it is or whatever. It’s okay and good to have faith in people and things because that’s a version of trust, in a way. You have to be clever with it though.
Hope is what keeps us going even in the darkest moments of our worst luck, as we might see it.
Hope is the thing that keeps the lights on, because it’s the idea that maybe things will get better, and we will have “good luck.” It’s an important thing to keep alive.
Q: What was it like working with a lead actress Eva Noblezada? She came from Broadway, “Miss Saigon” among others.
SP: As is often the case in animation, I didn’t meet Eva until after we had completed our voice work. Peggy played me some stuff, and obviously I was aware of Eva’s work and knew she was a big star on Broadway. She has an amazing voice and a great presence. So it was exciting to know that I was working with this talent even though I hadn’t met her or had any kind of experience with her.
Since then, we’ve hung out and done promotions for the movie together. The chemistry that we have in real life is similar to the chemistry that Bob and Sam have. That’s a testament to how great Eva is and what she brings to the role. She’s an incredible talent, and utterly irresistible as well in terms of her vulnerability, positivity and the sweetness that she brings to Sam.
It is a weird thing. Often with animation, you’re never with the other people in the same room. It’s nice in a way, because it’s all about you on those days, just you. But at the same time, you never get the back-and-forth that you get from live action. Thankfully, Eva and I developed a chemistry before we met, and it seemed to work.
Here’s the trailer of the film.