Q: What was it like working with the talented Angela Lansbury?
JC: Can I tell you something? Sheâs incredibly tough. 4 oâclock in the morning, sheâs up running us all ragged. Sheâs unbelievable, enthusiastic, completely into it. I dream of being that enthusiastic at that point in my career. Itâs fantastic to watch. It was amazing to work with her.
Q: Youâve done visual effects movies before. Does it get any easier in terms of working with effects? Did you know from looking at the script when youâd be dealing with little âxâsâ and when thereâd be actual creatures there?
JC: I didnât really have any idea how we were going to go about it on a day to day basis. What happened was I loved working with the real penguins. The animatronic penguins were a little bit of an issue because everybody has a cell phone or some kind of plate in their head or some kind of electronic gizmo or whatever these days â iPads and things coming out of everywhere â and so you get guys on joy sticks going âIs that you? Itâs not me. Is that you?â His head is like Jacobâs ladder as Iâm trying to act with the penguin. We opted for a lot of CG stuff but most of it is real penguins because I love working with animals. I like to join their energy and often times weâd come in on the set and they wouldnât be there and weâd be ready to work with the âxâsâ on the floor or little tennis balls or whatever it is and youâd hear them off in the distance in their habitat going âHonk.â Theyâd be interrupting the dialogue anyway. Weâd go âThey might as well be here. Bring them on in.â A lot of times we did that at the last minute. And they made love. There was no hanky panky on the set but the penguins were going at it â Iâm just sayinâ â which is always a good sign apparently.
Q: If you inherited penguins, like your character did, what would you do?
JC: Eat them, probably!
Q: Iâve always admired how expressive you can be with your face. I remember reading that you used to practice in front of the mirror, so Iâm wondering, are you still finding new things you can do with your face?
JC: Well my face kind of operates on its own nowadays. It just does what it wants to do. Sometimes itâs appropriate and sometimes itâs not. Sometimes in the editing room weâll go âThatâs not human! I want to take that out. Wait a second! Eyebrows arenât supposed to be able to do that! Thatâs going to distract people flat out.â But I find Iâm still doing things, little tricks and fun things that I created when I was 10 years old. All of it comes into play. And the play you do when youâre a kid is so super important. Iâm so lucky that my life didnât get turned upside down until I was 11 because I had a lot of great play and a lot of creativity that still comes into play for me.
Q: I love the fact that you were able to work in some of your old school stand-up like your Jimmy Stewart impression. To what extent does your experience in stand-up help in a performance like this?
JC: It certainly makes you more comfortable with yourself and comfortable being creative in the moment. I mean, working with the penguins, you can have a plan but theyâre going to do what theyâre going to do and you have to be kind of on your feet. Itâs all great training. I used to think of it as training, going up night after night without a plan at the Comedy Store. Two-thirds of the time people would throw chairs at me and a third of the time it would be a flow that was really kind of God given and you felt lucky to be a part of and that made me comfortable.
Q: Can you talk about the inspiration behind using footage of Charlie Chaplinâs âlittle trampâ slapstick routine in the film?
JC: Well, you know, it was Mark [Water]âs idea to bring that to the film and of course I went along with it completely because I just felt like thereâs a person who âŚ I donât think itâs a conscious thing on his behalf, but it was a great parallel â the way he walks as a tramp and moves as a tramp and that penguin thing. He has somehow captured that same kind of waddling, you know, something vulnerable that the penguins have. I think thatâs why we love penguins because they donât belong anywhere. Theyâre wobbly and vulnerable and theyâre not really fish and theyâre not really birds and thatâs how I feel and probably a lot of people.
Q: During the shooting, the environment had to be really cold because of the penguins. How uncomfortable was it working like that?
JC: Basically, the set was so cold that I was fighting pneumonia the entire time. I donât know about anybody else, but I was like OxyContin or whatever they call it. Iâm Canadian so I have a little background with that [cold weather]. It wasnât even about the health of the penguins, it was because theyâre Method. Thatâs what I found out. But then there was going outside when it was 75 and 80 degrees, before the giant snowstorm hit, in five layers of clothing and a parka. That was an odd, weird mix to act with.
Q: What was it like ice skating in Central Park in Wollman Rink? Was that one of your favorite locations?
JC: Definitely one of them for sure , [also] the Flat Iron and Guggenheim. The Guggenheim was odd because I felt like I was falling downhill the whole time. There was that downhill kind of thing going on. They would have to mop me down at the rink because Iâm Canadian so I got the skates on and âGoodbye! Iâm not filming anymore. Iâm now fantasizing about the Stanley Cup.â Iâm shooting pucks against the boards and I was drenched with sweat the whole night. I definitely say the Rink because it has special memories for me too. Iâve been there several times myself and I just love to skate. When I put a skate on the ice, Iâm free from the world and I have no problems at all. Iâm a bird. A penguin, yes.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory or funny story about working with the penguins?
JC: I got bit a lot. I got nipped here and there. It was a good thing. I loved that dinner scene which was supposed to be them sitting in their chairs just pecking fish off the plates. It was funny because they had the camera in my face and then it would dolly back. We didnât really know what I was going to do with it. And they had the wranglers with broom poles separating and holding back the penguins like a horse race or something while their heads were trying to get at the fish. And then theyâd go, âOkay, Jim. Ready? Go!â It should be called distracting because itâs mayhem basically. I just had to stay in it and have fun with it. When stuff like that happens, inside Iâm going âYes, yes! Go wild!â So that was a good memory.
Q: Youâre so talented, but what would you do if you were not an actor?
JC: What would I do? Well I wanted to be a veterinarian for about a week of my life when I was a kid, but then I found out about the whole euthanasia thing and I said âI canât commit to that. Sorry! I canât do it.â But really, since the very beginning, I looked at my father and he was commanding the room. Every time we had people over, he stood in the middle of the room and people were just astounded at his creativity and his animation when he told a story. There was no choice for me. I was just like âThatâs how Iâm going to get over in the world. I want to be that guy.â
Q: You talked earlier about new ways of expressing yourself and youâre such a creative guy, what are some of the ways you express yourself that we might not even know about, either through sports or charity or a favorite passion of yours?
JC: I have a lot of things going on. At a certain point in my life for a long time I was harnessing it in one direction. It seemed to be a few years ago, things just seemed to be kind of spilling over the edges and I couldnât control it so much anymore. I kind of let it go wherever it goes. I do have philanthropic concerns. I try not to make it too loud. I have something called SRI that Iâm involved with promoting. Itâs called System of Rice Intensification, but itâs not just for rice. Itâs also for other crops. Iâve been spreading that. Iâve been going around the world on a grassroots level directly to the farmers teaching a method of growing rice that uses 50% less water and 90% less seed and yields four times as much rice. Itâs an incredible thing. If you want to check it out and see what itâs about, itâs on the Better U Foundation website (betterufoundation.org) which is my foundation. And creatively, thereâs Twitter (laughs). But I also paint a lot and this is a huge passion for me. So, when Iâm not acting, I literally wake up every morning and I have my coffee and I pick up a paintbrush and itâs not just something I do on the sunporch. I have a studio in New York â and I havenât revealed [although] Iâve leaked out a couple of little things here and there â there is one in the movie. One of my paintings is in the movie. Itâs in the TV den in one of the scenes. Itâs one of my paintings, but theyâre all over the place.
Q: Is it impressionistic?
JC: Conceptual, impressionistic. I have a painting right now that Iâm doing in New York that Iâve spent 200 hours on. I canât wait to get back because I have about 5 more days. Itâs 16 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Itâs a black light painting actually. Itâs definitely viewable in the daylight. Itâs a normal painting, but when you turn the black lights on, everything lights up and people come out of the dark and itâs kind of interesting. So yeah, thereâs a whole other realm for me thatâs happening that I havenât really revealed to the world yet but I will.
Q: I know youâve gotten very spiritual in the last few years. Did you see Tom Shadyacâs film âI Amâ and is that compatible with your beliefs?
JC: Yes, I did. I think a lot of it is and some of it isnât. I think he should look at what weâve done in Hollywood as also a spiritual thing. I think thatâs a very important thing â what we did together.
Q: Has becoming a granddad changed you at all? Are you excited about that?
JC: Of course. Jacksonâs fantastic. I just hung out with him yesterday. Heâs the best. The best! Heâs so wonderful.
Q: Whatâs your guilty pleasure?
JC: Oh my gosh, hmmmâŚ I like pretty girls. Thatâs not guilty. Why would that be guilty? Iâve got a lust for life.
http://www.moviesonline.ca/2011/06/Jim- ... -penguins/