JASON ISAACS takes on two roles in the latest big-screen animated feature from Pixar, Cars 2.
Isaacs chats about why he jumped at working with Pixar head honcho John Lasseter, why Brits make the best spies, and what car he’d really like to own.
**CARS 2 is in cinemas in the UK from 22 JULY
MMM: When you were doing the voices for Cars 2, you were busy working on something very different, weren’t you?
Isaacs: I was filming something else in Los Angeles and the phone call came and they said, ‘Listen, John Lasseter wants…’ I said, ‘I’m in!’ They said, ‘No, it’s a little part…’ But I said, ‘I’m in! I don’t care what it is!’ So, they said it’s Cars 2. So, I said, ‘If they want me to go to Pixar and clean the windows with my tongue, I’m in!’
I’m a massive fan of all their films, and particularly John’s work. For all their fantastic technological background, he’s also a master storyteller and that’s the most important thing. So, I trusted him and I was in.
The caller then said, ‘Well, they’ve invited you to Pixar for the weekend.’ I’m a total techno-geek, so the idea of doing that was a total wet dream for me, but I couldn’t go because I was filming.
I went instead to a studio where I expected to be for about 10 minutes because I’m fleetingly in the film, luckily playing a brilliantly realised character, Siddeley the jet, but instead all the storyboards were there.
My first meeting was with Brad Lewis, and this uncontainable enthusiasm was in the room. People from Pixar just couldn’t help but share the story. I knew I was a big fan and I’d read articles about the process, but to see it first-hand, to see how they just were bubbling over with passion… they wanted to talk me through stuff that was already drawn, stuff that wasn’t drawn, show me the models and I thought, ‘Now I get it, now I see why the films are so great…’ It’s not just attention to detail as a work of craft; it’s an act of love, giving these stories to the world.
MMM: You also did the voice for Leland Turbo…
Isaacs: I recorded Siddeley and I guess it worked out alright, or I was very cheap, but they very kindly asked me to do another part and I then had to re-record it while I was shooting in Scotland.
John and I Skyped and we talked about baseball for an hour and a half before we started recording. I was slightly star-struck, I have to confess… it took me about an hour and a half to get over the fact I was talking to John about baseball. Then we started recording.
It’s true that they’re incredibly collaborative and congenial and lovely people who love their jobs and are driven by storytelling. But there’s something else as well… there’s an obsessive perfectionism. So, when you record, even my tiny amount, they didn’t let it go. It wasn’t just 20 minutes of recording. You’ll keep doing it until there is something truthful and dynamic and exciting and real and mysterious…
I actually thought the work would be easy – it’s a microphone, it’s a plane, but no, they don’t really go easy on you when they record it because they care about each others’ stories. They work with each other all the time. They don’t want to release anything from the studio that isn’t every bit as brilliant as the films they’ve made before. So, that’s why these films occupy this pride of place in my household with my kids. So, I jumped at it. And still the offer is open to clean the driveways with my tongue!
MMM: Why do you think Brits are the best spies?
Isaacs: I think that we don’t say what we mean almost ever. Socially, we don’t do it… from Jane Austen onwards, that’s why the adaptations are so brilliant. We’re very good at saying one thing and meaning another entirely and being utterly manipulative.
With Americans, one of their great strengths, and maybe weaknesses, is you know exactly what they’re feeling and thinking when they talk most of the time. So, that’s maybe it… we’re maybe more successfully manipulative.
MMM: Movie stars seem to have a long association with cars of the fast and furious kind. So, what’s the coolest car that you’ve ever driven, owned, or even now aspire to own?
Isaacs: My first car, for which I saved up during my gap year before university, was a Talbot Horizon and James Nesbitt, the British actor, was going off on a tour of the world in a production of Hamlet and he gave me all his worldly possessions. There were three bags – one I remember was only shoes – so I put them in my car and went off to do a filming job and when I came back the council had taken it away and cubed it!
The car I always wanted to drive was Kris Kristofferson‘s Ferrari Daytona from A Star Is Born, in which Barbra Streisand had one of the most terrifying perms in film history! But the car was very cool.
And the only car thing I remember which made me think of driving fast was that I did a film with Jackie Chan a few years ago, called The Tuxedo. And we were sitting in the car one day and they were waiting to clear all the streets for the car chase. At something like 40mph they were going to double the speed, which I’d never done before, and Jackie said, ‘I hate all this… we don’t do all this in Hong Kong.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he replied, ‘We don’t clear no street, you don’t tell the public, you drive, you crash, you pay people money…’ I felt quite comfortable with how we did that one!