I was a nerd as a kid. I loved dinosaurs; Justin Long, who voices little hero Patchi in the Walking With Dinosaurs film, tells us about his passion for all things prehistoric and how Patchi reminds him of childhood.
Justin Long stars as the voice of Patchi, a plucky and determined Pachyrhinosaurus in the thrilling new family film, Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie, out Dec 20.
The adventure transports audiences back in time 70million years, to the heart of prehistoric Alaska in the Late Cretaceous period.
Patchi is a classic underdog, an exuberant young Pachyrhinosaurus with a hole in his frill, who seems to have the odds stacked firmly against him at the start of the story.
He has to compete for food with his bigger siblings.
He is dominated by his older brother Scowler, an arrogant alpha male who intends to succeed their father as leader of the herd.
We caught up with Justin to find out more.
Were you interested in dinosaurs as a child? I was obsessed with them. My favourite was Tyrannosaurus rex. That was the cool one, the big one that everyone knew.
But I was also into the more obscure ones like the Allosaurus. I remember thinking the Allosaurus was like a T rex, except that its arms were a bit bigger. It had cool colouring.
I used to know a lot about dinosaurs.
I remember when I was a kid they had found a Brontosaurus that was exponentially bigger than the others and they named it a very non-creative name like Giganotosaurus or Hugeasaurus or something like that, I can't exactly remember (laughs). But I remember thinking it was very lazy name-choosing.
It sounds like Patchi is perfect casting; you really were a dinosaur fanatic? Yes I was a nerd and just to fully reveal my nerd card, I was a member of the Southern Connecticut Herpetological Society. Oh God, it is true. But the great thing about the film is that it makes the creatures come alive for kids. It makes them seem immediate, of this world and of our time.
Watching the film we realise that we are walking in their shadows - in a land that they had at one point conquered.
We understand that were we to live with dinosaurs, we wouldn't stand a chance of survival.
There's an arrogance that we have as human beings - we think we reign supreme. But it's important to see that we are just part of the hierarchy of the animal kingdom.
The truth is, we would probably be wiped out if these predators were around today.
What was the appeal of playing Patchi? I love his journey of self-discovery. I like the fact that he becomes wise and learns valuable lessons, but at the same time he does not lose his sense of fun.
Walking With Dinosaurs is a great, classic, coming-of-age story. Not only does Patchi grow into an adult, he grows into a heroic adult.
We can learn a lot from him. Also I love animation and it was great to be a part of a film like this, which has such beautiful animation. It blew me away when I saw it. The way they blend the two mediums of animation and live action is seamless. It's done beautifully.
Can you discuss Patchi's journey? He is a Pachyrhinosaurus, (from the Greek for thick-nose lizard) a dinosaur that is like a Triceratops, with a huge frill and horns. We meet Patchi when he is a hatchling.
Although he is the runt of the litter, he makes up for his size in spirit and heart. He doesn't necessarily realise that he is the runt.
He reminds me of a dog I used to have, actually. We named him Biggie Smalls, because he was big in attitude, but small in size.
Do you identify with Patchi at all? I do. Patchi reminds me of myself. When I was a kid, I was the runt of the litter. I was really tiny.
I was 4ft 10in going into high school and weighed 89lb.
However, I loved American football, that was my thing and you really needed to be tall. I was always unusually small for my age. I remember being able to get a child's ticket for kids seven and under when I was 12 or 13 years old. I would always take full advantage of that.
Being small actually helped me out a lot too when I started working as an actor. I was playing a high school student until I was 27 or 28 years old.
There are very few parts for actors so I was grateful. People often complain about typecasting, but I always felt that it helped to have a niche. I thanked God to be working at all.
So I kept thinking about that when I was doing the voice of Patchi. He's a guy who doesn't know his own size or strength. But eventually he grows into his heart and his large spirit, as he proves himself over the course of the movie.
It's a heroic journey. And through the course of the movie, you learn that sometimes one's own will and perseverance can overcome any physical shortcomings. It's a beautiful story. Can you discuss his relationships with the other main characters? He has a romance with Juniper. I love the name. I couldn't get the song Jennifer Juniper by Donovan out of my head every time I said it.
He's has a "thing" with Juniper, who becomes a very close friend. He has an older brother, Scowler, who's an alpha male.
Scowler picks on Patchi and puts him down. Patchi lives in his brother's shadow. I can definitely relate to Patchi in that respect.
My older brother tried to exert his authority over me, so I understand that dynamic very well. I'm one of three.
I have an older brother named Damian and a little brother named Christian.
We loved each other and we still love each other, but I'm the middle one and I was always the smallest, so I had things to overcome.
My brothers knew exactly what buttons to push with me and they exploited that.
Can you share what kind of things they did? It used to really bother me when my older brother would sing theme songs.
We used to love film scores by John Williams and we would listen to the scores of the Star Wars movies and E.T. But because he was my older brother I really looked up to him. I followed him in everything he did. That's why I became an actor. He was the best actor I knew, and I followed him into it.
You do a lot of animation. Why do you think directors love to cast you as endearing animals? It might be to keep my face off of the camera! I don't know, but I was very flattered to be asked to play Patchi.
They had heard me playing Alvin in Alvin and the Chipmunks and they saw an element of Patchi in Alvin, because he has a similar youthful exuberance.
I hope they keep asking me to do animation, because I love it. My mother did a lot of voiceovers when I was a kid, so when I started my career, back in the late 90s, I began doing voiceover work.
I never thought I would have much luck acting on camera, but then I started doing movies, which was great.
But I ended up missing doing voiceover work. I love the medium of animation and I am happy to do animation now.
I'm a huge Mike Judge fan, and I got to do some episodes of his King of the Hill.
"It was such a thrill to be a part of something that you yourself love to watch.
What are your goals or long-term career plans? I sound so cliched when I say this, but I really do want to direct very soon. That is my goal.
I am currently working with Kevin Smith on a horror film called Tusk.
Kevin is one of the greats, and being a part of this experience has really inspired me to want to direct.
Working with Kevin is making me fall in love with filmmaking again.
It is so collaborative and such fun. Sometimes people lose that element of fun when they have been working for a while, which is upsetting.
I've never been overly ambitious.
You know, I've never had a clear goal in mind.
I've talked to some actors who tell me, "Well, I have to do a drama next, and I have to work with so-and-so, and I have to avoid this kind of film".
It might have been detrimental to my career, but I took a lot of jobs because I just loved working.
I never had a clear image of what I thought my career should look like. I love acting so much.
At the end of the day, making films should be fun and Walking With Dinosaurs was like that for me. It was a joy to go to work.
I want to continue doing work that is joyful.
IMPRESSIVE... The herd gather
FIGHT... Dinosaurs do battle in the film
STARRING... US actor Justin Long
RIVALRY... Patchi and his brother Scowler
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|Publication:||Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Dec 15, 2013|
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