Director Raja Gosnell and Producer Jordan Kerner were in attendance at the Summer of Sony press conference in Cancun where they were joined by actors / voice cast Katy Perry, Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria who were all in great spirits and very excited to talk about this second installment. Again we’ve broken the sections down into bitesize chunks for you so and added the transcription if you’d prefer to read than watch.
We also have junkets with the cast and filmmakers which you can see here. For now, here’s the press conference!
On staying true to Pierre Culliford’s (Peyo) original material
Jordan Kerner (JK): We coordinate very closely with the family. I speak with Véronique once a week on basically every decision. Véronique and Nine, Peyo’s wife, actually came to the set a number of times, both in Montréal and in Paris. It’s a wonderful, very close collaboration, both on the screenplay, on the shooting of the movie and in the post-production of the film. As I say, we talk a minimum of once a week, sometimes two or three or four times a week. She was just here with me – Véronique was – last week, seeing the film, giving notes and comments. So we work very, very closely with the family and Thierry, as well, and Tom, the Smurf historian, to make sure that we’re getting as right as anyone could know what Peyo would want. We’re trying to execute that.
Neil Patrick Harris (NPH): And they’re in the movie, as well.
JK: Oh, yes, that’s correct. Yes, when the big Ferris wheel rolls by, we’ll see them and Véronique’s daughter.
JK: Yes. When we first discussed the idea of making the films with the studio, we talked about three potential films and we talked about the first film was the reintroduction to our world. There’s a whole generation of families today, especially in North America, but in certain areas around the world – Latin America, Asia – that the Smurfs are in nostalgia, but they aren’t present-day. They still run a lot in Europe on television, but not as much in other areas of the world. Having said that, we had to reintroduce them. So in the first movie, it was simply that – into our world to reintroduce them. Secondly, in the second movie, we dealt with the largest question that people always ask, about the Shtrumf from the comic books and that’s why one female and if we are –
Katy Perry (KP) : I requested that.
JK: She did and we like to keep Katy happy. And some day, maybe, we will look at all the other questions – why blue, why ninety-nine males, why mushroom houses, why all those things – the origin story.
Raja Gosnell (RG): But to circle back, I think we have been absolutely true to the characters and, yes, there are different stories in the books, but those books exist and also ten years of Hanna-Barbera cartoons exist, so I think the real hardcore, nostalgic fan has a lot of material to go to, and so we felt doing a movie that used those as a jumping off place but took the audience to somewhere brand new was important.
How this movie differs from the first film for Smurfette and how Katy relates to The Naughties
KP: The difference is this movie has definitely got a lot more Smurfette in it and it’s based around where she comes from and it’s kind of like a coming-of-age story I think and I think maybe she’s doing a lot of pondering and wondering about who she is and she’s growing up and where her roots really come from, or who she’s deciding to be. And she is definitely distracted by the Naughties, so it’s a very relatable film, I think, for kids figuring out, you know, their family dynamic situation because there’s a parallel story, a parallel narrative with the Winslows as well. And as far as other films, I would love to do other films, but they just have to start at eleven.
KP: Well, we’re all tempted ‘cause we’re all human. I think, with me, I relate to her a lot, but I think, you know, I borrowed a little bit from her personality and maybe she borrowed a little bit from mine and we’ve meshed together. But it’s kind of like the Smurfs went through therapy this time. There’s a lot of real depth and emotion. I remember being in the booth recording my lines and there’s a lot of emotion and I had to have these little like – what would you call them? – walls put up in front of me because I was really going for it and I was being very vulnerable with the takes. And it’s an emotional journey for Smurfette, but it’s an emotional journey for both the Smurfs and the Winslow family.
On the word ‘Smurf’
Q: Hi, this is Claude from Paris. This is for the three actors. How do you Smurf the Smurfing qualities of the Smurfs? Does it Smurf you in every day of your life after you work on a Smurf movie?
NPH: How dare you talk to us like that, sir. (LAUGHTER)
NPH: I’m outraged. Go Smurf yourself. (LAUGHTER)
Hank Azaria (HA): I think Neil speaks for us all. (LAUGHTER)
KP: It’s interesting, the word ‘Smurf’ being used – adjective, adverb, all parts of speech. I like it.
On whether there will be changes to international versions of the movie other than dialogue
RG: Well, I think that certain modifications are made in dialogue certainly from territory to territory, just to have the joke make sense. There’s no other kind of modifications done to the picture – the running time, the music. But I imagine there will be dialogue adjustments based on the local cultures and the way different jokes are told. And so I’m positive that that goes on. But Part Two of the question – I don’t know. I don’t think that the – the movie’s not going to be marketed as a Katy Perry movie, I wouldn’t think, (LAUGHTER) in France or Portugal or Greece or anywhere else. So I think that we feel incredibly blessed that she’s here with us and sharing her time with us, helping us talk about this movie. But I don’t think that should diminish anyone in a non-English-speaking territory from seeing the movie.
JK: I think I should probably ask Nigel and Mark, is this going to be marketed as a Katy Perry movie, voiced by any individuals in any territory? I think very clearly that this is a character who’s a wonderful character and we’ll be looking in each territory for someone who has a similar quality to Katy and her voice in this film.
KP: I could also just learn all the languages, Jordan. (LAUGHTER)
JK: But she is the one and only. So, no, there’s no changes made in the cuts of the film.
On why the movie was shot in Paris over Belgium
JK: We see the heritage of the property as Belgique and French Belgique and Paris, being a very large capital of French culture and French language, was a place we all thought would be a beautiful environment. It’s not to say that we wouldn’t love Brussels or Bruges or Ghent or anywhere else to do it, but that Paris itself offered many iconic elements that we could use for humor and for adventure – iconic elements, as you saw, like the Eiffel Tower, like the Ferris wheel in the Tuillerie, like Notre Dame. And, as I said, earlier, hopefully some day, we’ll have an opportunity to shoot in Belgium.
Neil Patrick Harris On his Smurfest moment of filming
NPH: Hmm. I found the technical elements of filming this quite fun, unlike anything I’d ever done before; not only acting with invisible things that were moving around based on when I decided that they would, with an earpiece in your ear, with voiceover actors in another room doing all of the other lines. So that was a little schizophrenic. But I like the technological stuff. I’m fascinated and kind of wildly impressed by not only how the Smurfs look, and I think, in the sequel, they’ve even refined it from what it was in the first movie, which I was impressed by. But I just like the technology. After every single shot that we would do in real locations, they would have this thing called a Spheron that they would bring and set down and everyone would have to clear the thing and this thing would digitally map every single element of the place so that when they went back to animate it later, they knew what shadows were, where everything was. So every single shot you had to do this Spheron thing. And we were also dealing with wires and cables and green screens and, at a certain point, Gargamel zaps me – my character – lifts me up inside the theatre and spins me around, and so I love all of that sort of circus-arts acting.
The cast on appealing to their young audience
HA: Well, people don’t really know it’s me because I’m kind of hidden. But my son is almost four and he gets a big kick out of – like he’ll ask me, “Dad, you gonna go be Gargamel today?” That’s what he thinks work is – being Gargamel.
HA: And when his friends find out that I’m Gargamel, they get very concerned for him. (LAUGHTER) Like, “Gargamel’s your dad? Is he mean?” We get asked that a lot. Yeah.NPH: I think it’s been great. We were expecting the movie to be successful, but I had no idea that it would be as successful as the first movie was and I think, from that, spawned a whole level of people that bought the DVDs and watch it in rotation kind of a lot. So I have interacted with a lot of four-to-eight-year-olds that can’t believe that I was the guy from THE SMURFS. Do I really know Smurfs – things like that. It’s good to try and hit all demographics.
KP: It’s a real family-based film and it really hits on points and subjects that I think the whole family can get involved in when they go and see it. And it also is really funny. So I think that not only is it catering to a young audience, but it’s catering to a more sophisticated, grown up audience. I’m a tough cookie when I go and see a film and I was definitely cracking up quite a few times from this last one and it’s come such a long way. I thing the storyline is better, the animation is better. The first one was always great, obviously. It did very well on its own. But I think that this one is just an even better, more evolved version.