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September 2006
OPEN SEASON: An Interview with Martin Lawrence

OPEN SEASON: An Interview with Martin Lawrence
By Fred Topel

September 25, 2006

OWhen you’re a gifted comedian and you enter the film business, you start off doing comedies as in the case with Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams. Once you have successful proven yourself to carry an audience, you then try drama to show your range as an actor like the ones mentions did with “The Truman Show”, and ‘Dead Poets Society”. Once you’ve tackled those fields, what left? Kid films, like that others did with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, “Daddy Day Care” and the forthcoming “Happy Feet”, which stars Robin Williams. This seems to be the path that Martin Lawrence is taking these days. He’s had a hit TV show, a hit dramatic action film with “Bad Boys” 1 & 2, and now lately he’s been doing family oriented films, having hit the pay dirt with ‘Big Momma’s House” 1 & 2. To continues his success with that genre, he’s dabbling in the animated world.

As the principal voices in Open Season, Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher are perfect as an odd couple who embark on a hilarious journey. Along the way, they enlist the aid of other animals to put the forest back in nature's hands. Open Season is Sony Pictures Animation’s first highly-anticipated family comedy action-adventure, scheduled for release September 29th.  Lawrence is the voice of Boog, a domesticated grizzly bear with no survival skills. His perfect world turns upside down when he meets Elliot (Kutcher), a scrawny, fast-talking mule deer, who is tied to the hood of a hunter’s truck. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Lawrence talks about doing an animated film and whether he would entertain a third film in the Big Momma’s franchise.

Have you done animation before?

Martin Lawrence: Never done animation before. Well, when I was younger, I did a Kid and Play cartoon. 

Did you get to meet Ashton during the production?

ML: I didn’t even meet Ashton until a couple of weeks ago.  We never were in the same room.  The hardest thing about it was that we would do something for one month and then come back four months later and then have to pick up where we left off and that was the hard part where the directors, Jill and Rodger, would constantly feed us everything we needed to get us back on track and get our energy where we needed it.  It was a lot of fun and when I look at the movie and I look at how me and Ashton’s chemistry is without ever without ever being in the room, I’m amazed at what they have done.

What was the appeal to you of this project?

ML: The fact they could put my voice into a big bear and hopefully make him likeable and loveable and energetic and fun and that was interesting for me to see that come along and I was excited about doing the project.

Did you have the chance to improv or go off the script at all?

ML: Ah, not too much, just because if there was room for it and it needed it and I would try something, I would try and do something that made sense, but I stayed kind of right between the lines because it was animation and it was children. So, I didn’t want to adlib the wrong thing or whatever. I like that. I like the fact that directors are like coaches. They draw up the play and this is what you run. I like that guidance, because I am in unfamiliar territory. For me to act like I know exactly alike I was doing, and could just adlib anything and whatever -- I didn’t want to take that approach. I wanted to trust in my partners and the directors and producers and do the best I can to deliver what I could deliver.

If a director took that sort of coaching aspect on a live action film, would you find that intrusive?

ML: If we were doing live action? No, I respect the directors. I know their work is hard. So, I try and trust them.  It’s like Phil Jackson and the Lakers, you have to trust  him just as he has to trust you in order to get the chemistry and results that you are looking for.  So, I never get combative with them today.

Could you have done Ashton’s part?

ML: I could have done whatever was offered to me as long as they were explaining to me what I needed to be, what I needed to do, what I needed to say.  I could have done it.

Did you actually study bears?

ML: I just tried it.  I just kind of threw the voice out there.  And they said they liked it. ‘You’re right there.  You don’t need to do much more than that.’ So I didn’t have to [inaudible round of bear] and I didn’t have to over exaggerate him or under exaggerate him.  I just had to keep him right there.  The great thing was they were there to let me know if I was on point or not.

You’ve covered a lot of different genres in your career from adult humor to action…

ML: Adult humor is my favorite.  Adult humor is my favorite. (Laughs.)

Eddie Murphy started that way too, but now he’s mixed it up with family films.  Do you see yourself going in that direction?

ML: I like just mixing it up.  You know what I mean? Just giving you a little bit of this. If I give you two children films then come back and give you an adult film. I just love mixing it up and not being pegged into one specific thing. This and ‘Rebound’ I am ale to do for my children and for a young kids audience.  Other things I do that are for adults – ‘Runteldat’ and things like that I am able to do for you guys and people who support me.

What audience do you expect “Wild Hogs” to be for?

ML: That is going to be PG-13 probably. I’m not sure exactly.  I think it’s going to be somewhere in there.  But a good movie, a fun movie. Those are my new partners. John, Tim and William H. Macy.  Those are my new partners. My riding buddies. We rode all over New Mexico. We had so much fun.  Hell, I should have paid them to do the movie.

Debra (Messing) said she had to practice to get her roar down, did you?

ML: The roar?  Nah, nah, I would just tried it on the spot.  Whether they used it or not I’m not sure, but it was cool.

Did you get to work with Ashton?

ML: No, no, not at all. Actually, I didn’t meet Ashton until a week ago, two weeks ago. The whole movie we were never in the same room. How they made that chemistry come together, his energy and my energy and jut made it work and I’m impressed on how they can do that.

What do you think the message is of this film?

ML: The message is heart, courage, finding friendship.  You know what I mean? Being out of your element and learning how to adapt to a situation that are unfamiliar to you.  Just a movie about a lot of heart and tenderness.

And about fighting back?

ML: You said it.

Any chance you might re-team with Will Smith on another “Bad Boys”?

ML: I haven’t talked to him.  Jerry (Bruckheimer) and Michael (Bay), I know Michael just finished doing Transformers or he’s finshing up. And Jerry is doing anything all over.  Hey, they know where to find me if they are ready and if it calls for another, I’m there. Will knows where I’m at.

What about stand up?

ML: I always think of stand up. But after ‘Runteldat’ you can’t just follow ‘Runteldat’ with just anything.  So, if I’ve got something to say and it’s funny and the subject matter there and it’s interesting then I’m right there.  I’m all over it.  But, if I don’t have anything to say I’m going to let time go until there is time. 


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