Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes characters haven’t been seen on the big screen since the 1996 hit Space Jam, which featured Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny & Co. teaming up for a basketball game against alien slavers to determine their freedom. Now, they are back in Looney Tunes: Back in Action and must embark on an adventure in search of Brendan Fraser’s character’s missing father and the mythical Blue Monkey Diamond. The adventure features lots of interaction between the stars and the cartoon characters. We asked Brendan what it was like working with the imaginary co-stars.
“Looney Tunes cartoons are icons and such to the extent that we have all seen them, and I know we all have pretty much enjoyed watching them. We believe that they exist as characters and sometimes even as people,” he says. “And the cartoons have, in the grand tradition of the style, have made jokes about that, and they thumb their nose at the audience and say gotcha, we can do anything we want because it’s cartoons. I think that to make a film about it, with these types of elements is really a matter of having an active imagination and to believe they are there. As long as an actor believes that they exist, then the audience will too. Of course it’s gonna be helped along the way with really slick computer-generated imagery, but it’s certainly doable. ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ was shot by Dean Cundy and that was a landmark film for its day. It’s still a favorite of mine. But the basics of it still haven’t changed much since then. It’s people and invisible elements that will be placed in later. Actors I think should be asked to use their imagination. When they do, good things happen.”
The movie pokes fun at various things and Brendan Fraser even makes fun of himself. “I play Brendan Fraser’s stunt man who’s out of work and looking for a job and moonlighting as a security guard on the Warner Bros. lot because he had some sort of altercation with Brendan about someone’s manhood being threatened or something like that, but it’s a really touchy subject so don’t go there. We meet the character D.J. Drake as he’s trying to get a job and get back on his feet. He’s living in the shadow of his very famous father who’s an actor who’s made a lot of money for this particular studio. I guess if you can’t make fun of yourself then how can you expect anyone else to laugh at anything you’re doing. Words to live by.”
Fraser has been a fan of the Looney Tunes cartoon for some time. “I was that kid, 7 o’clock in the morning in his pajamas in Ottawa, Canada with a bowl of cereal watching the cartoons, receiving my comedy 101 lessons from Bugs and Daffy and Michigan Frog.” Brendan now loves making films that he would have wanted to see when he was a kid. “There’s a little boy and a little girl trapped in every adult. To be given an opportunity to free them up and indulge them and play characters that allow for them to live and breathe, and be free, is really a pleasure.”
Steve Martin plays the evil head of the ACME corporation and it was interesting watching him work. “He’s such an intelligent guy, soft-spoken, witty.” Fraser says that “his process is very interesting because he rehearses and rehearses and the camera turns on and he’s there. He stays really pretty loose in the takes that he does and he keeps getting better and better and better.” He also has a funny story about Martin. “I had met him on several other occasions socially so we’re friendly with each other. We exchanged e-mail addresses after the movie. I think I sent him an invitation or something, I can’t remember, and he said, ‘Aha, now I have your e-mail address, now I can sell that. Ha Ha.’ Okay Steve, knock yourself out. Anyway, that’s the kind of guy he is.”
Fraser got to reunite with another, slightly bigger, co-star. “It was an emotional moment for me to tell you the truth because I was like, I knew there was going to be an elephant in it but I didn’t know it would be Tai. Tai is a famous elephant in Hollywood, I mean Tai was in ‘Dumbo Drop’, Tai was in ‘George of the Jungle’, Tai showed up back in ‘Looney Tunes’. Who knows, elephants never forget they say, but honestly, when that big ol’ snout came out and blew a big ol’ snotty kiss at me, I was with tears in my eyes.”
Brendan has fans around the world and he recalls a funny encounter with one. “If there is any reaction that I recall from having done ‘George of the Jungle,’ I was in an airport changing planes once in Singapore and a little kid came charging through the crowd and threw his arm around my leg and would not let go, like a burrow. It kind of felt awkward for me, he’s like ‘George, George, George!’ I’m like where’s this kid’s parent. I’m expecting him to be carted off or something. This woman, I don’t know who she was, she was very friendly, she said, ‘He loves your movie. He throws himself into trees all the time.’ I’m like, that’s not good. Don’t let him do that. Those are rubber trees kids.”
Go see Brendan Fraser (but don’t throw yourself at his leg!) in the hilarious new Looney Tunes: Back in Action, opening on Friday.