The classic 1954 Dr. Seuss tale Horton Hears a Who makes its way to the big screen with the help of two A-list celebs who voice the lead roles in the animated family film. Jim Carrey voices Horton, the elephant who shares his creative ideas with neighboring kids of the jungle and is loved by all until he goes to great lengths to hide a spec of dust from others after he hears a faint cry for help from the world of Who-ville. ComingSoon.net talked to Carrey and his co-star Steve Carell, who plays the mayor of Who-ville desperate to save his people from the eminent destruction that will happen if Horton can’t protect them.
ComingSoon.net: How does “Horton” transcend a story for young people?
Carell: Wow. How does it transcend? You are being very heady right off the bat. You just think about how it resonates, however much anything resonates in a five or six-year-old. This is a book that I think resonates with kids. They don’t understand the metaphors or the richness to it, but at the same time it resonates. There is something very specific about the theme that I think even a little kid can understand. That is that everyone deserves an equal footing in life. I think that’s just a very basic tenant of being a creature of the world.
Carrey: That was a real good answer.
Carell: Then say the same thing.
Carrey: I think, as far as kids go, the thing that attracts them to this is not the deeper concepts involved. It’s really just the fact that Seuss’s creativity was so incredible. He was such an original. If you give a kid a character that he’s never seen before, in a world that he’s never seen before, they will completely lose themselves in an imaginary space. At the same time they are getting all of those wonderful lessons. In my own personal experience, I just looked at it and I’ve always been drawn to things that are different. I felt odd anyway, as a child, so anything odd I went, “Oh, those are my people.” I dig those people. There is something very original about the whole thing and that’s what draws kids. Myself, I listened to them on tape so I didn’t really see the pictures.
CS: What made you odd when you were a kid?
Carrey: I was the baby of the family. I guess my father was strange. He was funny and strange and I looked at him and went, “Wow, everybody is looking at my Dad. Everybody is laughing at my Dad.” And I just immediately kind of wanted to be that, so I locked myself in my room. When all the other kids were outside playing, I was devising ways to make myself appear to be different somehow.
CS: How limiting is it to only act with your voice?
Carell: I think there is a freedom within the limitations. I think when you are given a structure, and you can do anything within that structure, there is something freeing to that as opposed to, “You can do anything, anytime, anywhere.” Sometimes you just don’t know where to focus, at least for me. Really the animators do the heavy lifting, we provide as much as we can vocally, but then you see it and you see where they have taken whatever you have done vocally. It’s remarkable.
Carrey: That is the great thing about this, you are surrounded by artists who are just as creative or more so than you are, and I love being handled by nerds. Just to spew something out and have somebody put wings on it, it’s fantastic, and a wonderful thing.
CS: Did you ever work together before?
Carrey: I still have never met him. I’m looking forward to it though.
Carell: I’m sort of in awe, honestly. I was watching Jim answer that question before and I am still sort of pinching myself, honestly, to be working with him. It’s a big honor for me.
CS: Jim, I know in the past you have turned down animated films because the schedule might have conflicted with staying in character in other roles. How did this one work out?
Carrey: What they do is they come to your house and they say, “This is going to be the simplest process in the world.” They lie to you, completely lie to you. Anybody who they are doing that to in the future might want to take note. It is hard work. It’s not as simple as they make it sound. It is a half a day here and there, whenever you get a free moment you are going in to do it. The fact is that they come to you and they really don’t have a script. They have an overall idea of where they want to go, but they go “Here’s eight pages. What do you think we should do with it?” You sit in a room, you jam, you come up with ideas, and you come up with lines. It’s an amazing process. You think, “How is this ever going to get to the end and make sense?”
Carell: It’s also a huge leap of faith too. There you are, you don’t know how anything you do will sync up with what anyone else is doing. It’s all based on how the director sees it and cues it. He’s the one threading all of these performances together. You give him a thousand different variations on a scene, and then he tracks it with the rest of the performances. I think it’s a huge leap of faith. You can do things that you think, “Will that even work?” and in terms of what he’s hearing, then yeah.
CS: Was there a time in your life where you actually felt like a spec?
Carrey: I know I’m a spec, absolutely. That’s honestly how I feel. I’m an interesting spec, but I think that’s how I’ve always thought, in those terms. How can you look at the sky at night and not feel like you are a spec somewhere? I saw a picture on the Discovery Channel one time of the Earth from Mars, from the Mars perspective, and you can hardly find it, it was a spec. We truly are a spec. So, there are all different levels of that, and it’s kind of where you are at, it’s really true.
Carell: If I think about it too much my mind will explode. It’s essentially the same thing. We are all so, so tiny in the big picture. It depends on what picture you are looking at. In the really big picture we are infinitesimal, but…
Carrey: I have always felt that there were worlds, within worlds, within worlds. There is somewhere on my right arm, inside of a cell, there is some kind of world happening. There are people sitting there going, “Oh, I hope we don’t destroy ourselves.” We could swing that arm, hit it against a tree, and we’re gone!
Carell: That’s why we are paralyzed. That’s why now, after doing this movie, I can hardly move. Essentially I’m afraid I will be crushing tiny universes wherever I go. Even in your laughter, the saliva is coming out of your mouth…
Carrey: There are worlds there.
Carell: You are killing worlds.
Carrey: There are worlds of people.
Carell: If there is one thing that people can take away from this movie…
Carrey: It’s Armageddon in my pants right now. I swear to God, it’s Armageddon.
CS: Have you had a chance to talk to Audrey Geisel?
Carrey: Every once in a while I say, “Hi.” But we don’t talk a lot. I was honored that when they brought it to her, the first thing out of her mouth, she said, “Can you get Jim Carrey?” I feel really honored that she wants me to be a part of a legacy. I just feel wonderful that two of these projects have come my way. I’m such a fan of Dr. Seuss, so it’s a great thing. It’s a great thing.
Carell: I’ve never spoken to her.
CS: What do you think about the Jimmy Kimmel and Ben Affleck video?
Carell: So you are asking am I fu**ing Jim Carrey? That speaks to all the kids who are going to see this. Our Fox guys are horrified right now. No, that is not a legacy that I’m ashamed to be a part of.
CS: Are you still taken back by level of success you’ve accomplished?
Carell: In terms of pinching myself about success, all day, everyday. I owe a lot to Jim frankly, for any of my success, because essentially the first movie I was ever in was “Bruce Almighty.” I never got auditions for movies, and it was one of the first I had ever gotten.
Carrey: He stole the whole fu**ing movie.
Carell: I remember, and I said this to Jim a week or two ago, I remember watching “Liar Liar” and thinking that looks like the most fun you could possibly have. Being on set, at the outtakes, I thought, “Man, that just looks like a party.” In my wildest dreams I didn’t think I would ever be able to be a part of that, then a couple of years later I was, so yes. I’m still pinching myself.
Carrey: He did an amazing job. He’s done that ever since, it’s incredible to watch him.
CS: What about you? You are an icon.
Carrey: It’s hard to have a perspective on it from inside myself. I just feel like I could be working at a factory again in a month, loading trucks where I started out. I don’t have a perspective on it, it’s just one thing to the next. It’s trying to do work and trying to have fun with what is in front of me. Even today, I think to myself, you think, “Oh, it’s a junket” kind of thing and I have to go to that place of, “I’m going to try to enjoy every person in front of me, in that moment, and to live that way.” That’s what I do. I don’t really think about iconic anything. I just try to do work and have fun doing it, and hopefully that translates. I do watch other people like Steve, and I can sit back and go, “Wow, man that guy is good.” And I’m much more impressed with other people. We have an amazing cast in this, the people that this project gathered is kind of incredible. It’s like a who’s who of comedy across five generations. It’s really exciting. Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Carol Burnett. They amaze me. I sit and watch “Knocked Up” and go, “Wow, that is great work, man. These guys are doing incredible stuff. I wish I could be them.” It’s all your perspective. It just feels good to be in it.
CS: Is there any story you haven’t had the chance to do that you would like to?
Carrey: The Steve Carell story. Hopefully they will come to me with that.
Carell: In terms of Dr. Seuss? I don’t know, I would love to do “Green Eggs and Ham.” I think I could do a lot with it.
Carrey: You could work in a box for Fox.
Carell: It does sound ridiculous to even talk about it, doesn’t it? Ultimately we think about it and say, “You are doing ‘Horton Hears a Who!?'” It sounds sort of odd. You are in the movie version of “Horton Hears a Who!” and then you see it and you say, “Of course.” It’s completely making sense. Maybe “Green Eggs and Ham” is a blockbuster of the future. You never know.
Carrey: That’s an epic for sure.
CS: Are you going to go back and work on “The Office” soon?
Carell: We go back to work this week. The first episode involves a dinner party that Michael throws. I think it may be the funniest episode of the season so far. Everything before the strike was great. In terms of Michael and Jan, I would say the storm cloud is moving.
Carrey: Such a great show, an amazing show. It’s really one of the greats.
CS: What is your take on the possible SAG strike?
Carrey: Go ahead, man. [laughs]
Carell: I would have to go with whatever the vote is, I have no idea what is happening in terms of the strike or the potential strike. I don’t know. If the union decided to strike then I would have to as well.
Carrey: I hope that the writers get the respect that they deserve. The writers are the backbone of the business. They deserve a piece of the action and they deserve good things. There are a lot of new revenue streams happening and I think that they should be a part of all of it.
CS: Do either of you have a motto that you refer now days like your characters in the film?
Carrey: Always turn your wheel in the direction of a skid. That has been my motto all along. That’s really what I do.
Carell: Be sure to use a washcloth because that is a good way to exfoliate.
Carrey: Brush your dentist twice a day, visit your toothbrush twice a year.
CS: Is there a political over tone here? Did either of you guys see something in there that might be a lesson for us to take to heart? The fact that when you crush a spec you are destroying somebody else and that they have a right to exist as well?
Carell: I think that is valid. I think it’s always hard when you talk about a post 9/11 world. I honestly think that the theme of this movie would have resonated before that, had it never happened, but perhaps because of that people’s general awareness is higher. Again, without getting too deep or too heavy with it, because after all it’s a family movie and it’s fun, it’s funny, exciting, and silly. Within that there is a very true and pure theme to it.
Carrey: There is a butterfly effect to everything we do. I believe even to raise your voice has an effect that goes far beyond the room you are raising your voice in. Everything has an effect that way. We have seen it politically through the last few decades. There is the odd thing “Charlie’s War” or whatever, the Tom Hanks movie. I look at that movie and thought, “Didn’t he create Osama Bin Laden?” but they left that out. The fact is that every time we go and try to mess with things, we figure them out, and squash somebody, then we create somebody else. The act of fighting these fears we have creates more fear, and creates more aggression.
CS: Steve, how is it being an action star?
Carell: It’s incredibly fun. Being an action star is all I ever hoped to be. I ultimately knew I would be an action star.
Carrey: He’s packing right now, there is a lump back here, and I see it.
Carell: That’s right, I have one stuck in my boot as well. It was just fun. Again, it was ridiculous. I’m hanging from wires off of buildings, underneath planes, and it was fun. I would do it again in a second.
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who opens in theaters on Friday, March 14.