CS Interview: Ben Schwartz on Sonic the Hedgehog success, possible future
Sonic the Hedgehog has raced into the hearts of audiences and critics alike since it hit theaters in February and just in time for the digital release, ComingSoon.net ran just fast enough to catch up with star Ben Schwartz again to discuss the film’s success and the possible future of the franchise.
The film was originally set to hit theaters this past November but after very negative reviews from audiences surrounding the design of the iconic character, Paramount delayed the release to February 14, 2020, with the goal of redesigning Sonic to better fit his look from the video games, and the move worked, scoring positive reviews from critics and audiences alike and grossing over $306 million at the global box office on a $95 million production budget.
Written by Patrick Casey (Golan the Insatiable), Josh Miller (Golan the Insatiable) and Oren Uziel (The Cloverfield Paradox), the film follows Tom Wachowski, a cop in the rural town of Green Hills, who decides to help Sonic escape from the government looking to capture him. The film is directed by Jeff Fowler and executive produced by Tim Miller (Terminator: Dark Fate).
The cast for Sonic the Hedgehog includes Jim Carrey (Kidding) as Sonic’s rival, Doctor Robotnik/Eggman, James Marsden (Westworld) as Wachowski, a police officer who teams up with Sonic; Adam Pally (The Mindy Project) as Tom’s fellow police officer, Tika Sumpter (Ride Along), and Natasha Rothwell (Wonder Woman 1984). Ben Schwartz (Parks and Rec) provides the voice for Sonic in the film.
Schwartz finds the success the film had with critics and audiences alike to be both “crazy” and “exciting,” with both fans of the long-running game franchise and those who “have never heard of Sonic” loving the film and feeling it was worth the time he and the creative team put into it, noting “we really cared” and “we really love the property.” The film originally hit theaters on February 14 and had already become a box office success, becoming the highest-grossing video game film adaptation in the US and Canada, before theaters shut down worldwide due to health concerns and the studio chose to bring it to digital platforms early.
“It’s a weird feeling because the movie didn’t get a chance to come out in a couple of countries, so they didn’t get to experience it in a movie theater,” Schwartz said. “But for me and for someone who, we’re all home, I love the idea that people can kind of share this experience. I was getting quite a few tweets being like, everybody wants to watch this right now and now’s the perfect time. So I love that Paramount did it and found a way to put together that whole DVD like specials, bonus features options for this. They must’ve turned it around so quickly. But I love it because also there are people that are also really into Sonic that are really happy that they had this outlet that they can enjoy it, and maybe they didn’t get to see it in theaters or maybe they just want to watch it again. I’ve been sending a lot of voice notes to my friends who have kids saying happy birthday or anything I can to keep their spirits up because everybody’s indoors for quite a bit now, and you know, the times are so weird. So I’m happy that people who enjoy it are able to watch it.”
The bonus features for the film feature deleted scenes, including an alternate opening in which audiences are treated to a different and more emotional backstory between the titular hedgehog and his mother figure Longclaw and while Schwartz doesn’t know the reason behind the opening in the film being the chosen one, he does reveal there were multiple iterations considered for the start of the film.
“We did a lot of different VO’s for that first part, I remember that whole first part we did so many different versions of VO’s,” Schwartz noted. “I gotta re-watch it and see what they put in there. I mean, I’m sure Jeff has some great answer for it. I know that instead of starting off with that back story they went to an action sequence. Jim and everybody, you kind of see everybody, what’s in the movie now, and then we cut to like, the back story. I’m not quite certain why they did it. I’m not quite certain which one is in the DVD, but I know we went through a lot of different VO of it, which is very exciting.”
When thinking about the possible future, Schwartz excitedly states that the only information he knows “is that they haven’t greenlit” a sequel yet, despite the strong reviews from critics and large box office numbers, but that with the standstill state Hollywood is in right now, “it makes total sense.”
“But I love the idea of it al,” he explains. “I know that Tails is at the end of that movie, nobody’s talked about what’s happening, if there is a sequel, but I would love it if they kept Tails in there. And like, how fun to have somebody to play with? I like where the end was leading for Robotnik, it’s almost like watching the evolution of Robotnik. You see that big mustache, you see him go a little bit more mad on his island. I love that stuff. So following even just the two post-credits sequences have been really, really fun for me. But yeah man, the idea of adding characters like Tails and whoever, it would be amazing.”
The 38-year-old comedian has noted numerous times he is a large fan of the game franchise, while also mentioning he has only really put time into Sonic and Sonic 2 for his Game Gear when he was a kid, as well as the 2017 hit Sonic Mania and mentioned his favorite levels being the original sequel’s Casino Night Zone and the original Green Zone.
“I feel like the casino level I feel like in two is so exciting and crazy, and I remember the first one, when I played that, I was kind of blown away, especially Green Zone,” Schwartz recalled. “I also loved the soundtrack for the first one, but I remember where I was playing Sonic 2, and I re-beat both the games recently because I got one of those mini Genesis’, so I re-beat 1 and 2 again. It just like reminds you how like as a kid all those things sit in your head. Like, my ringtone right now is — I don’t know if you ever played the NES Ducktales game, but it’s the moon level from the Ducktales. That’s been my ringtone for like, five years.”
The last time ComingSoon.net sat down with Schwartz, he revealed he had yet to play the Sonic Adventure games and in our most recent conversation with him, he revealed that he still hasn’t gotten around to it and that, with our persistence, he may finally step into that world.
“People are telling me that I’ve got to do it because I haven’t really played a game where Sonic talks yet, so a lot of people are telling me I’ve got to go out there and play him,” Schwartz said. “I just don’t have any of the devices to do so unless I download an emulator. Oh I do have an Xbox, I’m going to check them out. I’ve been playing video games a lot, so I’m welcoming as many more as you’ve got.”
Sonic the Hedgehog is available for purchase on digital platforms now and will hit shleves on 4K UHD and Blu-ray on May 19!