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Celeb Scoop: Justin Long

By It's My Life on September 21, 2010 1:40 PM | No TrackBacks

alpha_omega.jpgIn "Alpha and Omega," the new animated film from Lionsgate, we meet two wolves who live in a world that doesn't seem so different from a human middle school or high school: everyone's labeled according to their personality and where they are in the social pecking order. One of the main characters, Kate, is an "alpha" wolf, a strong and serious leader whose job is hunting to feed the pack; Humphrey is an "omega" wolf who's always cracking a joke and on a mission to keep things fun. The two are not allowed to mix...but when they're abducted and relocated to Idaho in order to mate and repopulate the area, they have to work together to find their way home. It's the kind of movie that has something for everyone to relate to.

IML recently spoke to Justin Long, the voice of Humphrey. You may know Justin as the "Mac" in the PC and Mac commercials, or from various comedies he's done, or as the voice of Alvin in "Alvin and the Chipmunks." We had fun chatting with Justin about "Alpha and Omega," animated movies and voice acting, and how he thinks of his middle school years as some of the best memories of his life!

IML: How would you describe Humphrey, your character in "Alpha and Omega"?

Justin: Humphrey is a very playful, a little socially unbalanced young wolf. He's got a sassy side. Actually, that's it: if I had to pick one word to sum him up, I'd say sassy.

IML: Did you base him on any real-life canines that you know?

Justin: I did, actually. I had a very sassy dog myself named Moose. Moose was very playful and a troublemaker...a general ne'er do well. He heavily inspired Humphrey's character. And of course, this particular canine that you're speaking to brought a lot of his own innate sassiness.

IML: So you had to tap into your inner canine?

Justin: It's funny, because you're not all that aware of what the character looks like when you're recording his voice, and I was never really that conscious of him being a canine. I always just thought of him as an extension of my own playful nature. He goes on a journey with this girl he's very fond of and pines over, and that's basically a human story. There are simple human elements I tried to draw from.

IML: What did you think when you finally saw the animated character, using your voice?

justinlong.jpgJustin: It was exciting! There's something very surreal about it. I grew up watching cartoons, as most people did, and to this day some of my favorite movies are animated. I've always just loved animation and it's a dream to be a part of it. In fact when I was younger, I thought I was going to be an illustrator or an animator. It was a thrill in that sense, and also to voice a character that looks completely different from myself. It's weird and cool.

IML: What are your own favorite animated films, and what makes them so memorable for you?

Justin: I would have to go back to the early Disney movies. My favorites were "Robin Hood" and "The Fox and the Hound." "Robin Hood" because I was really into knights as a kid and I thought Robin Hood was so cool and I wanted to be part of his gang. And I loved animals, so the combination of these great animals and the swashbuckling adventure story with swords was just overload. With "The Fox and the Hound," I just loved those characters and it's a great love story...although at the time if you'd asked me if I liked that, I would have said, "No!" Of the more recent films -- and this goes on my list of all time favorite movies -- I would say "UP." The animation was beautiful, but aside from that, it was just one of the most heartbreaking, romantic stories I've ever seen on film. And how you react to the first ten minutes of that movie -- that's like a litmus test for whether or not you have a soul!

IML: So as someone who once aspired to be an animator, what do you think of the visuals in "Alpha and Omega"?

Justin: The visuals are great. The movie is kind of a throwback to older styles of animation. It doesn't have that CGI dimension to it, which I actually really like. It reminded me a lot of the movies I grew up watching, which were all fluidly animated but not as hyper-detailed as you're seeing now. One isn't better than the other; they're just different styles.

IML: You've done a lot of voice work in the course of your career. What do you like about that kind of acting as opposed to acting on screen or on a stage?

Justin: Aside from my love of animation, as an actor I like the total lack of vanity in terms of not having to worry at all about your appearance. You don't have to deal with hair or makeup or wardrobe. There's something very easy and freeing about strolling in and setting down your water, and it's just you and your microphone. That's all you're left with to create this character. I tend to gesticulate and throw my hands around a lot because I'm Italian. And that's cool with animation. Also, I love the idea of playing with your own voice and using that as a tool. It's the reason I enjoy doing impressions and stretching the limits of your voice and creating a great character using only your voice. Sometimes you have to go a little bit bigger than you would in life. You have to be more animated with your voice in order to compensate for that disconnect between you and an animator who doesn't really know you. Sometimes it even feels silly, because as an actor you have this built-in fear of being false and big, and sometimes that kicks in and you have to ignore it. Especially when I do the voice of Alvin in "Alvin and the Chipmunks," I have to really ignore it because they speed up the voices, and you have to say everything slowly, which feels weird!

IML: Most IML'ers are in middle school, so we always love to ask people: what was middle school like for you?

Justin: It's such an important time. I trace so many things about myself directly to the experiences I had at that age. You're usually defined by how you look, your socioeconomic status -- all these things you have no control over. If I could go back and do it again, I would try to remember that you have to accept certain things about yourself and recognize your strengths, and what's really important. I think about the time I wasted worrying about not having enough money or the right clothes...just silly material things that at the time I wasn't proud of. We put so much stock in these things. And there's nothing wrong with being an underdog. You find when you get older that the underdog becomes the cool one! I had a hard time. Physically I was by far the shortest in my class. I was the runt, I was really tiny. I embraced comedy as a means to fit in and get laughs, and to be accepted. But now I think back to that time. Even family vacations. My dad was a teacher and we didn't have a ton of money to go on awesome trips the way a lot of kids in my hometown did. That was always something I was always a little embarrassed about. We would form vacations over when he would give papers at universities, and my dad would always try to find educational things to do, like Colonial Williamsburg. My dad once gave a paper at Gettysburg College and we toured the battlefield. I thank God for those trips because I don't think I would remember how cool a certain ride was at Six Flags or taking a picture with Mickey Mouse, but I remember sitting in the car for twelve hours with no air conditioning with my brothers, and we would just do things to amuse ourselves. I am so grateful that we had those opportunities because those are my favorite memories from that time. It's the stuff you think at the time is sort of a hassle, but I remember having a vacation in Hull, Ontario and we went to the Canadian Parliament. I was like "No fair!" but we had such a weirdly fun time just horsing around! It was fun because it was kind of lame and we'd laugh about how lame it was. I'm just really grateful that we had those limitations. So I would say, just embrace the moments of uncool!

IML: "Embrace the moments of uncool." Love that! It's totally excellent advice! Thanks, and good luck!

Thank you!

"Alpha and Omega" is currently playing in theatres; you can also catch it in 3D.


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