Aardman‘s Early Man, which is released by Studiocanal, is in cinemas now. Director Nick Park discusses his casting choices, the importance of a strong female character and how he became the voice of a pig…
You’ve been refining the idea of a caveman comedy since 2010, originally pitching it as Gladiator meets Dodgeball. Why has it taken so long to hit cinemas?
It’s been on the back burner for many years now – the writing alone has taken more than three years. Mark Burton started writing it with me, then went off to do Shaun The Sheep, and came back again. It’s just the way we do it at Aardman. We cut the storyboards together first, for the whole film, then edit it, add the temporary music and voices. We’ve written and re-written everything 100 times, it seems. We’ll decide a scene isn’t funny enough or simply not working. And that goes on for two years before we even start filming. I feel like I’ve made the film twice! But it’s worth it.
When did you know that Eddie Redmayne was right for the part of Dug?
I’d seen Eddie in a film called Black Death, in which he played a young monk in the Middle Ages. He had a sort of vulnerable feeling, which I really liked. I was looking for someone to play a teenage caveman, who is boyish and eager – but not necessarily confident. That vulnerable side of him really worked. The first time I met him and we worked on Dug’s voice, he said to me, ‘How about if we go a bit younger?’ I was amazed by how he played Dug as a dishevelled 15-year-old, and it really appealed to me.
And was it important to have a strong female character?
We needed a female character and I wanted her to be the expert – the best footballer of them all. Someone who could teach this bunch of idiotic lunkheads in the tribe how to play. Maisie turned out to be great casting and it wasn’t a cynical move. But women’s football has really taken off in Britain recently, and in America teenage girls have been playing soccer for years. It seemed cool to have a female character who’s also such a great footballer.
As well as solo directing a feature for the first time, you also make your debut voicing the character of Hognob…
He’s got a little bit of Gromit about him – but he’s more of a pet. I did it just for fun to start with, but I got voted in.
Click on the video below to see director Nick Park and actors Maisie Williams and Tom Hiddleston discuss the ups, downs and massages of Aardman’s latest animation, Early Man.