Interview with Abigail Breslin By: Liz Newman
Abigail Breslin has had the career most actors’ envy, and she doesn’t even have her learner’s permit yet. We caught up with the 14-year-old starlet – whose starred in hit movies like Little Miss Sunshine, Definitely, Maybe and Signs – to hear about her new animated flick, Rango, and what Johnny Depp is really like.
How was the voice over different work different in Rango, what was it like not just working in a sound booth – was there a difference?
I like how we did it on Rango, because you sort of get to play off of the other actors and get to experience if they say a line a certain way, and it makes you say it differently. That’s a lot of fun. Being in the booth is cool too, but I liked the way we filmed it – we sort of filmed it like a play, so it was fun.
Tell us about Priscilla, the character you play in the movie.
Priscilla is a very morbid, dry, sort of tough mouse – there’s a technical name for the type of animal she is, but it’s easier to just say mouse. She really isn’t so sure of Rango in the beginning and she sort of makes fun of him. She was a lot of fun to play.
How did you get involved with Rango?
Gore Verbinski, the director, sent me a sketch of Priscilla and a letter, and asked me to be in it. I loved what I saw of Priscilla; I would have just done it based on just how cute she is. But I really loved the story, and the character is hilarious – so I was really excited to be able to play her.
Were you given the whole script?
Yeah, I knew the whole story – and all the Priscilla themes. I loved it.
If you were to play another character, other than Priscilla, who would you have chosen?
Oh, that’s really, really hard. I guess there’s one, but I wouldn’t want to say it because I think Priscilla would be awfully offended if I did.
How did you master the Western accent?
Gore had a very specific sort of sound that he wanted Priscilla to sound like; he didn’t want it to be a pretty southern accent, he wanted it to be very rough. I saw a dialect coach in New York and L.A.; we sort of just worked on that.
Was this your first time, when recording your voice, working with Johnny Depp?
Yes, we filmed all of our scenes actually together. That was really great to do. He was really nice, he acted really normal – he wasn’t like “I’m Johnny Depp” or anything, he was a very nice guy.
Did you audition for the part?
I didn’t audition; I was really lucky to be able to just play her.
What is the message you think kids will pick up in this movie?
I think that it is a kids movie, but it’s also something that everybody can enjoy because I think it has a really good story in there, and jokes that adults would understand more than there kids would. But also stuff that the kids could really like, because the characters are really crazy. If you look at everybody in the town, they’re all sort of crazy looking. One of my favorite scenes is when Priscilla and Rango are sort of picking out each other’s flaws, like “you’re hat’s funny looking.” Because, if you look around in the town, it’s not like they’re exclusively odd looking. Everybody is pretty strange looking. And so, you know, I think the message that people take away is that he’s sort of pretending to be this hero, and to just be who you are.
How did you know you wanted to be an actress – how’d you let your parents know you wanted to do this?
My brother started acting before I did, then I just did a commercial and auditioned for the movie Signs and I got it. After I made that, I just kept wanting to do it; I just had so much fun with it.
Did you take acting lessons?
Nope, not really – I just sort of did it.
How are you handling the transition of going from a child to a young adult both in your career and real life?
I don’t know — I turned 14, and people asked me if I feel different, and I think no. I just feel the same I did a day ago when I was 13. I don’t feel like I’ve changed too much.
This movie has a lot of adult humor in it. And other movies like “Alvin and the Chipmunks” tend to dumb-down material to kids — did the fact this movie didn’t appeal to you?f
I must say, I’m a huge Alvin an – I saw it the second day it opened It was very entertaining. I’m a huge animated movie fan. I really want to see Tangled, I saw Despicable Me and loved it and Toy Story 3 and loved it. I do love Alvin – the desktop on my computer for six months. Anyways, I think that’s what’s really great about Rango is that it doesn’t talk down to kids – it’s obviously something that kids can enjoy watching but it doest make it that they’re stupid or something. That’s something that I liked – it’s sort of an edgy animation.
What specifically did you like about “Rango?”
I really did love the character Priscilla, she’s really different than anyone I’ve played or any character that I’ve seen before. When you first see her, you think she’s going to be this cute sweet, little school girl and then she starts talking and she’s totally crazy. She’s out of her mind! So that’s something that really appealed to me about the story.
What was an average day of shooting like?
Basically, we would just go – I would put on my Priscilla wig that had braids and a hat. And we just did the scenes. It was really like any other film, they just didn’t use our faces, just animation.
How do you get into character for some of your emotional roles like in “My Sister’s Keeper?”
I try to put myself in my character’s position. For My Sister’s Keeper, my grandfather died of cancer so I could sort of connect to my character in that sense. I think that with every movie I do, I sort have a personal connection in some way with it. You just sort of have to think of that.
What’s going on with new projects like “Janie Jones” and “New Year’s Eve?”
In terms of Janie Jones – yes, that will be coming out, I don’t have specific date, and I’m excited for that because I get to sing in that movie. And in term of New Year’s Eve I can’t give you any sort of hint there. It’s very hush hush.
Would you say “Little Miss Sunshine,” and your subsequent your Oscar nomination, was the big push in you career?
I loved making Little Miss Sunshine, I was really lucky to be able to do it and it gave me a lot of opportunities. It was a very exciting time to be nominating. I know how exciting it is, so I wish everyone that is nominated the absolute best.