Feature Image

Gullivers Travels Interview

Featuring a cast of amazing actors and actresses, the latest film adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels sees a modern day Gulliver, played by Jack Black, washed up on the shores of Lilliputia, where the King (Billy Connolly) and his subjects are astonished to see the spectacle of a giant man. Recently in London to talk about their time together, Jack Black, Billy Connolly, James Corden and Emily Blunt shared their opinions of working with each other and the magic of interactive blue screen filming.

Classics such as Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels make great source material for films. What was the particular appeal of this part of that masterpiece?
James Corden (JC): It might be an awful thing to say, but the appeal for me had very little to do with Jonathan Swift's book, because I've never read it, so -

Jack Black (JB): WHAT? No!

Billy Connolly (BC): Oh, for God's sake ...

JC: I've already fucked up

BC: Jeeesus Christ ...

JB: So much for the opening weekend.

JC: For me, I met Rob [Letterman] and, you know, here's the opportunity to be in a film with Jack and Billy and Emily and Jason [Segel] and Chris [O'Dowd]. It's such an amazing cast that it was a no-brainer to want to be involved in any capacity, to be honest. So that was the reason for me – it was a great script with a great director and a great cast and that's what was important in that respect.

Billy, you of course have read the book ...
JC: He had it with him on set at all times and would reference the book.

BC: I'm seldom far from the book. And Catherine Tate gave me a copy when the movie was finished.

Emily Blunt (EB): Did she?

BC: Yes, as a present.

JC: That's a bit of a snub to everyone else who didn't get a gift.

BC: She told me not to tell you.

JC: Yeah, I bet she did.

BC: Which was good, because she was the reason I did the movie, Catherine Tate. The rest of the actors I couldn't give a shit about.

EB: I did the movie for every reason other than Billy Connolly. No, I did, because I heard that Jack was involved and I really liked the script and it was very witty and charming and I think that's quite hard to find with comedies – it often veers into being quite crass. And I'd never been in a family movie and I just loved the dialogue and that heightened way all the Liliputians spoke, I thought it was really funny. I was charmed.

JB: I was drawn to the project because I loved the fantasy adventure elements – it's my favourite genre. And the comedy, there was lots of rich potential. And I just liked the challenge of updating a classic. There's a lot of pressure there, but there's also a lot of fun opportunities to be part of the great history of a three hundred year old, enduring piece of literature. Me and Jonathan Swift will go down in history together.

Billy and James, I'm sure you weren't really urinated upon by Jack ...
JB: Don't be so sure!

But the scene where you're being wetted looked like quite an ordeal. What was it like?
BC: It was brilliant. It was orange juice. And we were singing the national anthem as we were being peed on. And so our mouths were open.

JB: Can you sing us a couple of bars of that, brother?

EB and BC: [singing] Liliput, great kingdom, fair beauty ...

JB: Wow! I'm impressed that you remember.

JC: For me, since doing the film, people come up and go, 'Oh, I can't wait to see Gulliver's Travels' and my immediate response is, 'Yeah, I'm the guy stood behind Billy Connolly'. And I have to say -

BC: And don't you forget it!

JC: – those days are the days I remember most fondly, really, because growing up in Britain and having an interest in British comedy, to be able to spend some of the longest days on earth – 10, 12, 14 hour days – just sitting with a hero is an amazing thing and I will remember it really fondly. I just remember thinking it was an honour, every single hour, because every story, every question, would lead into Billy telling a great story and you just think, 'Oh my God, I would pay a LOT of money to do this and I'm being paid just to sit and listen to it!' So they were great days, urine or no urine in the mouth.

JB: It won't be long before we're all standing behind James though – he's a brilliant dynamo of comedy.

BC: He has a wonderful technique every time he comes up and does anything with you. As he leaves he touches you somewhere he didn't touch you the last time. And it was a joy for me, I was in hysterics laughing and wondering where I was going to be stroked next. [to James] You're a joy and I love you.

Billy, to misquote Mel Brooks, is it good to be the king?
BC: It's terrific to be the king. I've been a king for a long time - it's a joy. So little is asked of you. You get the sparkliest uniform and sword and you just swan around, it's fabulous. I tried to be a sort of Prince Charlesy king. I think if he was the king, he would be a jolly, casual kind of king. And so I tried to be him. I rather like him.

Billy, all those years ago when you were making films like Absolution, did you ever think that you'd have the film career that you've had?
BC: Yes. As a matter of fact, I thought I would have more than I've had. Yeah, it's the kind of thing I've always wanted to do, but I'm kind of a wee bit limited. So I'm not surprised it's gone the way it has. I try not to tell people I was turned down as a penguin and stuff like that but them's the breaks. But I've had a wonderful film career, when you consider where I come from and what I do. I'm delighted, I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever. I'm glad you saw Absolution.

JB: You were turned down as a penguin?

BC: I was, yeah.

JC: A penguin or The Penguin in the Batman film

EB: In what, March of the – no, not March of the Penguins. [laughter]

JC: They were very much real penguins, I'm pretty sure.

BC: It was that penguin thing - they wanted me as a Presbyterian penguin.

EB: Happy Feet!

BC: But I wouldn't go to Australia to talk about it, so I didn't get it.

JB: Their loss.

BC: Fuck 'em, say I! [laughter]

For the second part of the Gullivers Travels interview, click on the link below.

Most Read Today

Content updated: 14/11/2018 18:15

Related Features

Feature Image
Take a stand at the Human Rights Film Festival.
Feature Image
The best films to watch for the 2014 Christmas season
Feature Image
Director Richard Ayoade and actor Jesse Eisenberg talk about creating their doppleganger comedy horror
Feature Image
The writer and co-star of The Stag talks about filming his all male comedy in rural Ireland

Film of the Week

Foxcatcher (15)

Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum star in this real life inspired story of Olympic talent, fierce competition and murder.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films