Interview with Eugene Levy from Finding Dory
Raising a child is no laughing matter. That is unless you’re Eugene Levy, voice of “Charlie” in Finding Dory. As a character with a humorous side, it’s tough trying to raise your blue tang daughter Dory with short term memory loss.
During the Finding Dory event, we were able to sit down with Eugene Levy to chat about parenting, his experience as part of the cast, and seeing the completed film.
Interview with Eugene Levy from Finding Dory
On parenting Dory, a special needs fish
That way you look upon your children for the first time, when you see how truly magical their lives can be, that’s how I felt seeing Baby Dory. Okay, well maybe the feelings were not quite as strong with Dory as my own babies. But let me tell you, I’m in love.
But parenting Dory comes with an added layer of concern.
I really like the parenting that Dory’s parents used in the film. Do you think that kind of has a way to get extra hope or extra advice or support to parents who have children with disabilities?
Well, I mean I hope so, but I think that parents who have kids with disabilities, they kind of know what they have to do and how to do it because it takes an incredible amount of patience and perseverance.
If you’re not at all familiar you would have no idea how much energy and perseverance and patience that it takes. I think parents that have kids that have any kind of impairment are, I think they’re doing the job, you know. If they pick up anything, from this movie then that would be a wonderful thing.
One of the things I loved about your character is how charmed he was of Dory and that never was a disability to him. How did that play out for you may be thinking back to parenting your own children or thinking of other parents that you’ve encountered of really having that spirit of affirmation?
It’s always great to play a parent who is that supportive and kind of life affirming.
One of the great things again about how this was written is because this dad always tries to be funny, to lighten the load, and not make it quite so heavy and not make it quite so scary for Dory.
You’re hoping this kind of positive feedback that you’re just putting out there might actually help trigger something. Maybe you get enough positive vibes out there and things will start to happen with Dory and, of course, it does because she does manage to figure out how to navigate very difficult situations.
One of the many things I took away from Finding Dory was such gratitude that Disney/Pixar highlighted the struggles that Dory’s parents endured as they attempted to prepare their daughter for the big, wide ocean. It’s not easy, but it’s real life for so many. Being able to identify with Jenny and Charlie, or for kids to identify with Dory herself, brings Finding Dory from an entertaining family film to a positive parenting approach we can all strive for.
On joining the cast of Finding Dory
The storyline here was a great storyline. Nemo was so kind of funny and had such a great emotional impact to it that Dory, when I read the script had the same emotional impact. You could feel it when you were reading it so you knew you were onto something hot.
Throughout the interviews with the cast of Finding Dory, I learned a lot about the production of films from the actor’s point of view. From filming in just a few short sessions, to completing voice work primarily alone, and even director’s tricks to get voices just right (like using a balance board to make Kaitlin Olson sound wobbly).
You have to get used to that process of going in, not having a lot of time. I mean these sessions usually are like three hours and you get five sessions maybe over two and a half, three years. It’s just going over every line and giving the director as many options as you can on every line so that when he’s putting it all together he’s got the gamut of delivery on a line from A to Z kind of, in a way.
Ellen said that she was able to ad lib? Did you get the chance to ad lib any lines?
Ellen’s the star of the movie. She can do whatever she wants. There was some kind of ad libing. You do have to take a bit of a cue from the director.
He’ll kind of let you know where the sections are that he feels a little improvising might be beneficial, you know. But there were times every now and then, and it is fun when it works. Andrew’s a great laugher so it’s always very encouraging.
Besides your own character which is your favorite character?
I have to say the little Dory is my favorite character because when I first heard that voice I honestly I got so emotional. They actually showed a little section of the animation which hadn’t been fully fleshed out yet but that’s the first time I heard the voice and I mean I almost burst out crying. It was just so — I’ve never heard anything so sweet in all my life.
On seeing the movie for the first time
The first time you saw the film complete, what was that like for you?
When you’re going through recording sessions you get little chunks of what you’re involved with but not necessarily the stuff that you’re not involved with so you’re just focusing on what you’re doing. But last night when I saw the movie I think what impressed me the most was number one just the brilliance of the entire project and how beautiful the animation is.
I looked at a shot of the ocean at one point maybe just before Destiny hops into it and I’m looking at the ocean going, ‘I wonder, did they actually shoot the ocean? That’s the real ocean because you’re seeing a million actual white caps and waves?’ And they said no, that was all animated. It’s just incredible animation.
In addition to the animation, Eugene shared his thoughts on the story itself.
What a great, fantastic job they did. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on where the story’s going and then it just kind of opens up and then it opens up some more and just when you think you’re bringing it home it’s opening up some more and then it gets into such an adventure. It turns into an action movie at some point and it’s so incredibly real.
Disney/Pixar animation never fails to disappoint, with new innovations and technology always being developed. Yet, the spectacular animation is matched by storytelling. The tale of Dory on her search for family is one I will not forget.
Have you seen her? Share what you loved about Finding Dory.
Finding Dory is now in theaters nationwide.
You can read more Finding Dory interviews.