The Pirates! Band of Misfits Voice Cast
: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Brian Blessed, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey, Ashley Jensen Director
: Peter Lord Genre
: Animation, Comedy, Action, FamilyRated
: GRunning Time
: 88 minutes Synopsis
: In The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Hugh Grant stars in his first animated role as the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain - a boundlessly enthusiastic, if somewhat less-than-successful, terror of the High Seas. With a rag-tag crew at his side, and seemingly blind to the impossible odds stacked against him, the Captain has one dream: to beat his bitter rivals Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) to the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. It's a quest that takes our heroes from the shores of exotic Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London. Along the way they battle a diabolical queen (Imelda Staunton) and team up with a haplessly smitten young scientist (David Tennant), but never lose sight of what a pirate loves best: adventure!Release Date
: April 5, 2012 (April 2nd in QLD and Vic)
About the Film
"I loved pirate stories when I was a boy - particularly Treasure Island," says two-time Academy Award® nominee Peter Lord, a co-founder of Aardman and the director and a producer of the studio's new stop-frame animated feature for Sony Pictures Animation, The Pirates! Band of Misfits. "Real pirates probably weren't that great to be around, but these stories turned them into something glamorous, swaggering, and colorful - pirate stories revel in the tropical seas, the blue skies, the cannons and costumes. It's a magical irresistible world. So when we found this story about a crew of relentlessly optimistic pirates, I felt we were telling a story in a sort of classic tradition, but turning everything up a notch."
The story does that in its characters: a collection of extremely hapless pirates that has got to be the most incompetent crew any captain could ask for. "They're just rubbish at it - they are really, really, really bad at piracy," says Hugh Grant, who takes on his first animated role in voicing the Pirate Captain. "But the Captain is perpetually optimistic, and because of that, his crew is with him all the way. He loves his crew, he loves the ship's parrot - or, rather, what he thinks is the ship's parrot - and he is very vain about his luxuriant beard."
The Pirate Captain has one goal that has eclipsed all others: to be named Pirate of the Year and be acknowledged as one of the great pirates of his day, like Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz. "It's like a sort of Oscars® for pirates," says Hugh Grant. "He's entered many times, but he's always come in last. You win by having the most booty, but his booty haul is always tragic."
Still, Peter Lord says, the Captain might be looking for love and respect in all the wrong places. "None of that matters to his crew - they're like his family, very loyal, loving and trusting - if a little foolish," says the director, who previously helmed Aardman's first animated feature film, the 2000 hit Chicken Run. "But when he goes off chasing this flashy prize, he risks losing what is most dear to him."
The Pirates! Band of Misfits began during an Aardman story meeting in which the Aardman brain trust discussed possible ideas for their next feature film. "We'll do these every so often - people will bring in ideas - comic books, scripts, novels, and we'll discuss them," Peter Lord explains. "Well, Gideon Defoe's book The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists was on the table in one meeting - I picked it up, scanned through it, and I was immediately hooked and laughing out loud. There was something spectacularly unique about it. It was pretty clear to me that this could be a movie and I wanted to direct it."
"Pirates are a group of people who go and have adventures for the sake of having adventures," says Gideon Defoe, who wrote the screenplay for the film, based on his book. Gideon Defoe had no experience with pirates or piracy before writing his books; in fact, his publisher claims that the only reason he started writing about pirates was to impress a girl. (It didn't work.) "That's a terrific route into a story. You don't need any set-up or anything. You don't even have to do any research, especially if half the point is that the captain and his crew aren't very good at being pirates. They're pirates - of course they have adventures!"
Peter Lord and his colleagues sparked to the story by its fun and hilarious take on pirates. "It's not what you expect," Peter Lord says, laughing. "Well, it is, in that it has adventure and swashbuckling and comedy, but it builds everything together in a way I've never seen before. People approach a pirate movie thinking they know what to expect, and Gideon Defoe's story constantly plays with that - undermining it, exaggerating it, but always playing with it."
For example, at the center of the story is the Pirate Captain. "He absolutely looks the part," says Peter Lord. "He's a big, beefy bloke who loves everything about being the captain - loves the job, loves the costume, has a crew that trusts him and follow him unquestionably. And then Gideon Defoe turns it on its head by making him a terrible pirate with very modern concerns - he yearns for the respect of his peers, he's desperate to win Pirate of the Year. I think that's why everyone at Aardman sparked to this story - we love stories about flawed characters who find a way to rise to the occasion in surprising, funny, and clever ways."
It's an idea that is reinforced throughout the film. The Pirate Captain's crew is loaded with misfits, from the childlike Albino Pirate to the Pirate with Prosthetics (who is seeing his anatomy constantly replaced with various pieces of flotsam and jetsam) to the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate, who nobody seems to notice is a woman. Even the supposedly highly serious real-life characters of Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria get the Aardman treatment and become hilarious and ridiculous, all in the name of a good time. "Finding these people in a context you wouldn't expect them is always more fun," says Gideon Defoe. "Luckily, our pirates are masters of disguise, so they can pass themselves off in almost any situation."
With that in mind, who better to bring that take on the pirate story to the screen than Aardman, which has built a legacy as one of the best-loved animation institutions with fans all over the world? Their work has earned over 400 international awards, including four Oscars® (three for Best Animated Short Film, and one for Best Animated Feature Film for Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit). In the 40 years since it was founded by Lord and David Sproxton, the animation studio has opened eyes, turned heads, and brought smiles and laughs with inventive films (including Creature Comforts and the Wallace & Gromit series), television series (such as the popular "Shaun the Sheep"), music videos (such as Peter Gabriel's memorable "Sledgehammer" video), and commercials.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits is Aardman's second collaboration with Sony Pictures Animation, following on the CG-animated Arthur Christmas. "It's a thrilling partnership," says producer and Aardman co-founder David Sproxton. "We're always on the same page when it comes to the heart of the film, so the partnership is collaborative, fun, and always in the best interest of the film. From the very beginning, when we first approached Sony Pictures Animation with the project, they were thrilled by this fun and unique take on the pirate movie, just as we were."
It is also Aardman's first stop-motion film in 3D, which Lord says is a perfect medium for Aardman's visuals. "For example, take the captain's cabin," he says. "We've filled it with amusing, engaging, delightful things - they're jokes, but they're also expressive of his character. Now, in 3D, you feel like you're right in that space, immersed in that world, and that's a wonderful feeling. Or an action shot - when the ship crashes through the waves, you get the sheer impact of it."
About the Character and Actors
Producer Julie Lockhart says that casting an animated film is a unique experience. "You have to take the voice away from any other influence. You have to listen to it almost as a disembodied voice and try to picture that coming out of your character's mouth and forming that character. Regardless of the dramatic and comedic qualities of the actor, the actual voice itself needs to be convincing and a quality that will suit the character. At the same time, we avoided typical pirate voices - there aren't any in the film at all - because we always thought about this film as a comedy with pirates, not a pirate movie that happened to be funny." The Pirate Captain - Voiced by Hugh Grant"The best bit about being a pirate isn't the looting or the cutlasses. It's not the grog or the scurvy or the scantily clad mermaids. The best bit about being a pirate
is Ham Night!"
The Pirate Captain possesses practically everything any pirate captain could want: a colorful parrot (he thinks), a seaworthy vessel (more or less), the best crew a Captain could wish for (except for all the other crews), and a luxuriant beard (no argument here). Even though he's really lousy at piracy, he always remains gung-ho. His crew thinks he's the greatest, which is good, because nobody else does. But he intends to change that by finally winning the coveted title of Pirate of the Year, which will no doubt involve plundering, the use of clever disguises, and still more dastardly schemes (mostly of the not-very-well-thought-out variety).
The filmmakers tapped Hugh Grant to voice the lead role of the Pirate Captain. "It's a huge part - the captain on screen almost the entire time," says Peter Lord. "He's larger than life, both physically and character-wise. Hugh Grant is the perfect person to play him - he has great comic timing and he delivers these lines so well, but he also does a fine swashbuckling turn as well. The character's cheerfulness is what wins through - he's up against some very selfish and dangerous people, and there are not many things he can do better than they can, but his crew loves him - he's a good leader who keeps them going."
Hugh Grant says that there were many reasons he was attracted to his first voice role in an animated film - the chance to work with Aardman Animations, the funny screenplay, the ham - but perhaps the most attractive of all was the chance to play a role unlike any he's played before. "Physically, I'm so ill-suited to the part - the Pirate Captain is a big, portly, bearded, luxuriant fellow, and that just isn't me. But, of course, I didn't have to play him physically - it was my voice they wanted. Aardman had already modeled the character when they approached me about the part - so it was quite a challenge; I had to model myself to him rather than the other way around. My way in was through his eyes - whatever else an Aardman character has, they all have a kind of wide-eyed innocence. The strange thing is that I have several young cousins who have all seen parts of the film and they all love it but insist that it's not my voice."
"The captain is an idiot, but he's an idiot with a luxuriant beard," says Gideon Defoe, who first created the character in his novel and later wrote the screenplay for the film. "On the other hand, he is also boundlessly enthusiastic about everything. His great selling point is that he doesn't stop to think - he just jumps in. Of course, it usually ends up in disaster."
One other reason Hugh Grant was excited by the possibility of voicing the Pirate Captain was the chance to work with director Peter Lord. "He's got a little bit of a mad scientist in him, but at the same time, he's steely and sharp with a flawless sense of comedy. He's very kind and very, very good with actors."The Pirate with a Scarf - Voiced by Martin Freeman
Pirate with a Scarf: "Do you remember that talk we had?"
Pirate Captain: "The one about whether pigs are actually a type of fruit?"
Pirate with a Scarf: "No. The one about trying to avoid hare-brained schemes that end with us facing certain death."
The Captain's trusty deputy, the Pirate with a Scarf-also called Number Two-is constantly prepared to see the best in his boss despite all evidence to the contrary. If the Pirate Captain is the crew's flashy but unreliable dad, Number Two is their ever-dependable and always reasonable mom. He takes care of the little details that the Captain tends to overlook, manages his boss's unpredictable moods, and does his best to keep the Captain and his crew out of trouble. Smart, resourceful, and perhaps just a little too loyal, the Pirate with a Scarf also has a very nice scarf.
Martin Freeman, who voices Scarf and will soon take on the lead role of Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's production of The Hobbit, says, "In a way, the Pirate with a Scarf is in the wrong job - I mean, none of the pirates are very good pirates, but the others all clearly want to be pirates, it's the only role you can see them taking. But Scarf could be in middle management somewhere, or a solicitor perhaps. Instead, he's found himself on this ship, and he fits in quite well."
"There's a long tradition in British humor of someone who's a bit more clever than his superior," Martin Freeman continues, and indeed, Scarf follows in a lineage of long-suffering employees with idiot bosses in film, television, comic strips, literature
...and stop-frame animation. "He's kind of like Gromit to the Pirate Captain's Wallace," Gideon Defoe explains. "He's the voice of reason."
"Scarf is just a bit more level-headed and unflappable - he keeps grounding the Pirate Captain as his right-hand man," Martin Freeman continues. "He'll remind the Captain of his position, his importance and responsibility to his crew, and by the end of the film I think the Captain knows he can really rely on Scarf."Polly
Pirate Captain: "She's not fat, she's big boned."
Albino Pirate: "She's like a auntie
with a beak!"
The feathery "heart and soul" of the pirate boat, beloved by all the crew, Polly is the Pirate Captain's insatiably hungry, strangely shaped mascot. Every ship has to have a parrot, which is too bad, because it turns out that Polly is a dodo. But no matter - even when surrounded by chaos, Polly maintains her obliviously calm demeanor and heart-warming devotion to the Captain. Basically, Polly is happy just so long as there's somebody around to feed her biscuits.Albino Pirate - Voiced by Russell Tovey
Pirate Captain: " "We laugh in the face of danger, remember?"
Albino Pirate: "Um - I don't really like danger at all."
The Albino Pirate believes everything he's told. Slightly nervous, easily excitable and nearly always confused, even the most everyday occurrence can surprise or delight him. Like a young child, he's prone to blurting out incredibly uncomfortable truths. Innocent, gullible and naïve, his natural expression is one of constant wide-eyed wonder.
"The Albino Pirate is a bit of a simpleton, but he's a loveable simpleton - he's got a heart of gold," explains Russell Tovey, who British audiences will know well from his roles in The History Boys and the BBC's "Being Human." "He's a lovely guy, really, but he's quite childish and immature. He sees the Pirate Captain as a kind of hero - so when he sees his hero toppled, it's quite upsetting for him. For him, it's like being let down by your dad."Pirate with Gout - Voiced by Brendan Gleeson"This is our most educational adventure ever!"
By outward appearance, the Pirate With Gout is a battle-scarred old sea dog. But in reality, he's just as daft and childlike as the rest of the pirate crew. He enjoys dispensing wisdom that isn't particularly wise, and his fondness for meats of all descriptions has led to his raging gout, of which he is a little too proud. Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate - Voiced by Ashley Jensen"I'd take a jellyfish in the face for that man."
Probably the Pirate Captain's biggest fan, the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate may also be the most pirate-y pirate, always up for some fighting, high seas adventuring or, especially, some plank-walking. Stuck in an era when women at sea were thought to bring terribly bad luck, none of the other pirates appear to notice anything strange about their crew-mate, despite her strangely pitched voice, child-bearing hips, and the somewhat fake-looking beard.
Ashley Jensen, who recently voiced the role of Bryony the elf in Aardman's Arthur Christmas, takes on the role of the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate. "I'm not sure whether anyone actually realises that she's female or if they do and no one mentions it," she says. "She has a very cunning disguise, which consists of her pirate beard, but I like to think that underneath her pirate clothes, she's wearing pink."
All of the members of the crew are loyal to the Pirate Captain, but the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate is a little extra-committed, Ashley Jensen says. "I don't think they are having a relationship - I'm certain that her love for the Pirate Captain is an unrequited love. She admires him from afar, on her own. Poor Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate."Charles Darwin - Voiced by David Tennant
Pirate Captain: "Come on, Darwin, we didn't evolve from slugs just to sit here drinking our own sweat, now did we?"
sorry, what was that about slugs?"
This Charles Darwin is the Darwin before all the facial hair and that really big theory about monkeys. The young academic is serious, socially inept and something of a nerd-largely unsuccessful in both science (thus far) and romance. But his luck may change, thanks to his crossing paths with the Captain and Polly. Now, he may have just come up with a way to boost his career and his love life with one bold plan
David Tennant, whose recent run as The Doctor in the long-running BBC series "Doctor Who" was voted as the fans' favorite of all time, voices Charles Darwin - but this is not necessarily the Darwin we know from the history books and boring facts. "I think it's time to introduce another side of Charles Darwin to an expectant public," says David Tennant. "This is a young Darwin, before he becomes world famous, with terrible insecurities about his abilities as a scientist and as a man. He's rather smitten with Queen Victoria - his every motivation springs from his desire to impress her. I don't know if that's historically accurate - I'm just putting that out there - but his insecurities are what drive the plot in slightly unexpected directions."
Poor Charles Darwin.Gideon Defoe, the author and screenwriter, notes that it's possible - just possible - that one of the most important figures in human history didn't ask to be made into the ridiculous creator of the man-panzee. "We have treated him with terrible disrespect. Apparently, he deserves a lot better than what we've done with him. But we've already made the movie, so there's nothing we can do about that now."
It is Darwin's complicated relationship with the Pirate Captain that sets the Captain's half-baked schemes in motion. "Darwin thinks he's cleverer than the Pirate Captain and thinks he can use the Captain for his own ends," David Tennant explains. "It's a duplicitous relationship, but I think by the end they become rather fond of each other and they certainly have to work together to save the day."
Voice actors working on animated films rarely get the chance to record together, but the stars aligned for David Tennant and Hugo Grant. "Having David Tennant and Hugh Grant together was a real bonus, because of course it's all about chemistry," says Peter Lord, the director.
"Recording together isn't strictly necessary, but it's always good to do it when you can," says David Tennant, who also shared recording sessions with Martin Freeman. "Actors spark off each other and it spices things up."Mister Bobo
Darwin: "I thought that if you took a monkey, gave him a monocle and covered up his gigantic unsightly behind, then he would cease to be a monkey and become more of a
Man-Panzee, if you will."
The latest of Darwin's not-entirely-successful projects, Mister Bobo is the world's first Man-panzee, somehow overlooked in today's science books. A slightly reluctant side-kick and fall guy for his master's desperate schemes, Mister Bobo is only able to communicate through the use of flash cards, which is frustrating, seeing as how he's probably smarter than any of his more "evolved" companions. Queen Victoria - Voiced by Imelda Staunton"With their idiotic shanties and their ridiculous hats and their endless blasted roaring! I want them sunk, Admiral. Scuppered.Smashed. Fed to the sharks! Do you hear me? I HATE PIRATES!"
The tiny, plump, and all-powerful ruler of nearly a quarter of the globe is new to the throne, still single and loves all of her loyal subjects
with the exception of pirates, whom she despises with all of her stumpy being. About the only thing she loves more than executing a pirate is sitting down to a really special meal, particularly if exotic creatures are on the menu. Underneath that tight corset beats the heart of a fighter-and since she's the queen, who says that fight has to be fair?
"Judi Dench, Helen Mirren - eat your hearts out!" says Imelda Staunton, who brings a new vision to the British monarchy in her performance as Queen Victoria. "It's fair to say this isn't a history lesson. This Victoria has more than a couple of screws missing. Poor Victoria - she does not like pirates, she wants a dodo, and she will do everything in her power to get one."
Imelda Staunton is back for thirds with Aardman, having previously voiced roles in Chicken Run and Arthur Christmas. Imelda Staunton says she particularly enjoys vocal work. "You can't pull faces, you can't cause a distraction - your voice is all you've got," she says. "To rely on your voice is a good place to be as an actor, because that's where it all is - your heart and soul has to be heard, rather than looked at."Black Bellamy - Voiced by Jeremy Piven"Read it and weep, you coves. That's right! Black Bellamy is gonna be Pirate Of The Year! Again."
Everyone has the misfortune of knowing someone like Black Bellamy: he's the school jock, the cocky work colleague, the annoyingly flashy next-door neighbor. The most successful pirate on the Seven Seas and multiple Pirate Of The Year Award winner, he's the Pirate Captain's longtime nemesis. He's crafty, smooth, and mischievous, not to mention a shameless showoff-surfing in on a sea of gold coughed up by a whale
seriously? Black Bellamy also likes nothing more than to push the Captain's buttons, which is unfortunate, since he's really, really good at it.
The role is voiced by Jeremy Piven, best known, of course, for his work as agent Ari Gold on the HBO series "Entourage." Cutlass Liz - Voiced by Salma Hayek"Hello boys! You're probably all wondering if I'm still as deadly as I am beautiful. Well, I am."
The Butcher of Barbados, a woman in a man's world, Cutlass Liz is the murderous, no-nonsense, devilishly attractive femme fatale of Blood Island. Like a nautical Calamity Jane, she shoots, spits, drinks, and runs people through without a second thought. Another contender for Pirate of the Year, Cutlass, like Bellamy, has no respect for the Pirate Captain. Which stings even more, because, like everybody else, he really can't help but have a bit of a crush on her. Salma Hayek voices the role. The Pirate King - Voiced by Brian Blessed "Oh villainous treachery! Treacherous villainy! You have betrayed the pirating fraternity!"
Decked out head-to-toe with booty turned into bling, the Pirate King is larger than life-part Elvis, part Shakespearean ruler, and all pirate. He lords over Blood Island
which also qualifies him to be the final say and emcee of the annual Pirate of the Year competition.
"He's wonderful! Powerful! One-eyed! Ten feet tall and will knock anybody into next week!" exclaims Brian Blessed, whose own larger-than-life personality is a perfect fit for the king of all pirates. "He's the most adored, respected, and beloved of all the pirates. He's been the bravest, he's sailed the seven seas, he's sailed the best ships, he's defeated the Victoria squadrons. They love him because he's the best - he's a giant of a guy, giant in soul, giant in mind."
The Pirate King can use his outsized personality to great effect - whether he's bellying up a barrage of bombast or being very still. "When he's very quiet, you have the sense that something is going to happen," Brian Blessed explains. "Suddenly, it's huge, it's a rush, it's all teeth - and then he becomes quite still again."
pirates don't think is piratey enough and they're teasing him. It's very easy to lose track of what you're doing when you're an