Dane Cook and Dusty Crophopper in Disney's 'Planes'. Photos courtesy of Disney and Getty Images.
Dane Cook's website used to keep fans updated on the latest "Dane Train" news, but thanks to the comedian/actor's latest role, we'll be looking for more "Dane Plane" news.
In Disney's latest animated wonder, "Planes," Cook voices Dusty Crophopper, an anthropomorphic crop-duster who longs to be a globe-trotting aerial racer. While it's hard enough to succeed in something Dusty's not built for, further complicating matters is the fact that he is mortified of heights.
Surprisingly, Cook has a lot in common with Dusty. "It's funny how many parallels there were to my young adult life in this story," Cook recently told us in a phone interview about the film.
As you'll find out in the full interview below, it is a little bit funny. And though you may not expect as much from a comedian who's not afraid to go to the crass side, Cook's similarities to Dusty are also a little bit touching.
What's not surprising is that Cook's "Planes" performance is funny and touching too; what else would you expect from a Disney animated movie?
"Planes" opens wide this weekend.
[Related: Dane Cook Filmography & Biography]
What did you see in this project that made you sign on?
Dane Cook: In terms of what [executive producer John] Lasseter and Disney and Pixar have done over the years, which is just incredible heart in these films. Just because of where they are now willing to take these characters and what topics they tackle along the way. So many different themes of isolation, and feeling neglect, and fear, and I just love that about these movies.
When I read the script, and there was this scene where Skipper, as his mentor, is talking to Dusty about things in his past that were traumatizing. And I knew in reading the script that there would be this flashback moment. And it moved me. I was sitting there going "wow". And the fact that I was saying "wow" to a script, I knew that where they would take it, and because of the lineage of Disney and the people behind it, that I was going to be a part of something very special.
And then you see that scene on the big screen, and it's arguably one of the most emotional scenes you've seen in an animated action-adventure in many, many years.
Did you discuss that scene with Mr. Lasseter? I mean, because I remember seeing it and saying, "Man, that's pretty heavy.
DC: I had talk with Klay [Hall], our director, on the day as we were doing it. And the notes that we kept getting back from the bosses were, "Keep going. Keep pushing it."
I remember saying, "I really want to play this with real trepidation in his voice going into it, but then once he's crashing through the waves, I want to be throwing water on my face and sounding like I'm drowning and choking. So, to finally see that scene in the completed form – I love that there's great laughs, great heart, an incredible message for kids, and then there's also grit in there.
Did you really have water thrown in your face during that scene?
DC: I was taking bottles of water, and before each take, I would try to purposely put it into a place where I would choke so that you would hear that kind of breath you only get when you stay under the pool a little bit too long. So yeah, whatever I could do to pull out an authentic sound for that scene.
I guess the theme of the film is that you can do more than what you're built for right? What were you, Dane Cook, built for?
DC: I wanted to be a comedian ever since I was probably 10 years old. I told my sister, Kelly, when I was 15 years old – she had seen Steve Martin play in Madison Square Garden, she came back to Boston, and she was telling me all about this evening. She was really animated and just so excited to share what she had seen in front of all these people. And at 15 I said, "I'm going to sell out Madison Square Garden someday," to my sister, Kelly.
I suffered from a lot of anxiety. I had panic attacks when I was a kid. Social anxieties. I couldn't participate in team sports because of the amount of insecurity and isolation that I felt. So, I knew I wanted to entertain the world, but I didn't have the ability to speak or look somebody in the eye outside of my front porch. It was going to be a lot of years and a lot of great, great mentors – some incredible comics coming up, some of the best comedians that I've ever worked with – being real champions of mine, helping me through some real rough patches, so that I could participate in my calling.
I watch "Cars" and "Planes," and they are lovely worlds, but they're all human-made things, but there are no humans. Why are there no humans?
DC: You start to get lost in the eyes of these characters and then they don't feel like mechanical items. I think Lasseter's approach, and again I'm not speaking for him, we didn't really get into this part of the conversation, but from what I gathered from his conversations with me about what it meant to him to have the success with "Cars," was he just wanted to go back to that feeling of when he was a kid, where you played with these cars, and you gave them voices, and you gave them personalities, but you didn't think of them from an adult perspective. There was a magic in these action figures, and things of that nature that spoke to you and you lived vicariously through these things, as we all have, and I have as well.
So, there's just a kind of a greater understanding that if you start trying to figure out the ingredients too much, you won't enjoy the sauce the same way.
How many crop-dusting jokes were there on the set?
DC: That's a good question. I'm sure that plenty of days I would come in and be asked, "How you feeling?" "Low and slow, gentlemen, let's start off low and slow."
This is truly an underdog story. And there's a great practice montage in there too where he's doing the training, which has that sort of kind of a sports film feel to it as well.
DC: It was funny, I met a bunch of kids the other day who'd seen a screening of the film, five little girls who had seen the movie, and I was talking to them. I'm asking of all these questions and three of them said that was their favorite scene.
It's funny what kids are drawn to, but they loved the practice scene more than other things that I thought they would've picked. I don't know, I think it's that young brain that's already gearing you up for, "I want to get good at something. I want to know what I love, and what I want to participate in."
It's nice to have talked to young girls who got the message. You kind of always think that boys love planes, but these were little girls who were just over the moon about it, it was kind of a cool moment that I've never experienced before, having never done a voice and a character like this.
I know it's probably an off chance, but did you get to work with Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer?
DC: No, I didn't. Unfortunately, that's the one downfall about voice over work, because often times you're scheduling while everybody is in a different corner of the globe. But I will say that every time I put on those headphones and I heard John Cleese's voice come through, it would kind of geek me out. There were few moments like that where it was just, "Wow! This is Monty Python!" And just participating in a verbal parry-thrust with John Cleese, that's something I will look back on to the rest of my life.
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