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The Apple holiday movie Spirited not only reimagines the classic Christmas Carol tale from the ghosts’ perspective, but it’s also a musical, forcing stars Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell to brush up on their singing and dancing for the film.
The pair have spoken about the difficulty of performing in new ways and the extensive practice that went into Spirited‘s big numbers. Reynolds even posted a rehearsal video to Instagram.
But what was the hardest part of singing and dancing on film? The moment they realized they’d have to actually do it: singing and dancing everything they’d learned at the same time.
“The most challenging part of singing and dancing is you work on them separately and you kind of forget that you have to do them simultaneously,” Ferrell told The Hollywood Reporter at Spirited‘s world premiere in New York earlier this month, “and that’s where it’s a ‘holy crap’ moment of, ‘Oh boy, now I have to put it all together,’ which performers seamlessly do, but that was hard for me.”
For Reynolds the most difficult thing was “that moment when you accept that you’re actually going to do it.”
While acknowledging that he’s not a “natural singer or dancer,” Reynolds told THR that he “got as close to a black belt in adequate as I could to get through it.”
Part of what helped him, he said, was an understanding that “it’s OK to suck at something at first in order to be good at it, and if you’re willing to do that, you can do some pretty incredible things.”
And when it came time to performing in the film, Reynolds said he “had probably the most fun I think I’ve ever had actually shooting a movie, the actual physical production.
“I love every one of those dancers that we got to work with,” he added. “Every one of them was our teacher. They never left set, and they really gave us the ability to do the best we could possibly do.”
Leading Reynolds, Ferrell and the dancers was choreographer Chloe Arnold, said she who valued the dedication, kindness and humility shown by Spirited‘s stars.
“They were never too tired. They were always joyous, great, loving, sharing; it was an absolute dream come true,” Arnold told THR. “Everything I love about dance, they were open to learning and sharing, and the thing that makes a great dancer is someone that’s willing to be free and open and vulnerable, and all three of them were fully on board for that.”
In terms of specific dance moments in the film that viewers should watch for, Arnold pointed to the post-explosion tap dancing in “Good Afternoon,” some of which is shown in Spirited‘s first teaser trailer.
The performance, Arnold says, also serves as a “bonding moment” for Reynolds and Ferrell’s characters: “It solidifies their friendship in this movie and, for me, to have tap dance be the language through which they do that, it’s super special because we haven’t seen tap dance in a movie musical this way in a very long time, and it’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid.”
In the film as a whole, Arnold tried to tell a story with the dance sequences.
“We really broke down all of the scripts and looked at all of the dance numbers, and there were so many songs. So what we had to figure out is what styles of dance best tell each story, but also where do we start?” she said. “What’s the beginning, middle and end of every piece and that is, honestly much like writing a script, the same idea of imagining what is the arc, what do we want to feel at this part of the song, what do these lyrics evoke within us?”
For Christmas Carol fans excited to see a new take on the beloved story, the actors said those viewers in particular were in for a treat.
“The more you know about a Christmas Carol, the more you’re going to enjoy it,” Patrick Page, who plays Marley, told THR. “Now you don’t need to know a thing about a Christmas Carol in order to enjoy the movie but if you do, if you watch Christmas Carol every year, if it’s your jam, then this movie will really hit the sweet spot for you.”
Added P.J. Byrne, “Everything you love about a Christmas Carol, the volume is turned up. Not only is there music, but there’s such a great take on the story. There’s such a lovely way into these characters. It’s such a nice, smart way to get into a story about sharing kindness with the world and being good.”
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