Josh Gad on New Cast Additions, Political Messages in 'The Angry Birds Movie 2'
'SNL' breakout Leslie Jones stars as a villain in the sequel, joining fellow new additions Sterling K. Brown, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina and Eugenio Derbez.
The Angry Birds Movie, the Sony animated flick based on the popular video game, is back for a second go-around, this time with a deeper story and starrier voice cast.
Josh Gad, who stars as one of the main birds, Chuck, told The Hollywood Reporter at the Los Angeles premiere Saturday that "there's no reason to do a sequel unless you're going to try to top the original, and with this, it was immediately clear to me that there was a whole different approach. The idea of frenemies uniting, when it was first pitched to me, was just so ingenious, and Thurop [Van Orman] — our new director — he just does a master class in unbelievable, insane animation that is like golden-age Looney Tunes-style stuff."
The Angry Birds Movie 2 sees the constantly at-odds angry birds and the green pigs teaming up to take on a common enemy that has put all of their homes in danger, which Gad says seems especially timely in this political climate.
"The movie has some amazing messaging in it, not the least of which is overcoming differences with people you disagree with in order to find a common ground, which I think speaks to a lot of issues we're dealing with right now," he said.
The sequel also brought in a number of A-listers to the cast, most notably Saturday Night Live star Leslie Jones as the villainous purple bird Zeta, who, Gad says, was "such inspired casting and brings such an unwieldy new energy to the film that disrupts everything in such a great way." Jones may not have been the logical choice to play an evil character, but director Van Orman said she unknowingly cast herself in the role.
"She was on a talk show a few years ago, I don't even remember which talk show, and she was like, 'I've always wanted to be a villain, if anybody is listening I want to be a villain!'" he remembered. "So when we were looking at who to cast as a villain we were like, 'Oh yeah, shit, she would be amazing.'"
Aside from Jones, new additions include Sterling K. Brown, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina and Eugenio Derbez, who takes on his first American animated film with Angry Birds 2 after years of dubbing English versions in Spanish.
"I'm Donkey's voice for Shrek, I'm Snowball in Secret Life of Pets — I'm Kevin Hart, basically, in Spanish, I'm Eddie Murphy in Spanish all of his movies, I'm Jim Carrey," Derbez said. In contrast to dubbing, being part of the original cast was "a piece of cake. In Spanish, you have to match the lips and you have to match every single movement of the mouth the same speed of the performance of the original actor. It's really hard, and in this one you just get to read and perform in your own rhythm with your own pace, so it's a completely different technique. And Spanish is longer than English, and Eddie Murphy speaks so fast, so it was a nightmare for me."
Some famous kids also dove into voice work for the first time, with Jojo Siwa and Mason Ramsey making their animated movie debuts, along with Viola Davis' daughter Genesis Tennon, Gal Gadot's daugher Alma Varsano and Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban's daughters Faith and Sunday Kidman-Urban also voicing characters in the film.
Tennon, who walked the red carpet with her parents, told THR, "I've always loved Angry Birds, so once my dad told me I was off the walls. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I got the role in one of my favorite movies!' I freaked out."
The premiere, held at Regency Theater in Westwood, Calif., also welcomed stars Jones, Bloom, Brown, Siwa, Ramsey, Dove Cameron, David Dobrik and Beck Bennett. The Angry Birds Movie 2 opens Tuesday.