HERBIE: FULLY LOADED - Q&A with Michael Keaton and Angela Robinson
Movie Interview by Neils Hesse
HERBIE: FULLY LOADED Q&A session at the London press conference with Michael Keaton and Angela Robinson
Angela, there is not much CGI in this one was that your doing?
ANGELA ROBINSON: Yes it was. Originally Herbie was going to be fully animated. I feel alienated by the overuse of CGI in most films these days. I felt that I had the responsibility of sticking to the simple slapstick humour that has always been at the heart of the HERBIE movies. I thought it would be more charming this way. I wanted Herbie to be as real as possible.
Angela, you referred to the car as Herbie, does this mean that you have been pulled into this whole Herbie phenomenon?
ANGELA ROBINSON: Yes I guess so. The first couple of weeks I referred to it as the car but then I started saying he'll be in this shot and people around me would respond by saying "Michael Keaton you mean?" and I'd say no, "Herbie!"
Michael, I'm sure that all parents should be able to relate to your character in the film, did you like the multi-layered feel of your character?
MICHAEL KEATON: It started out as a fun role but then I always relate to the director to fully grasp my character. I spoke to Angela about him and I'm sure that she thought that I was going too deep for such a simple film. I felt that he had great merit, he handled the family and the business without complaining - he was not a whiner. I particularly loved doing the hospital scene and the junk yard scene.
Michael, are you a good driver and have you ever been a racing fan?
MICHAEL KEATON: I am a sound driver, but I am also a very fast driver. Luckily enough my kid talked me into wearing my seatbelt and that is a very good thing. I was never a real racing fan, I mean over here in Europe it's very different and of course I can tell you guys all about Europe [he says jokingly, and everybody laughs]. I am generally interested in anything. I owned two Beetles at one point in my life yes and I remember that I talked down the guy to reduce the sale price by $5 and he actually had to think about it first. Also I possessed a hybrid.
Michael, do you mean it was part cow?
MICHAEL KEATON: Yes, it was part Angus and part Chevy and it produced milk and ran on "herbs". Yeah "it was called Erbie! It was a Toyota that ran partly on petrol and partly on electric power, very ozone friendly and very good car.
Angela, what do you drive?
ANGELA ROBINSON: I drive a very boring silver Honda and I lose it every time I go to a shopping mall, because a lot of people drive silver Hondas too. I used to be a speed freak, I would put in a tape with some fast music like the extended mix to 'Pump Up The Volume' but these days I am a much more relaxed driver.
Michael, on TV this morning you alluded to the fact that you were mainly doing this movie for business, it is very refreshing to see an actor of your stature being so candid about their career. Is this the way you always are and have you had to do a lot of this lately?
MICHAEL KEATON: Not always, but you see the business is about art and commerce and quite frankly I think I tend to fail more on the art side of things. The acting business has changed enormously, you find yourself being a business inside a business but of course I still have to try to go out and be an artist.
Michael, so how is business?
MICHAEL KEATON: It is quite good, I just came off a ridiculously small but good movie that I probably lost money on, it's called GAME 6. Then I start work on a dark comedy and then I am working on a film that I developed, and the guys that I did WHITE NOISE with are very interested in it.
Angela, you have now apparently been given a very good deal with Disney, so are you currently very popular with them?
MICHAEL KEATON: Yes she is but she doesn't have her own ride yet!
ANGELA ROBINSON: Yes I have been given a good deal to do a few pictures at the moment.
Angela, how did you get Lindsay to do that driving?
ANGELA ROBINSON: She went to this driving school that basically allows you to drive a stock car as fast as you can for about $100 and so she went there and then she also had to go to VW driving school. She did her VW driving training at a place where they teach the police how to drive. She became quite good after a while, so very soon the instructors were shouting at her to slow down.
Angela, what would you say was the biggest problem that you faced on this movie?
ANGELA ROBINSON: Oh, there were plenty of issues. Trying to keep the vision of the movie and dealing with day-to-day stuff was hard.
Angela, was there particularly a lot of pressure because it was a HERBIE movie?
ANGELA ROBINSON: I only realised that there was pressure after I had already taken the deal to direct it. Still I was very happy that it wasn't a remake but a whole new adventure and I am very much pleased with the end product because I wanted to make an old school Disney movie.
Michael apparently you had never watched a HERBIE movie before you did this film?
MICHAEL KEATON: I must have had a stroke or something. Maybe I was in a coma. I vaguely remember a Beetle with flowers and Dean Jones but that's where it ends.
Michael, but you clearly understand the essence of Herbie now - yes?
MICHAEL KEATON: Yes okay, but no not really.
Are you happier playing a bad guy or a good guy, how do you choose?
MICHAEL KEATON: You never really know, I used to mix it up but now I don't know if one has the luxury to do that anymore. It's all very different now. I always thought that it was my job to do something different.
Michael, has the versatility hurt your career?
MICHAEL KEATON: The movie world has become a mall, you have the main store then you have many small stores and then the shoe market and that big store used to be Miramax in terms of creativity but that's all bullshit now!
What was it like working with Herbie?
MICHAEL KEATON: I like the story, they managed to create a character out of the car, and Lindsay is very good, but usually in these kind of movies it is hard to notice just how good the actor is because there is so much other fun stuff going on. For instance Tom Cruise is really good in WAR OF THE WORLDS but all the effects draw the attention away from his performance. I probably worked as hard in BATMAN as I would on any movie but just the fact that it's a super hero movie it overshadows the performance.
Angela, how did you come up with Herbie's expressions?
ANGELA ROBINSON: 75% mechanical effects by some incredible effects guys and 25% visual effects, so after some trial and error we pretty much got Herbie to do everything that we wanted him to do.
MICHAEL KEATON: I just did a film for Pixar called CARS and it was really a fantastic experience because with that kind of animation they could get the car to do anything and I am this Nascar type of car.
Michael you have been away from the big screen for a while, why?
MICHAEL KEATON: Well at one point I went through a phase where I felt like I wasn't actually that good because I looked back at some of the stuff I had done and wasn't really impressed. I was also becoming bored and boring at the same time. I turned down a lot of stuff but about 70% of that even you would turn down, it wasn't that good, I was getting bad stuff. I decided to quietly work harder at getting stuff that I wanted to do but also to embrace the commercial side of the business.
Michael, would you do a sequel to BEETLEJUICE?
MICHAEL KEATON: I would if it was done right because that film is a very special thing, for me. It's the only thing since MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING that I have done that was purely original and authentic.
Michael, what can you tell us about your experience working on this kind of film?
MICHAEL KEATON: I like family movies and this one is classically contemporary, and such films have longevity so you become part of film history and I like that aspect of it.