His deep voice has the power to make people obey. We thought he was a very serious man but he also has this childish fun side. Jeffrey Wright talked about parenthood (especially using his voice talent) and his trip to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang castle!
Q: Your character in the film is a little hard on his son because he wants him to grow up and overcome his fear. Could you relate to that?
Absolutely. I have an older boy and a younger girl. I guess more so with my son have I experienced that desire to instill a sense of strength and toughness, but at the same time that’s a lesson many parents learn is when too much is too much and when you’ve crossed the line between nurturing and damaging. We don’t get an operator’s manual with these things so as much as we teach our children, we also learn from them. If we’re open, then we’re being responsible, I think. That, for me, was really a central point of focus in voicing this character is the similar experiences that I’ve had with my own kids. That’s why I think these things resonate. We all drew upon our familial experiences in trying to tell these stories. So, ideally, this resonates with the audience because the audience too is bringing their family history and family life to the table here and imposing that on these characters as well as we do. That’s where we meet, performer and audience, through family. It doesn’t get much deeper than that for any of us.
Q: Your character has a good speech with your deep voice. Do you give speeches in your family?
I do a lot of voice work with my kids [laughs]. They came to understand what certain tones meant pretty early. Largely, with me, it’s vocal control to the extent that I can have any control.
Q: What was the first animated movie that you watched that influenced you or impacted you in some way?
There are many. But if I had to pick one, I would have to say Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, because there was such a grounded sense of fantasy about it. The storytelling and the details of the production, these elements of invention—they just struck me for some reason. So much so, it was a desire of mine for a long time to visit Neuschwanstein (in Bavaria, Germany. It was the location of Baron Bomburst’s castle), that is the castle. So I actually went there with my kids last year while we were filming the Mockingjays in Berlin. They got out of school and they came over with me for the last two weeks I was there. We ended up, once we wrapped, driving from Berlin down to Bavaria and going to visit Neuschwanstein, the castle. [Laughs] I was so much more excited than they were. They were digging it but I was like, “Woo-hoo! It’s the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang castle!” Maybe I’d choose that, but also Dick Van Dyke had learned at that point not to use a British accent so you didn’t have that distraction. You only had the distraction of how this American ended up in the middle of the British countryside with these kids who sounded (British). But it was wonderful stuff.
The Good Dinosaur opened in theaters on November 25th.