Tuesday 19 May 2015

Game night with Bradley Pierce

I loved game night, each Sunday evening we would forgo the booze and partying of the weekend, we would forget the monotony of shopping or balancing our cheque books, let the kids stay up, slip on comfy sweatpants and big sweaters, laden mugs of hot chocolate with far too many marshmallows and then just get together with good friends and a board game or two... Yes, I loved game night, the perfect antidote to the weekend...

I set up the table, our friends - and Sunday night regulars - were bringing someone with them tonight, so I fetched an extra chair from the conservatory. The kids had been fed, but you would think it to watch them; there they were scooping out popcorn from bowls, shoveling it 

into their mouths like I hadn't fed them in weeks... The nibbles were warming in the oven - nothing fancy but this was game night, not a cocktail party! - our guests were on their way and everything was ready to go!

As I was wondering who this mystery guest was - Marcia and Alan had said he would be a talking point and perfect for game night... (I was just preying that this didn't mean that he looked like the guy on the cover of the Monopoly box) - the door bell went and taking a last look in the mirror - yes I was wearing ten year-old sweatpants and a t-shirt that said 'I love cats', but I still had my pride - I opened the door.

Kissing my dear friends hello and screaming at the kids to turn the TV off, I saw the third person in their group... Oh my goodness... I stood their opened mouthed... This guy certainly knew about games and game night, because back in 1995 he was literally sucked into one of the most famous boardgames of all time... This was Bradley Pierce...

Bradley Pierce (born October 23, 1982) is an American voice-over artist and character actor with numerous roles television, movies, direct-to-video animation, advertising, and video games. He is probably best known as Peter Shepherd in the TriStar movie Jumanji, as the original voice of Chip in Disney's Beauty and the Beast and one of the original voices for Tails from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise.

... And here he was at my house!

I introduced myself and my family and ushered them all in to the living room, signalling my husband to get the warmed nibbles and drinks and offered him the seat next to mine at the table, one of the kids could have the old conservatory chair, Bradley was a special guest.

My husband carefully placed two platters of hot snacks down on the table - Sausage rolls and cheesy sticks, "Oh god," I thought "Why didn't I get those posh duck rolls with the plumb dipping sauce?" - and then to my utter embarrassment he looked at Bradley and exclaimed, "Hey you're the kid from Jumanji!" then turned to me and said with glee "Hey, he's the kid from Jumanji! And on game night too!" I could have died... I smilled and through gritted teeth said "I know... " Then without warning my husband suddenly launched into a barrage of questions...

So, Jumanji must have been an amazing adventure! How did you even get the
"I got the part in Jumanji the same way most of the roles I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life. The first step is submitting for the role, a task most frequently done by an agent or manager. The next step, if your lucky, is an audition. I think there were 3 calls involved in getting the role in Jumanji. first call, a callback, and a meeting with the director/producers."

"And how did you find out about the actual role of Peter and the strangeness of the film itself?"
"When I first auditioned for the role, I knew nothing about the movie, just the few pages of script that they gave me to read in the audition. But as i got further along in the process I

learned more about it (Including the people involved and got to see some of the concept art and models (A very cool thing for a 12 year old boy)"

"No kidding?! So what did you have to do for the audition?" 
"I don’t remember exactly what scene it was but the audition consisted of reading through a scene or two with the casting director."

I sighed, I really wanted to ask some questions, but there was no stopping my husband when he was on a role... So I did what any good hostess should do and went and got some drinks...

"How did you celebrate getting the part?" 
"I celebrated the news of getting the role by having a special dinner at home with my family, Steak and Macaroni and cheese, my favorites."

Placing some pitchers of various beers and juices on the table I thought to myself, damn, I should have done some Mac and Cheese...

And then as my husband stuffed a sausage roll in his mouth I thought I had got my chance, but no, my eldest got in first, of course we had shown him the movie when he was much younger and it had stayed a firm favourite with us all...

He asked...

"How was it working with so much CGI?" 
"The CGI was actually fun to work with, mostly just looking at specific marks and reacting. It is actually surprising how much of the film involved both practical and computer effects."

"And back then CGI was in it's infancy, today people use it all the time, but it must have been amazing to work with something so new and innovative?"  

"It really was an amazing experience, even though most of it happened well away from us on the set. There was one occasion where we got to meet and talk to some of the techs and animators doing work on the film and I recall one of them saying “This is so much harder than Jurassic Park, everybody knows what monkeys look like""

I know I should have been angry with my son  for stealing my thunder, but honestly, that was the most eloquent I heard him in forever...  So I let him ask one more...

"How did it feel watching it after all the CGI was added?" 
"I remember how mind blowing it was for me when I first saw the movie, finished, and saw all the beautiful work done by the artists on the film. I thought it was great, and I didn’t know at the time but it was one of the last great meldings of Practical (makeup and animatronic puppet effects) and Computer Generated effects."

Then the other kid butted in, he was 15 and full of hormones and just wanted to know one thing... Raising an eyebrow he asked... "So, you worked with Kirsten Dunst...?"
"Kirsten and I were fairly close friends during the filming and for a while after, Including a trip to China for a premiere tour a couple years later, but time and all the activity of life has separated us."

"And of course, the genius Robin Williams!" My husband, spitting half eaten sausage roll across the table, exclaimed...  
"Robin was an amazing man, kind, generous, and of course funny. I feel really blessed to know that I am one of a select few that got to know the real Robin. He was always in character until he became comfortable with you. I spent time with the man behind the characters and will never forget that."

"Did he entertain you between takes then?" 
"Robin and the rest of the cast were all professional comedians, they were always riffing off each other, playing, making jokes. It was one of the happiest sets I’ve ever worked on."

"And did he ad-lib much? I always imagine he's a big ad-libber..." 
"There was actually surprising little ad-libbing. A lot of the script would be changed before we would shoot, but once we rolled things stayed fairly in line with the script."

Then, without warning, Marcia, my friend got in on the act... How rude! I thought... She had plenty of time to asking anything, why now?!

"Did he give you any practical advice, on life and stuff?"

"Yes, On a variety of subject, everything from the skills and business of acting, to more basic things like how to deal with the make up (what to eat and not eat, which face wash to use) and even some about girls, I was a barely preteen boy after all."

"I'm sure I read that Robin Williams admitted that he did not need to act startled for the scene where Van Pelt is shooting at him, as the blank gunfire was extremely loud on-set.... Do you remember this?" 
"YES! The blanks and squibs (explosive packs, like in the globe) were all very loud! There were a lot of great physical effects in the movie that evoked a very real reaction

from all of us on set."

Then the inevitable question arose... Where were you when you heard the news about the death of Robin Williams on the 11th August 2014?  I had been trying to get the kids out of bed for school when I heard, my husband had heard it on the car radio on his way to work, Marcia and Alan were on holiday in Spain... And Bradley?
"When I first got the news that Robin had died I was at work at a media production house, one of the assistants called me in and asked if i had “seen this” and they had the headline up on their computer, I was angry at first, thinking that they were sharing in on a hoax and hadn’t checked their facts. But then I saw that it was the Hollywood reporters page, and then I saw the TMZ version, then another and I realized it must have been true."

And then even Alan started... Sober old Alan... We hadn't gotten 10 words out of Alan in the 15 years and now he was like an excited little kid in a candy store! Mind you, he did love monkeys!

"What was it like being slowly changed into a monkey?" 

"The process of becoming a monkey was a very interesting experience from the very beginning. It started months before the shoot when I went to the special effects house (ADI) for a life cast, where the covered my head in plaster to make an exact replica of it to create the makeup on. The actual application process took almost 3 hours and nearly another hour everyday for removal. It was really taxing and tried my 12 year old patience a lot!."

Then there was no stopping him!

"What was your favourite scene?" 
"I loved the Monsoon scene, it was probably the most “movie magic” I’ve encountered before or since. Those were days you just couldn’t help but notice the scale and intricacy of everything and everyone involved."

"What is your endearing memory of the filming?"

" I really can’t pick just one. There were so many fond memories, on set and off, with the amazing people of the cast and crew."

I looked down at the cat, fully expecting him to jump in and ask a question too, but he was just enjoying smoothing around Bradleys legs...

I stood and watched as they all sat there, in awe, hanging onto every word, even the boys... My boys, who found it impossible to sit through one whole history class without being kicked out for daydreaming, just sitting there taking it all in...  Prompting my son's next question...

"And how does it feel to know that kids, you know, like us, still love the movie today?"
"It’s fun to know that i was part of something so timeless, that everyone can still embrace and enjoy. I hope it can inspire some kids to follow their dreams and create more art."

Suddenly my husband butted in again, calling out "Come on, come on, this isn't fair..."

Awww bless, I thought, had he noticed me standing silently near the table? Did he realise that i would like to ask some questions too?!

"No..." He carried on... "This isn't  fair, Bradley's been in loads more than just Jumanji."

I sighed and grabbed for the pitcher of punch, I didn't really drink on a Sunday, but what the hey...

"Now, I know that you've done a lot of voice over work, and as a kid you were Chip in Beauty and the beast, When adding the voice over did you sit in with the other actors in the scenes?" 
"Whether or not I sit with the other actors depends on the project. Beauty and the beast recorded everybody separately, Sonic the Hedgehog had everybody in the room together. My experience is that film tends to record separately and TV seems to lend itself to recording together."

"And was the characters look based on you at all, or was it designed before you
were cast?" 
"All of the characters Disney does are loosely based on their actors, there is always a basic concept but they film the actors or have animators sit in and watch to create the characters final look. The gap in Chip’s teeth was modeled after mine, and the funky hairstyle when he became human too. They also add elements from the mannerisms and movement where they can. For example the scene where Chip spits water out between his teeth. I had learned how to do that from my uncle and showed the director who wrote it in."

"As a kid was it hard to get your head round how it all worked? These two" - he said indicating the kids - "Can't even understand how the coffee machine works, let alone animation...  Were any of your natural  facial movements used to enhance Chip?" 
"I understood it as a kid, at least the basics, but it was amazing to see it all come together. The reality of being a part of something Disney was huge to me! Disney is such a huge part of every kids childhood but I got to be a part of Disney, a dream come true!"

"Hey!" cried my eldest in defiance, "I do know how to use the coffee machine... I just chose not to"

He laughed to himself and then got in with another question before I had even taken a breath...  

"So, as a kid how did you describe the part to your peers... "I'm playing a magical tea cup"?! ha!" 
"I basically told people that I was in a Disney movie, and kept the details of the character to myself for the most part. A few friends knew about the character and the details."

"You still do a lot of voice overs, what do you think is in your voice that's so special?"
"My voice has a very specific “texture”  the gravel, the cracking, things like that. I’ve learned to control it, and that has been a gift for doing good voice over work."

"And adapting the Ghibli films and others, do you listen to the original voices for inspiration, or imagine your own?" 
"I usually just give the character a voice I feel is right. There have been some times that I’ve heard the original track first, but then I try to match the energy more than the tone."

"And hey, weren't you in that film about that dude Charlie Chaplin? What was it called?... Oh yeah, Chaplin?... You played his dad in flash back... Great movie!  Did you get to meet Iron man... I mean Robert Downey Junior?"
"I only worked for a couple days on Chaplin and yes I met RDJ but I don’t recall the details of it."

This prompted his younger brother to start teasing him - "Ironman isn't real you dweeb!" he taunted... his sibling responded my giving him a dead arm... Giving Alan a chance to but in again...

"Did you even realise who Chaplin was?" 

"I actually remember doing some research on who Chaplin was."

"Oh...Oh... Oh!" He said excitedly... "And The borrowers, I love the borrowers!" Big macho old Alan, who would have thought it?!
"The Borrowers was a fun project to do, I spent 5 months in London and worked with some great people. Some of the most fun memories were hanging out with the “Borrower” kids, and playing with the giant props! There was an entire sound stage dedicated to the oversize sets, and they were amazing."

"Did you ever wish you had had a normal childhood?" 
"I’m aware that I missed out on some of the “normal” things, but I traded those experiences for world travel, priceless experiences and cherished memories. I tried being “normal” for a while when I was about 16. I wanted to get back in right away.

"And what do you think you would have been if you hadn't been an actor?" 
I honestly don’t know where I would be without acting, but I would probably still be in Arizona."

My youngest chipped in again, he was celebrity crazy...
"So, did you hang around with other kid actors?" 

"Yes, some of my best friends are people I grew up in “the industry” with. The best man at my wedding was Adam Wylie from Gilmore Girls and a bunch of Disney Stuff, and my partner and co-creator of my production company ZFO Entertainment is J. Paul Zimmerman from the HalloweenTown series and a bunch of other stuff."

I was really getting annoyed now, this was meant to be game night, not the David Letterman show! 

Perhaps I would leave them to their chat and go and get that game I picked up from that yard sale last week. It was perfect for tonight! It was actually called Jumanji, had it written right there on the cover! It must have been merchandise from the film, I thought, but it was a nice change from the usual cardboard rubbish with plastic counters that is destroyed with one nudged of a glass of red wine - They'll never let me forget that one. -  No this was wooden and it must have had a special sound chip in it because every now and again you could hear a faint drumming sound emanating from it. It looked quite old, but in excellent condition and the guy who sold it gave it to me for an absolute steal, almost as if he was desperate to get rid of it.

I re-entered the room and Alan was still on it... Oh lordy, he'd remembered that Bradley was in Star Trek....
"So you are one of the Star Trek alumni, with Voyager!"  he said excitedly 
"I love Trekkies! I’ve run into a few mostly at conventions or shows, and mostly when covering the event for my production company. The few that have recognized me for the episode I did definitely “geeked out” a little."

Right that was it, I had had enough, I slammed the game down in the middle of the table with such force that the hinged lid of the game flew open and, as if magnetised, the counters jumped straight onto the start line, this game was getting better and better, the attention to detail was amazing! I then exclaimed in my most forceful voice "Right... It's game night... Let's play a game!"

"But not before I ask my question" I proclaimed...

I turned to Bradley and asked  "So Bradley, if it really was, you know... 'real', what do you think happened with the Jumanji game?

"I’d hope it washed up somewhere in the Caribbean, obviously a French speaking country, and brought some other kids to an epiphany of their own." 

But before he had chance to finished his answer and I knew what I was doing I found the dice falling out of my hand and the counter making its way across the twists and turns of the game... 

Then two hours later, while we stood in the ruins of my house, watching the animals run amok up and down the street and my youngest slowly turning into a wild animal, I realised exactly where the game had gone...... 

For more information on Bradley visit his IMDB page or Wikipedia page... Or just Google him!

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