SDCC2014: "The Boxtrolls" Roundtable Interview with Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Elle Fanning
Isaac Hempstead-Wright, best known for playing Bran Stark on Game of Thrones, stars as Eggs in The Boxtrolls. Elle Fanning, who most recently played Aurora in Maleficent, co-stars as Winnie Portley-Rind.
During the 2014 San Diego Comic Con, Toonzone News was able to sit down with them for a roundtable interview session with several other members of the press. Hempstead-Wright having participated in the EAT LIKE THE BOXTROLLS event on Friday.
Q: Have you tried the bugs?
ELLE FANNING: I haven’t tried the bugs. I’ve seen the bugs. He’s eaten the bugs.
Q: What kinds of bugs did you eat in particular?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: The nicest, I would have to say, were the tarantula legs just because they were the most tasteless. They weren’t too repugnant. The grasshoppers were just awful. One of the worst things I’ve ever tasted. Truly.
Q: Did you try everything else? Like that deep fried spider?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: That was all right, that was the nicest. They were some little mini-cricket things. There were some meal worms, they were disgusting. There were these little mini-crickets, I think Mexican things, and they were covered in some kind of chocolaty thing, they were actually bearable. I’d have more of those.
Q: Why are Brits so fascinated with cheese?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: I don’t know. If I’m honest, I never really noticed too much of an obsession with cheese back home. I like cheese, I’m not some sort of Lord Portly-Rind of the cheese world. I don’t know, I guess it’s a nice after dinner snack. Because dessert can be…I’m going off on a real tangent here.
ELLE FANNING: Dessert can be too sugary.
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: Yeah, something savory to finish up a meal.
Q: Did you see visual versions of your characters before you started doing the voice work? What did you see and what were you told?
ELLE FANNING: When I got the script, it came with a big book of drawings and designs, kind of what they wanted. Obviously, they were starting it, so it was still in the beginning stages, but they hadn’t started animating it yet. Just the sketches of what they wanted, the feel and the colors, because they had very specific color schemes in each of their movies that are true to that one film. I did see a sketch of my character, but her final product of what she actually looks like was a little bit different from the beginning time. Each time you would go into the voice over, they would have a little bit more for you to take from, and then one time, I think one of my last sessions I went in, they had my puppet, an actual Winnie puppet right there, so I got to see this is what she’s going to look like and what she’s going to be. So that was an exciting moment. It’s so weird not knowing what you’re going to look like in a film. They’re the experts, you just have to trust them completely.
Q: Was yesterday the first time you met each other?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: No, we had a recording session a while back. And we were introduced properly.
ELLE FANNING: Yeah, we talked.
Q: Were you a fan of Game of Thrones?
ELLE FANNING: Yeah, I worked with Peter Dinklage and Lena Heady and Isaac, so I am a big fan. My sister’s crazily obsessed with it, so she’s one of those.
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: That’s cool.
Q: Have you read ahead in A Dance With Dragons to see what comes next for your character?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: I Wikipedia’d ahead. I Googled ahead, but no, I haven’t. I haven’t read any of the books. I haven’t had a chance.
Q: Do you have any hopes of where Bran’s story could go from here?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: Selfishly, I’d like to see him become evil ::laughs:: I’d like to see him take over the White Walkers, I think that’d be fun.
Q: What attracted you to The Boxtrolls?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: It wasn’t really a question of me being attracted to it, I just went through the audition process, and when they offered, it wasn’t an opportunity to be missed at all. It was jumping on board.
Q: Did your sister give you any advice about working with Laika?
ELLE FANNING: It’s actually a funny thing because for Coraline, she did it over so many years her voice changed, so they had to work with that. They brought me in when I was really little and were “Maybe you could take over Coraline now.” I was like so young and our voices didn’t work and she had to make her voice not so deep or whatever, but I’m excited that I get to work with them. Going to Oregon and seeing their whole sets was so exciting. I visited when I was little with her and I remember saying that you shouldn’t give me any advice. We try to keep things pretty separate in that way, and we both created our own characters. So that’s nice. I do have a statue of Winnie. Not the actual puppet. She has a Coraline statue, so I have mine. I love Laika.
Q: What were you like as a little girl?
ELLE FANNING: I was very girlie-girl, but at ten also I loved–I would pick up rocks and leaves and things. I’m a collector of things, a little obsessive. I have thousands of dolls that I collect and I collect bubblegum wrappers, so very strange, so in that way, I like if you find one thing you like, getting a lot of it is fun. Even if it’s just a rock or whatever. When I was little, I was kind of OCD in that way, but yeah, I was pretty girlie. But I am more athletic. I come from a family of athletes, so we weren’t supposed to be actresses at all. My mom played tennis in college, my dad played professional baseball, my grandpa was a quarterback in the NFL, so it was pretty crazy that we’re doing this. Dakota will run away from the ball, she’s like “get me away,” but I dive in.
Q: What’s your sport?
ELLE FANNING: Volleyball. I like volleyball. I guess my height works.
Q: What did you find was the biggest challenge in doing this?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: I suppose what you expect to be the biggest challenge is the fact that you are in a studio, sterile halls, and you’re not on a set in a costume feeling as though you’re part of the action. And also the fact that you’re putting it all through your voice, there isn’t your body to present emotion or whatever, but that challenge was quite easy to overcome because the directors were so excellent at being able to communicate exactly what was going through Eggs’ mind or how that would be displayed in his voice because, really, they knew the character far better than I did because they had been working with Eggs and the Boxtrolls for years and years prior to us even being involved and you just took direction from them it would be fine.
Q: Can you sum up your Boxtrolls characters?
ELLE FANNING: Winnie is nine years old, she has crazy red hair, and she’s definitely spoiled, but she is looking for someone to listen to her because her dad loves cheese way more than he cares about his daughter. So she’s always looking for someone to actually listen and care, and she’s had to grow up pretty quickly because of that. She’s strong and definitely feisty, she’s not afraid, a very brave girl, and then she meets Eggs and kind of brings him out of his box. She’s like, “You need to get out and live, don’t just stay in the cave and pretend that you’re a Boxtroll when you’re actually a boy.”
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: Eggs is a plucky, brave eleven year old boy who thinks he’s a Boxtroll. He’s one of these mythological feral children who are raised in isolation from humanity and by virtue of that have a sort of deeper, better connection to humanity because they’ve been raised away from the poisons of society. That’s quite evident in the Boxtrolls, because above ground you’ve got all the family struggles and the class struggles and the wealth. So Eggs is a Boxtroll, but he differs from the Boxtrolls in one key way and that’s the fact that he is courageous and he’s brave and he’s kind of this melding of the two greatest personality traits of humans and the Boxtrolls. He’s got the kindness and caring and nurturing of the Boxtrolls, but also the bravery and ability to do things that the Boxtrolls don’t have and the humans have.
Q: Seems like the Boxtrolls will be a fantastic DIY Halloween costume. Do you like to dress up in costumes?
ELLE FANNING: I’m obsessed with Halloween. Love Halloween, so every year it’s a big deal. I knew a while ago what I was going to be, which is always a secret. I was Mary Poppins one year, to the T. On the umbrella, I had the bird like she has. I was the Morton Salt Girl, another umbrella. I was a Barbie Statue of Liberty, so it was more of a glamorized Barbie, but I put all the sparkly turquoise-y stuff on my arms and things. I was a Madame Alexander doll with my friend one year, but yeah, I really get into it. Strawberry Shortcake was a good one, too.
Q: Isaac, have you ever been in the US for Halloween?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: No, I hear it’s much bigger out here than it is at home. When someone knocks at your door, you’re like “Ugh.”
Q: Is this your first time at San Diego Comic Con?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: Yes.
Q: And what do you think with all the people running around in costume?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: It’s fun, it’s cool. It’s this wonderful gathering of people that are really passionate about things. It’s great, just like any other convention you go to of pop culture.
Q: If you were to come to Comic Con on your own, what superhero would you dress up as?
ELLE FANNING: I say that I would be like an anime character. Like a Sailor Moon.
Q: Have you walked around the floor?
ELLE FANNING: No, and I want to.
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: Yeah.
Q: Did you wear a costume?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: No, I didn’t.
Q: What costume would you wear if you could?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: I think I’d wear a Batman costume.
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: Not really. I look pretty different from Bran, and obviously, from Eggs. So yeah, I just kind of wandered around and geeked out at everything and saw things that would impress my nerd friends back home. I got some new Magic the Gathering cards, I got a comic called Bob the Angry Flower which looks quite funny, and I need to get my friend an anime present.
ELLE FANNING: I’ve never been to Comic Con before. I thought I would do the eye liner or something, but if I come back, I think I’d dress up. I would be so into it.
Q: I saw on the floor several Sleeping Beauties. And lots of Maleficents. That’s becoming really popular, do you think we could be seeing Sleeping Beauty again on the big screen?
ELLE FANNING: You know, possibly. I know that on set they were kind of talking about a sequel or something, but I think that would be way down the road because this one is I guess we just finished, so not even thinking about that again, but they could be thinking about it. Who knows? That’d be fun.
Q: Isaac, I feel like we watched you grow up on screen, how has that been at school with your mates? Do they tease you?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: No, not at all, really. I’m very normal at home, I just go to school. The last thing on my mind really is acting, or doing all this mad stuff, and I’m just a regular school kid, doing that kind of stuff. But yeah, it’s just kind of this thing you do every year. You go off in the summer, you do a strange bit of fancy, play along with it for a couple of weeks, but then you come home. It’s been a lovely experience.
Q: If you could take home any of the items that are in the set, what would you pick?
ELLE FANNING: That’s a hard question. What would you say?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: They had this great little puppet, and I think it was their most expensive and most difficult to create in terms of character and it was on the screen for only five seconds. It’s this old sort of duffer. Do you know the one? He’s in the wheelchair.
Q: With the horn.
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: It’s so funny. In the film he’s hysterical. I’d take him.
ELLE FANNING: I like Madame Frou Frou, which you didn’t get to see much of, but I guess I don’t want to reveal anything. But yeah, I like Madame Frou Frou. With the big elaborate red hair…I liked her a lot. All the little miniatures. I love miniature things. When I was little, I used to go online and look up miniature doll house items, and I was fascinated with stuff that was so small. I got some little Wonder Bread when I was little, and that was my prize possession because it had the Wonder Bread logo on it with all the tiny details. Things like that are just cool.
Q: What was your favorite animated films growing up?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: My favorite film of all time has got to be The Illusionist, so much. Beautiful plot, beautiful story, not much happens.
ELLE FANNING: Animated-wise, I loved Dumbo. It’s odd because I’m a very happy person, but I’m also maybe like Winnie because of how she likes the gross things. I like very depressing movies. I like to cry at films. I loved Blue Valentine, and am really emotional in that way. It’s crazy because in this stop motion animation, maybe it’s because people are using their hands, but they’re giving it…I don’t know, it’s really touching. You feel like you’re watching people, and I think it’s special with Laika.
Q: Travis was talking about how you can make your own stop motion movie. Are either of you interested in directing?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: I’ve done that at home. I’ve used a little camera to make films. Pretty dreadful, but it’s fun.
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: I had a school project to do, and as a way to get out of it, I chose to do it as a film. So it was something about King Arthur, and we did an Excalibur Factor thing. Do you have The X-Factor over here? We basically made fun of that.
Q: Did you make little models for it?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: Yeah, I had a little plasticine man and the voices afterwards.
Q: How about you?
ELLE FANNING: I don’t think that I would have the patience to do stop motion. It’s so tedious, but I’d love to direct a normal film one day. Write and direct.
Q: What’s next for you?
ELLE FANNING: Going to school.
Q: Two more years?
ELLE FANNING: Yeah, I’m going into my eleventh year, my junior year. But with movies, I’m doing a movie called How To Talk To Girls At Parties that John Cameron Mitchell is directing, and it’s based off a short story by Neil Gaiman. I don’t know when that’s going to go yet, but I am going to do it.
Q: Are you a big Hedwig fan?
ELLE FANNING: Yes, and I saw Neil do it. It was the most incredible thing I had ever seen. It was on Broadway. Neil Patrick Harris was Hedwig. He dressed up as a girl and it just blew me away. Just the movement of his legs. It was crazy. Very cool.
Q : Are we ever going to see either of you on stage?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: I don’t think so. I know I would, but I don’t think it would be time feasible at the moment.
Q: Are you turning work down because of school?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: I’m not turning it down, I’m pretty focused on school because it’s a busy couple of years.
Q: You’re doing GCSEs?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: Yes, I did some of those this year and the rest next year.
Q: Which college would you like to go to?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT: University? I’d like to go to Oxbridge.
Q: How about you?
ELLE FANNING: I know I have to start thinking about this. I guess, well, see, my mom wants to take me on college tours. That’s the thing. My sister goes to NYU, and she likes that, so maybe there, but I kind of want to do my own thing. Find my own place. We’ll have to see.
Toonzone News would like to thank Isaac HEMPSTEAD-WRIGHT and Elle Fanning for taking the time to talk with us, and the crew at Laika and Fumi Kitahara for arranging the roundtable sessions. The Boxtrolls opens on September 26, 2014; make sure to check out our Laika Studios visit reports, too!