We had the opportunity to interview Charles Fleischer, the voice of Roger Rabbit (as well as Benny the Cab, Greasy and Psycho) in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. As Who Framed Roger Rabbit celebrates it's 25th Anniversary Edition release – the first time on Blu-ray, we talk about Fleischer's thoughts on a possible sequel, his long-standing relationship with Robert Zemeckis and even his bunny suit he wore for the film!
It is great to see Who Framed Roger Rabbit get the Blu-ray treatment, it looks great! The extras are the same as the 2003 release, here is hoping for new bonus features for the 30th!
Here is the full interview with Charles Fleischer:
CF: Hello, Denise Preskitt?
MS: Yes, thank you Mr. Fleischer, I really appreciate your time.
CF: You have the most well-suited name for someone doing press.
MS: I know! It's great, but it does sometimes cause confusion.
CF: I think I'll change my name to Charles Funnyguy!
MS: It's been 25 years since Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Did you realize at the time how groundbreaking the film would end up being?
CF: From the moment I saw the first animation test, I got chills, because I realized that I was going to be part of something that would be around for a long time. Of course, the proof is in the pudding. Here we are 25 years later, the Blu-ray is coming out, and I'm talking to you about it. After I saw the film, it just had all the elements of what is a classic film. It's a great story – it has heart, it has passion, it's just an extraordinary combination of science and artistry.
MS: It's really one of the movies that Disney fans and film fans talk about and hope for a sequel. How did you end up getting cast in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
CF: The director, Mr. Zemeckis, had seen me do my stand-up comedy, years before this film began. And when they were auditioning the actor who would eventually play Eddie Valiant, they needed someone to perform Roger Rabbit off-camera. So Zemeckis called me in for that, and after several of those screen tests for the other actor, they asked me if I wanted to participate. Obviously I said yes.
MS: You've had a long-standing relationship with Robert Zemeckis, being in Back to the Future 2 and Polar Express.
CF: Yes, and even other films of his I've had little bits not as widely known. Death Becomes Her, I had just this little voice of a guy knocking on the door. I love Bob Zemeckis, he's a great filmmaker and a great storyteller, and he's really smart. He always uses something new…he's a ground breaker. And even his adventure into motion capture, he's a pioneer. It's almost like when Bob Dylan first played electric, people kind of scoffed at the idea because it was something new. Zemeckis is extraordinary talent, and if here ever is a sequel, I'm confident that Bob will be involved.
MS: And hopefully you would be as well. I expect that would be something you'd be interested in if it ever happened.
CF: Most certainly.
MS: Voice acting often takes place away from other actors, but you were on the set the whole time.
CF: That is correct. That was necessary for several reasons. Number one, to get that interaction, and also to get the sound of the voice. A lot of times I hear voices that are done, and they were done in the studio – even with the great sound technology…the ambience, the voice being done in that same space. In addition to that, I was off-camera, watching whatever Hoskins did. If he reached out and grabbed me, I could react to that in real time. It just added another level of realism. I also had them make me a Roger Rabbit costume that I wore everyday as well.
MS: I was just going to ask you about that, we saw you in the outfit (in the bonus features). Did the studio make it for you?
CF: Yes, Joanna Johnston, the costume designer…I mentioned to Bob that "I think I should have a costume". He kind of laughed, and then she (Johnston) made me this little Roger Rabbit suit. At first people thought it was a little nuts, but Hoskins came to thank me later because it helped him in the visualization process. It just made sense. I'm on a set, doing a movie – and these guys are all dressed like they are in the 1940's, and that's what you do. You go to the set, and you go in your trailer…part of that transformation into the character you are playing is enhanced when you put on that costume. It's a form of play, it's like being a big kid. It worked out.
MS: If the film extras, you said that "one minute I'd doing Shakespeare, next I'm in a bunny suit".
CF: Yeah, I think I'd like to do Shakespeare in a bunny suit! McBunny.
MS: Well if you do it, less us know!
CF: I'll send you a link.
MS: You were in a hybrid live action/animated film. You've done both live action films and animated. How did this differ? It sounds like it'd be more live action for you.
CF: You are absolutely right. People often use the term voice acting – which is an interesting phrase, because the only acting that really isn't voice acting was acting in silent movies. In some ways, just using your voice is more challenging, because when you are on camera, you can convey an emotion just by opening up your soul. Your eyes, your muscles in your face can make someone cry. When it's just your voice, you can't rely on anything physical. It's another level of performance. I didn't think of it as a voice performance. Whenever I'm doing that, I'm physical…I look at it as though I were on camera. I think if you don't, you're holding back.
MS: I think you did such an amazing job of conveying Roger Rabbit – and the other characters as well.
CF: Yes, I also did Benny the Cab and two of the weasels.
MS: Because of the different elements, did the shoot take longer than a normal film shoot would take?
CF: Well, the actual shoot part was actually the same, because the same techniques were involved. However, post production made it stretch out to maybe 2 years.
MS: When you saw the finished film, what was your reaction to it?
CF: I was amazed and stunned…and really excited to be a part of something so extraordinary.
MS: And what you saw on the screen…was that what you expected the film to look like?
CF: I think any expectation you have is nullified by what you get. You can't really conceive of something unknown. But when you see it…if I said "I have this artist named Picasso, I want you to see his work", you can conceive of something in your brain, but when you finally see it on the wall…it's different.
I was going to say that since this is the Blu-ray release, which is really an extraordinary use of the technology, and I think enhances this film more than any film being released on Blu-ray…Blu-ray refers to the wavelengths of the color blue, because it is a shorter wavelength. If you were to go higher, you would get violet, ultra-violet, x-ray and gamma ray. Gamma ray is the most energetic form of electromagnetic energy. In addition to being an actor, I am also a scientist, and I've written a paper regarding something called gamma ray bursts, which has been endorsed by Cornell University on their website. If my scientific discovery is correct, it will leave a mark in the history of science. So I'll have two nice marks – Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the man who figured out what gamma bursts really are.
MS: Wow. In my research I didn't find that – I did discover you were an artist, along with being a stand-up comedian and actor.
CF: Yes, and I play music too. Anything that has ever touched my soul has made me want to recapitulate that. When I first heard Jimi Hendrix, I said "Wow, I want to be able to do that". Not that I can play like him. And when I saw Salvadore Dali…in certain circles, people would say that the chose is the path of a renaissance man. But I am just passionate about things that are artistic and scientific, and the correlation between the two. (You can find the links to his paper here).
MS: With everything that you are involved in, what is your next step?
CF: My next step is the next interview I have to do. That is the most direct and honest answer I can give you. I will keep doing standup, and I'm really eager to have the scientific community and the world at large see the results of my scientific endeavors, including what I call Moleeds, gamma ray bursts and my invention that measures golden ratio.
Charles Fleischer's Biography:
Beginning his career at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and on the original “Laugh-In” television show, Charles Fleischer’s unique vocal abilities and comedic talent in the critically acclaimed role of Roger Rabbit in the record setting Bob Zemeckis film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” brought national awareness to this thinking man’s comedic actor. Because of his of the gigantic comedic talents, recognition of Charles ‘on camera skills became obvious to a larger audience with his hilarious pairing with Robin Williams at the 1989 Academy Awards show.
In addition to his well-known character of Roger Rabbit, Charles recently voiced a character in the award winning Rango with Johnny Depp. He also appeared in David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ with Jake Gyllenhaal. Variety said this about his performance “Also making striking impressions are Charles Fleischer as a strange film buff acquaintance of the possible killer.”
His appearances in “Permanent Midnight” with Ben Stiller, ‘Straight Talk’ with Dolly Parton and ‘Back to the Future’ are just glimpses into the brilliance of the Fleischer Talent.
Other feature credits include the comedy ‘Nightshift’ and the horror titles ‘The Hand,’ ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ and ‘Bad Dreams.’ His other outings as Roger Rabbit have been double billed with such movie hits as Warren Beatty’s “Dick Tracy,” in which Fleischer was also seen as one of the many leading actors in a cameo appearance.
In addition to film Fleischer has been a recurring character on television ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ ‘Laverne and Shirley’ and ‘The Drew Carey Show.’
Fleischer is also the author of “The Moleeds,” a book of his own mathematical theories. The complex mathematical theories are hilariously woven into his epic TED talk. He just completed a scientific paper regarding gamma-ray bursts that was endorsed by astrophysicist Bing Zhang. He has two patents including a device to measure the golden ratio. His love for and his desire to teach science to children has brought him much recognition. Including an educational CD-ROM ‘Virgil Reality’, and as host for ‘The Fleischer Files’ on the Discovery Channel’s ‘Next Step’. He recently completed 32 episodes of “Fleischer’s Universe” a one hour interactive live video web show, with guests that included Marilyn Manson and Jason Schwartzman.