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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Kristen Bell on why her role in ‘Teen Titans Go! To The Movies’ was so empowering

'I love that Jade is a self-­assured, egotistical, power-hungry director – and a powerful female character,' she says

Actress Kristen Bell decided to play her character director Jade Wilson as a bossy, passionate, powerful loudmouth. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
Actress Kristen Bell decided to play her character director Jade Wilson as a bossy, passionate, powerful loudmouth. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Compared to the usual fanfare surrounding a new DC movie release, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is almost sneaking into cinemas this weekend. The animated characters are clearly somewhat lower profile than the likes of Batman or Superman – in fact, they can usually be found on the small screen. Teen Titans Go! is one of the most ­popular properties on The Cartoon Network, and serves as a comedic spin-off to the main Worlds of DC (WDC) films and comics.

The official WDC films have been accused of being too dark, but that’s an accusation that could never be levelled at the Teen Titans. The Titans, including well-known teen characters from DC such as Robin and Cyborg, embark on a host of madcap capers and crazy storylines, in the process offering a juvenile parody on the whole superhero genre.

Recent storylines on the TV show include Robin having to get a driving licence after totalling The Batmobile, and the traumas of getting all the blood and dirt out of the team’s uniforms after a particularly bloody battle with the bad guys.

Click to watch the trailer:

The new movie continues the post-modern irreverence – when the team discover that all the grown-up characters in WDC have their own movie, they naturally want one, too, so they approach famous movie director Jade Wilson, voiced by Kristen Bell of Bad Moms and Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame, to rectify the situation.

'What I love about them is that they’re weird'

Bell admits that, having seen The Titans’ crazy antics on the small screen, she wasn’t quite sure what to expect on set – the film is co-directed by the show’s developer Aaron Horvath, who also co-writes, and producer Peter Rida Michail. “Peter and Aaron are shockingly calm,” she says, sounding somewhat surprised. “Maybe I expected them both to be in lime-green polka dot suits because the Teen Titans TV show is so crazy. What I love about them is that they’re weird, and I mean that as the highest compliment. Peter and Aaron do what makes them laugh. They do what they think is funny, and that’s why this franchise is so successful.”

Character Jade Wilson in Teen Titans Go to the Movies. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
Jade Wilson in Teen Titans! Go to the Movies. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Bell adds that what her directors thought was funny usually crossed over with what she thought was funny, too, leading to a jovial atmosphere on the film’s set: “Their sense of humour is definitely in sync with mine. It was a joy to watch them whisper jokes to one another and see which joke really tickled them,” she says. “Because sometimes it’s the smallest and most unexpected joke in the middle of a scene that worked best. When that happened, the two of them would be unable to stop giggling about it.”

Bell is no stranger to comedy, having taken lead roles in the surprise hit Bad Moms and its sequel A Bad Moms Christmas, the geek road movie Fanboys, and the Judd Apatow hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Some of her best-known work, however, as with Teen Titans, has taken place off-camera.

Playing power female characters

Marshall played the unseen narrator for six seasons of the hit TV show Gossip Girl and is the voice of Princess Anna in Disney’s record-breaking, multi-award-winning animated Frozen franchise. The actress admits that voice-over work is something she enjoys, perhaps even more than straight acting: “I love voicing animated characters. It’s my favourite part of being an actor,” she says. “Creating something from nothing before it’s even drawn and using only my voice is challenging and stimulating, and I love that Jade is a self-­assured, egotistical, power-hungry director – and a powerful female character,” she says.

Bell adds that she worked closely with the film’s directors to establish the character of movie mogul Jade: “Before I began work on the film, Peter [Rida Michail] and Aaron discussed with me what they wanted from the character and where she fit in the story. That context was very helpful,” she says. “It answered some of my questions, like: ‘do you want Jade to be abrasive? Do you need her to be more comforting because the Teen Titans lean on her in the third act?’”

In the end, it seems the trio came down on the abrasive side of the question: “We ultimately leaned into Jade being a bossy, powerful, passionate loudmouth. We played around with how much we could push those traits, while still making her feel semi-realistic. But since this is an animated feature, there was a lot of fun to be had in playing with Jade’s extremes. That worked well for the film, because the Teen Titans franchise is known for being funny, quippy, irreverent and sassy – just like Jade.”

A post shared by kristen bell (@kristenanniebell) on

Bell adds that, by extending the Teen Titans to feature length, she and her fellow cast, which includes cameos from Nicholas Cage as Superman and Jimmy Kimmel as Batman, were able to explore their cartoon alter egos in more depth than the TV show format may have allowed: “The longer form allows you to travel with the character, emotionally,” she says. “With television shows, it can sometimes seem like you’re watching the characters do things, while a movie can let you feel like the characters are doing and experiencing things. You can push everything – including the action and humour. This film presents a much bigger world than you see on the Teen Titans TV show. It’s a complete, 360° feel, which immerses you in this world and the characters you love. Audiences will love how the Teen Titans go out of their comfort zone and out of their depth.”

‘Teen Titans Go! To the Movies’ is in UAE cinemas from today

Five of our favourite movies about making movies

Lost in La Mancha

Lost in La Mancha chronicles part of Terry Gilliam’s infamous three-decade long struggle to make his Cervantes adaptation The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. The footage was shot during Gilliam’s first attempt to shoot the film in 2000, following an 11-year gestation, and was intended as a “making of.” As Gilliam’s film continued to unravel however, directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe repurposed their footage, renamed it, and released it as a cautionary tale on the horrors of the movie-making process in 2002. Gilliam’s own film screened at Cannes this year, and Fulton and Pepe have already announced a sequel following the next 18 years of Gilliam’s journey.

The Disaster Artist

James Franco directs and stars in this hilarious retelling of the story of the making of the “worst film ever made” The Room, and its mysterious, and probably clinically insane, creator Tommy Wiseau. Although the film is pure comedy, Franco deserves special mention for his immaculate portrayal of the larger-than-life Wiseau. The closing credits, where scenes from the movie are laid side-by-side with the original are testament to an amazing piece of method acting from Franco and the rest of the cast. It’s worth waiting until the credits finish rolling to see the scenes that didn’t make the cut, in which, Franco’s fictional version appears in scenes with his real-life inspiration.

Very Big Shot

Drug-dealing brothers Ziad (Alain Saadeh) and Joe (Tarek Yaacoub) are planning one last big delivery that will allow them to go down the straight and narrow on their brother’s release from prison in Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya’s 2015 Lebanese comedy. When they discover that unexposed reels of film are spared the x-ray machine at Beirut airport, a predictably half-baked plan is hatched to smuggle a million dollars’ worth of drugs into Syria. The pair become film producers on a feature directed by Charbel (Fouad Yammine), a talentless filmmaker and customer at their pizzeria, whose tab has vastly exceeded his means. Comedy ensues as their foolproof plan progresses.

Argo

Ben Affleck directs and stars in this incredible true story of the rescue of American embassy staff from Tehran following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Affleck is Tony Mendez, a CIA operative specialising in extracting American citizens from war zones and similarly tight spots. Mendez poses as a movie producer, complete with fake production office, storyboards, scripts and publicity materials, scouting locations in Iran while the heavily disguised, trapped staff become his cast and crew in an astonishing tale of escape. The film, based on the real-life Mendez’s memoirs The Master of Disguise, won three Oscars, including Best Picture, from an impressive haul of seven nominations.

Shadow of the Vampire

Max Schreck’s performance as Count Orlock in F W Murnau’s classic Nosferatu is considered one of the most terrifying in the history of horror. In Shadow of the Vampire, a fictional “making of” Murnau’s film, E Elias Merhige asks the question: “What if Schreck was so good because he actually was a vampire, and wasn’t acting at all?” Merhige takes Murnau and his fictional crew on location to Czechoslovakia. As strange events begin to occur, the crew become increasingly suspicious of their lead actor’s true nature. Willem Dafoe stars as the iconic bloodsucker, and parttime actor, and John Malkovich is the movie’s visionary director.