Danny DeVito is becoming quite the multilinguist — or at least that’s what it looks like. For his new film, “The Lorax,” DeVito took on the unprecedented task of recording foreign versions of the movie in Spanish, Italian, German and Russian. It turned out to be a much more monumental task than he’d expected, though. “It’s a fun thing, but it’s time-consuming. I thought it was going to be like a couple of days. I’ll do German in a couple days. Right! It’s more like a week,” he admits.
“This is the thing, I don’t speak any of those languages. I speak a tiny bit of Italian, but I did it all with coaches and phonetically,” DeVito explains. “What I would do is tackle one at a time. And Universal brought in people from the country because sometimes the lines were very long. And there was no way for me in German or in Russian to get through that entire line without messing up some intonation. And I really wanted it to capture the performance, and I didn’t want people to think I had an accent.”
The process of recording each language took about five days in a recording studio for DeVito and his advisers, and the biggest lesson he learned in that time was that he should’ve kept things simpler when recording the English version — or at least stopped for a breath more often. “There are about 90 lines of mine in the movie, and some of them sometimes you can’t break them up,” he explains. “Like if you say to me, ‘Coma esta usted?’ That’s one thing. Or in Italian if you say, ‘una tazza di caffe’ — that means a cup of coffee — it’s easy. But if you’re saying something like, ‘Didn’t you see me come out of that stump with all the lightning and the thunder and this and that? Did you chop down that tree?’ Well, I didn’t think I was going to be doing this when I said those lines back then and didn’t spit in the middle.”
Normally, animated films get dubbed by local actors for each territory, so isn’t he technically taking work away from actors in Europe?
“I did some Russian interviews on the phone and different places, and I always preface it with, ‘I know that you guys have great actors to do this,’” DeVito explains. “It was just one of those things where I got it in my head to do it, and once I said I would do it I didn’t want to back down.”
Lou Dobbs made waves recently by insisting that “The Lorax” is an insidious attempt to indoctrinate children into an anti-industry mind-set.
Danny DeVito insists the message is about being responsible while succeeding in business. “It’s not saying that we can’t be inventive and still think of things to sell or make or manufacture,” DeVito explains. “But the idea is that if we’re going to take the goods from the Earth — the supplies, the materials from anywhere — we should think about the sustainability of it and the replenishing of it.”