Eugene Levy has all but disappeared from appearing on film. The SCTV legend — who’s memorable on-screen creations include nightclub hack Bobby Bittman or well-intentioned Jim’s Dad from the American Pie film franchise — has been hiding in a recording studio quite a lot lately.
“Evidently, no one wants to see my face,” joked the Canadian funnyman during a recent interview to discuss his latest role in the computer-animated family film, Astro Boy. It’s the star’s third voice-appearance in a movie in as many years.
“The odd thing about this kind of work is you’ve got to go in with an empty head and be prepared to give (the filmmakers) whatever they want,” said Levy of his recent ventures in voice-acting. “The very first animated thing I did, I remember going in and looking at the pages and then preparing and studying and figuring, ‘Okay, I’m going to give them something different here.’
“Then you go in and you give it to them and they say, ‘Well, that’s wonderful and now try it this way’ and then you realize that you’re going to go through ten, fifteen, twenty variations on every line.”
Lucky for Levy, his extensive experience as one of the writers and actors behind the heavily-adlibbed comedy hits Best in Show and A Mighty Wind (for which he actually won a Grammy Award) have added value in the voice booth.
“I’m a character actor and I get the supporting roles — and even in the animation, they’re supporting roles — which means there’s really more flexibility to go off-script.”
In the case of Astro Boy, Levy plays Orrin, a neurotic, bumbling android-servant to young Toby, the enigmatic little boy who turns into a robotic superhero.
“You can’t beat a good superhero,” said Levy when asked about the ongoing popularity of the Japanese character, who first appeared in a 1951 comic. “This is a robot who is created in the likeness of a little boy and he’s got human feelings … for this kind of an audience, you can’t really beat that as your hero — a little guy who can kick ass and he’s got a heart of gold.”