Try not to get whiplash as we shift gears between two somewhat distant topics: the art of making the most singable Disney music in a decade, and having an action flick heaved at you by no less than Sylvester Stallone.
Frozen: Music to Melt Even the Coldest Heart
Disney’s latest feature film Frozen features an amazing array of songs, on par with the Mouse House’s very best.
“We worked very hard on the story, every day since December of 2011,” admits songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez (cocreator of the acclaimed stage musical In Transit), who teamed with Tony-winner husband Robert (Avenue Q,The Book of Mormon) on Frozen. “We worked really hard making sure that the character in the story was based in true, honest emotion. And once you have that, we naturally had something to write about.”
The married team derived major inspiration from the works of legends like the Sherman Brothers (Mary Poppins, The Aristocats) and Howard Ashman and Alan Mencken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast). “Ashman and Menken have always been our heroes,” says Kristen. “We came out of the same [songwriting] workshop as they did, and we saw how they took the building blocks that you learn and brought storytelling through song to a whole new level.”
Kristen Bell, who voices Anna, the devoted younger sister trying to unthaw the frigid heart of her ice-powered sibling in the loose adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, couldn’t wait to test her pipes on tunes like “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” “Love Is an Open Door” and “For the First Time in Forever.” “Music has been important to me since I was a little girl, I studied in college, and it's what brought me to acting,” she says.
“Kristen Bell is this incredibly subversive princess," says Kristen Lopez, joking, "because she's got this classic Disney purity to her voice, and yet she's exactly the kind of actress you'd want to write [the lyric] 'I don't know if I'm elated or gassy.’”
Josh Gad, the voice of Frozen’s comic relief snowman sidekick Olaf, delivers a show-stopping number with “In Summer,” and as a member of the original stage cast of Book of Mormon was thrilled to have the duo tailoring a song specifically for him. “To not only be a Disney sidekick, but to get my own song, I wasn't going to take that for granted! So I literally worked on it and worked on it, and I came in ready to rock and roll when we did it. The whole thing really is the adage to ‘When you wish upon a star...’ I wished upon a star, and here it is.”
Josh Gad sings snowman Olaf's song, "In Summer"
Homefront Star Jason Statham Gets the Gig on the Sly
When you’re handed a script by Sylvester Stallone – who as a screenwriter is every bit the hit maker as he is as a movie star, having penned all the Rocky, Rambo and Expendables films – you go ahead and star in it. And least, that was the no-brainer as Jason Statham saw it when he signed on for Homefront.
“It was a book by Chuck Logan, and he was thinking about doing it himself at some point – it might seem weird to even think that at it was at some point possibly going to be the last chapter of Rambo,” says Statham, who stars as a retired DEA agent who can’t avoid getting sucked into trouble even after moving with his young daughter to a quiet, remote town. “Sly's a very distracted sort of individual at times. He's like, ‘Oh, should I do this? Maybe I'll write The Expendables.’ ‘Maybe I'll do another one’ – He's a workaholic.”
Instead, Stallone generously offered it to Statham after the two shared the screen in a pair of Expendables films. “He said, 'You're not as bland or as stoic as people might think. I know you as a chap, so you need to show a little bit of a different side.'”
Statham shows his softer side
Statham was also wise enough to rejoin Stallone for The Expendables 3, which just wrapped. “Mark my words, this will be the best one. I have a soft spot for the first one, but I feel like the storyline on this third one is great. It's a much more mature, sort of a betrayal and friendship. It's really good, and you've got f***ing Mel Gibson – that's an Oscar-winning actor right there – to be the bad guy!”
Gibson’s one of many heavy hitters joining the cast of action-flick titans that already included Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger – Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas also signed on. “The shock for me was how cool everybody was,” admits Statham. “In my experience, fighters and athletes, they're all down-to-earth because they know what it's like to get in and sweat and work hard and sacrifice and do things… Everybody's like what I call spit and sawdust. Not pretentious.”