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Known for his boundless energy and creativity, John Leguizamo has worked in all facets of entertainment from film, theater, television, and literature. The Columbian-Nuyorican star joins Denis Leary and Ray Romano in the fourth installment of the Ice Age franchise, in theaters today.
I chatted with Leguizamo earlier this week to talk about playing Sid again in Ice Age: Continental Drift as well as his upcoming documentary Ghetto Klown, which chronicles his return to Broadway and his rough journey to stardom.
Fandango: You sure know how make prehistoric adventures come to life. Ice Age: Continental Drift is the fourth installment in this successful franchise. What's the process like for you now?
John Leguizamo: When I do an animated voice I really want it to sound like it's coming from that creature that's been drawn, I don't want it to sound like a voice you hear anywhere. It really has to be specific to the way the animal looks and acts. When Sid is running, I'm running. When he's out of breath, I'm out of breath. If he's suffering through something, I make myself suffer through it and that's the only way you can give weight and life to that voice.
The great thing is that I know him now so I don't have to spend all this time trying to find him. Now, it's just a matter of warming up and within a day it just comes out. Before, it was about trying to find the right voice, sound, personality, that's where all the work was spent. It took at least five years to get the first Ice Age to the screen.
Fandango: Besides the addition of new characters voiced by Wanda Sykes, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez what makes this installment different from the rest?
Leguizamo: This film focuses on family. I think it's about Sid's biggest payoff. In the first Ice Age, Sid loses his family and to get his family back is a big deal.
What I love about Sid and the movie is that there's nothing mean spirited, offensive or inappropriate, it's just about really good laughs. I love Sid's optimism and his idealistic way of looking at the world. Nobody thinks like him. There's always a rainbow and a pot of gold at the end for him.
I think it helps the film to have really funny people doing great things with their voices. Nicki Minaj, she's a great rapper, singer and such a blast. Drake's got a great sound and it was so good to have him as part of the film. Wanda plays Granny and even though she's difficult, she loves Sid. I think everyone has a relative who is kind of grumpy and aggressive like Granny. Sid is so happy that he doesn't care what kind of relative he has, as long as he has family around him.
Fandango: Besides Ice Age 4 you also have a documentary coming out that chronicles your difficult return to Broadway in your one-man show Ghetto Klown. Why return to the stage?
Leguizamo: It took three years for the documentary but it took me about eight years to make the Broadway show. It talks about all the shady stuff that happens and what it takes to make something artful. It takes a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears. There are no shortcuts. You can't cut corners. You got to pay the price to make great work.
Broadway is one of the greatest experiences that an audience and a performer can have and share. It's the most intimate and raw experience. When I was a kid I went to a Broadway show and it changed my life and I hope Ghetto Klown does the same for people that go see the show. It's not like a movie or TV show that's kind of disposable, it stays with you forever.
Broadway is definitely my favorite medium to express myself and to watch. Once you experience theater it stays with you for life; it's like religion.
Fandango: As a Latino actor, how would you say the entertainment industry has treated you over the years? And do you see things changing in Hollywood for Latino actors?
Leguizamo: Oh, yeah. Vastly. Things are really changing out there. It's gotten much better. It was definitely very difficult at first because there were only very degrading roles and then things opened up big for me. But you know, you still have to fight boneheads who run the studios and dumb producers who are so small minded and don't understand the big picture. They don't understand that Latinos have over $2 million of buying power in this country alone and that Latin people surpass African American moviegoers. We see movies two to three times with our family and friends. Everyone wants their buying power but they don't go after it in the right way.
Fandango: You've been able to open doors for many Latino actors. What's it like to be in that position and to be recognized as one the most versatile Latino actors?
Leguizamo: Gratitude, I'm very grateful that people appreciate the work I've done over the years and they understand the journey, how hard it was to make it, to stay up there and to open doors. I feel lucky to be in a position to open doors for others. I'm glad that I can be that conduit. I'm happy to be able to help Latin people in this country and in other countries realize that their dreams can come true.
Movies: What sort of advice can you give young actors trying to break into the business?
Leguizamo: Don't fall in love with the fame. Be in love with the game, the process. Chase the art, not the money.