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Exclusive Interview with Peter Stormare for ‘Penguins of Madagascar’

Don’t mess with the penguins.

“Penguins of Madagascar” comes out on Blu-ray and DVD today, which features our penguin troopers on their separate adventure. The four of Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, will join forces with The North Wind to stop a diabolical villain named Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world.

The penguin voice over cast includes Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights and Conrad Vernon. In this film, several actors lend their voices including John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Annet Mahendru, Peter Stormare and Andy Richter.

Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview with Peter Stormare last week on his role for this animated film. He voiced Corporal, The North Wind’s tough and cuddly polar bear, who is on the mission to save the penguins.

Stormare talked about the development of the Norwegian accent, the differences of being a voice over actor and a physical actor and even the state of the changing film industry.

“Penguins of Madagascar” is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today.

Read the interview below.

Latino-Review: You’ve done several voiceover work in the past—what attracted you to this one?

Peter Stormare: I got the chance to mock the Norwegians since I was born in Sweden. They wanted me from the beginning. I wanted to thank the producers that they wanted me to do a [Goes into deep voice] deep voice like a polar bear.  Something a little generic. [Goes back to normal voice] I said, “Polar bears only exist in the North Pole and an area that owns by the Norwegians still. There are tons of them on Svalbard, which is a Norwegian island. I have friends who’ve been there although I’ve never there myself.

Norwegians have kind of a cute accent when they talk English or American. They have a little Scandinavian tweak for Norwegians. [Goes into Norwegian accent]  So I asked, “Can I have a lighter voice to talk? ‘It’ll be like this. They are so nice. Those penguins! I like those penguins. They’re so cute. Oh!’” And then I would add some Norwegian words here and there.

They came back and said, “We’ve been listening to different takes you did. Let’s go for the Norwegian way where he has the little accent and say a couple of Norwegian words. As long as they’re not bad words.” [Laughter] No. No. I said, “You can check with the Norwegians. They’re not R-rated. They’re PG.”

So that was a great thing to do a big bear that usually [Changes voice] has a husky, gruffly voice in a big bear. [Changes back to normal voice] Now I can do it a little bit more light and to show a very affectionate for the penguins. You work along with the voice. They do the movie. They record the dialogue and create some animation back and forth. It’s a give and take. I came up with a few things and they adjusted it.

I’m very honored to do the part and in the way that I saw it. They bought the idea, in which [laughter] that I did that.

Latino-Review: The character you played is Corporal. You usually like to play really tough guys. Corporal looks tough, but he turns out to be lovable—right? Is that the lure of it?

Peter Stormare: Yeah. In Hollywood, there’s a lot of typecasting. I have to say that in a movie or TV—you can line up ten male actors to ask a simple question. Who wants to play Prince White? Who wants to play Prince Black or Prince Darkness? [chuckles] All ten of us will say we want to play Prince Darkness. [chuckles] No one wants to play Prince White cause he’s boring.

So it’s always cool to do those weird characters. In my normal life, I’m a pretty normal guy. I usually [fly] under the radar. I don’t like the attention to be famous. I love to work. I’m a workhorse. I like to do a good job. I like to show up on time to be there and hopefully it leads to another job. I’ll be pretty successful.

Of course, those darker parts are more intriguing to do than the lighter parts. For this, I liked Corporal and really, really make him lovable. He just loves those penguins. I think in the beginning—he was more like a tough guy. [After] we talked together about it and picked the Norwegian accent, he became more of a cuddly nice guy. Not stupid necessarily. He is indeed gentle, nice and caring about those penguins. And this bear still kicks ass.

Latino-Review: What did you think about the look of your character after seeing the photo or animated clip for the first time?

Peter Stormare: That’s how I came up with my idea [for the voice] when I saw him and knew what they’ve requested. I said to myself that I had to come in and do a couple of takes in the absolute way that they wanted. Then I could be daring enough to suggest if I can do it in the way on how I like to do it in like a gentler polar bear with a Norwegian accent. They said, “What!?! Let us hear it.”

They were a little bit confused and they came back two weeks later by saying, “Everybody loves it up here. So stay with that character.” That was nice. It was a long haul before the movie was done.

For me, it’s a victory to do the things I don’t usually do—to make the polar bear gentle. The image of a real polar bear is with the blood around the jaws and they eat raw meat all the time. They’re pretty vicious animals. [chuckles] They eat humans too. If you’re out there to see the polar bears, then you’ll need other people with you with rifles. There will be tranquilizers in those rifles. But, you can’t go out there yourself. They can attack you in any second.


Latino-Review: I’m curious on how you developed the Norwegian twang. Did you have a friend who is a Norwegian and that is how you based Corporal off of? I never met a Norwegian so I wouldn’t know the difference.

Peter Stormare: [Laughter] Yeah, I have a producer friend who works here occasionally. Whenever we talk in meetings, [switches to Norwegian accent] he talks about his project. “It’s a very, very good project. We gonna have good action in the project. Then we gonna do dis. And then we gonna do dat. I would love to work with you guys.” That’s who I’ve took it from. [Laughter]

I love listening to him. They have a funny accent. I was born in Sweden, but I’m an American too. Swedes like to mock Norwegians. I was hoping for Dreamworks that [someday] they’ll do a movie about polar bears with this kind of funny accent. That would be cool. Hopefully that’ll be a project in the future—polar bears.

Latino-Review: [Laughter] Well, they’ll pick you first when that project comes up. Did you get a chance to work along with the other actors?

Peter Stormare: Yeah, yes! Sometimes we do. It was kind of nice when you’re in the room and get to do things together. Usually, you’re alone on a thing like this, but it’s a ton of voiceovers when you have eight guys in a room. Everyone is playing different characters when you read and things can get crazy. I just did a voice over for “Mutant Ninja Turtles.” It was so much fun.

I love doing voiceovers, because it’s like being a little kid. It’s like having a free pass at Disneyland and you get to cut through all those lines. I’m a happy fellow. [Chuckles] You’ll get very sweaty [in the studio]. I always end up in my skivvies. Everybody is amused. You’ll get sweaty in there, because you can’t have the A/C on and I like to work. I don’t want to take a lot of breaks. I want to get through all those sessions.

I’ve worked with John [Malkovich], who I’ve done a movie with before. We know each other. He does a fantastic job. John’s character is so cool.

Latino-Review: Do you enjoy voice acting over physical acting? Are there a lot of differences?

Peter Stormare:  I think it’s due to age. [Laughter] With real physical acting, sometimes it hurts more than it’s fun. I like them both. But, when you’re in the studio, you’ll just have the lines and it’s not animated yet. It’s hard to see any action in front of you. Most of the time, you’re so into the project—you’ll know what’s happening.

They come in various shapes. I’ve done movies in which I’ve done all the voices first and then they do the whole animation after. This [movie project] went back and forth all the time. Sometimes they’ll give me an image of a rough cut or a rough drawing. Sometimes we couldn’t see it at all. You’ll have to trust the directors. They were awesome. They’re based in San Francisco and you’ll have them on a link on a TV screen. It was all bizarre, but it works.

Latino-Review: So are you fans of these Penguins?

Peter Stormare: Of course, just like a kid. You have to be fans of them. You can’t stay away from them. Of course, ever since “March of the Penguins” was such a huge hit ten years ago, these are the real penguins that walk and walk and take care of each other. They’re such unique animals.

Then you have those all the way down in Antarctica—those Emperor penguins. They’re incredible creatures. I’m also interested the fact that they can’t fly. Jesus, they can’t fly and they have those wings. What happened with evolution here? Darwin? God? Who should we blame? It would be beautiful if they could fly. Unfortunately, we’re not going to see it in our lifetime of a flying penguin. Then again, maybe they’ll get one of those Northwind high-tech machines.

Of course, if you go to a zoo—you’ll see those millions of kids surrounding those penguins. And those meerkats. I think those penguins are still number one.

Latino-Review: Could you talk about some of your upcoming projects after this?

Peter Stormare: I have a couple of movies coming out. I’ve also been on “The Blacklist” for a while and a couple more television shows. I’m going to shoot a couple of more movies, but I don’t want to jinx it since it’s not inked yet. I’m always busy.

I’m also creating a couple of television series. One is flying, as we speak, by going into production before the year is over. The whole structure of the industry is changing. I just loved to be part of this whole transition from horses to cars and from ships to airplanes. We’re going to consume so much more visual arts. We’re not necessarily going to be in a movie theater to watch something for 100 minutes. It’s going to be different.

Latino-Review: What’s going to be different?

Peter Stormare: I’m a big fan of streaming. I’ve connected my iPad occasionally. A lot of people in the industry think it’s a shame. Movie theaters will still be in places in the US, but we can have big beautiful TV screens for under a thousand dollars on our wall. With just a click of a button, we can have a beautiful HD movie. I think it’s an evolution and revolution that I am all for it.

Some people are crying, because that we shouldn’t go away from the movie theater. I think it happened when the cars came around too. A lot of people were crying over all the beautiful horses disappearing. It’s just the sign of the times.

It started a long ago with Netflix in 1999. It was nice to see old movies, new movies and movies I’ve wanted to see for the longest time. Now I can have them all in my old home. I don’t have to go to that place with people talking, texting and eating popcorn next to me. I need the solidarity. I needed to be isolated. I can get easily distracted.

And sometimes these people are laughing at the wrong point or the wrong pun. For me, it’s a very interesting transition. I’ll take this TV, streaming and Internet on this side of the world. It’s a big change for the whole movie industry. Unfortunately, the movie industry is lagging behind and just concentrating on doing those blockbuster movies.

So everything is shifting into those 48, 54 or 60-inch television screens that we can have on our walls. We can now really enjoy a really superb movie at home. Look at the statistics that people are watching, because people are just going to look at shit and see the worst. People do want to see good stuff. They will log on to see the good stuff.

It’s just the sign of the times. I was a little kid when the Beatles came along. The whole rock n’ roll revolution started and more in the likes of Jimmy Hendrix. I was young and part of that revolution. Then we were walking on the moon. That’s another revolution. Now it’s the movie industry reshaping itself.

It’s something that intrigues me. I know it scares a lot of people, but for me it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. Hopefully I get to work for another twenty-five more years.

Latino-Review: [Laughter] That is terrific. I’m so glad you’re a pioneer and keeping busy. You really must love your work.

Peter Stromare: I do! It’s a blessing coming from a really tiny place in the middle of a forest with 2,000 people and to end up working in 94 degree weather in West Hollywood today. To be out here in sunny California, I’m working with all these talented people and a lot of projects—it’s a gift from above who I call God.

Latino-Review: I thank you for this conversation. By the way, I play this video game called, “Destiny” and I hear your voice in the video game every single day.

Peter Stormare: [Laughter] I hope my voice don’t annoy you. [Laughter]

Latino-Review: I play it every single night so I hear it and go, “There’s Peter giving me a mission again.”

Peter Stormare: [Laughter] Yeah, come and visit to hear it live. [Laughter] Good luck with everything again.

Latino-Review: Thank you.

“Penguins of Madagascar” is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today.


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