I attended the Kubo and the Two Strings Press Day as a guest of Focus Features.
Kubo and the Two Strings will be in theaters soon. The stop-motion epic features the voices of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. So what, exactly, inspired two academy award winners to provide their voices to a Beetle and a Monkey?
Matthew McConaughey enjoyed that Kubo wasn’t specifically a children’s movie. “That’s something LAIKA seems to do with all their projects. They don’t really pander down to the age group. They deal with adult themes in a way that’s digestible for kids. There’s always a good moral to the story that’s learned in the middle of the adventure. I liked their previous work and this script had all that.”
Charlize Theron agreed. “I, in general, love directness. I was raised with a lot of directness. And I think in storytelling we sometimes forget that with children, and there was something about this that was just so clear, and I love that.” She also loved that the story wasn’t afraid to tackle serious issues. “There’s nothing about this that kind of shies away from very, very real issues.”
“This was my first animated voice I’ve ever done,” says McConaughey. “I tried to get on quite a few other films but never got it.” As a father of three, it was important for him to create a film his children could actually watch. “A lot of my friends were asking them, ‘So what’s your favorite movie your dad did?” And they’re like, ‘Well, we’ve never seen any of ‘em.’ I haven’t made any films in about 10 years that they could see. ‘Yeah, sit down, guys, let’s watch True Detective!'”
Theron had a similar experience. “I’ve always joked that my kids would have to be 52 before they could see anything I’ve been in. So it’s nice that that now has changed.”
As veteran on-screen actors, there was a chance that voice acting would be outside of their comfort zone. “I was nervous because I didn’t really know the process,” says Theron. “But the process is very relaxed, and very much like other films. It’s really kind of coming back to the core and the foundation of storytelling.”
Although it’s typical for voice actors to record without other actors present, Theron did have the opportunity to meet with Art Parkinson, who voices Kubo in the film. “Art and I got to do some stuff together which was really helpful. To have him in the room…we got to play off each other a little bit.”
Preparing for the film was a family affair for Parkinson. “Me and my mum do a lot of work together…whether it be looking over the script and reading over the script together, and then the night before, really studying the character and talking about the different ways that we can portray the character.”
And how did the actors relate to their characters? “For me, I could relate to it and draw memories of me and my mother,” says Parkinson. “Kubo and his mother are very close, so I always drew from that, by the way I treated my mother and by the way my mother liked to be treated.”
“I think Monkey has two very, very different characteristics,” says Theron. “One is very nurturing and one is very dry and sensible. It’s sometimes almost brutal. It’s the person who says, ‘Get up, get up!’ And I connect with that. I can really tap in with that. That to me is very real.”
McConaughey saw Beetle as a protector. “You have to fight for your own third act. You have to fight for your own happy ending…Don’t deny anything that’s out there, and the truth may burn and it may be hard, but that’s the only way you get through your third act with a happy ending.”
Kubo and the Two Strings enters theaters on August 19th.
Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.
Director: Travis Knight
Writers: Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (ParaNorman)
Voice Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, and Matthew McConaughey