Sir Ben Kingsley is well known for playing intense, formidable characters, so it was a nice surprise for us to sit down with the warm-spirited Kingsley — who plays the villainous Archibald Snatcher in the upcoming film The Boxtrolls — and find out he has a playful side as well.
Produced by the same studio behind such stop-action films as ParaNorman and Coraline, The Boxtrolls is a family film about a mischievous subterranean gang of adorable hoarders who make kooky inventions from things they find in the streets of Cheesetown above. One night they steal a human boy named Eggs, whom they raise as part of their clan.
Although the film is entirely stop-motion, Kingsley stresses that the film is not just for kids. “This family film — and it is a family film — does not exclude half the members of the family. This is for everybody.”
Sir Ben Kingsley plays Archibald Snatcher, a man determined to exterminate the Boxtrolls, because he considers the troublesome garbage-pickers a threat to Cheesetown.
We asked the cheery Kingsley how it was that he could play “bad” so well. “The trick of playing anything that dramatically is seen as bad is to find that crack within that you’re always compensating for,” replied Kingsley. “The villain is coming out of some bitter disappointment, some loss, some abuse… Seriously, you’ve got to find that crack and love it, and look after it, and realize that’s why he’s ambitious.”
Kingsley’s character in the film invents a giant fiery contraption to do his dirty work, leading to ample opportunities for more Boxtroll high jinks.
Apparently the Academy Award-winning actor is no stranger to mischief himself, and admitted to once (playfully) scaring the bejeezus out of a film student.
“I played a terrible trick on somebody once,” admitted Kingsley. “It was a screening of Sexy Beast for some film students and I was to talk with them afterwards. And I wasn’t onstage. I was waiting outside the crash doors. A young student opened the crash doors to leave the cinema and found himself face-to-face with me, just having seen Sexy Beast. And you know what I did? I said ‘What are you looking at?’ and he fell backwards into the auditorium. I couldn’t resist.”
Elle Fanning also sat down with SheKnows to discuss her character, Winnie, a boisterous young girl who discovers Eggs (and subsequently, the Boxtrolls) and decides to help him try to fit in with the humans so that he can protect his unconventional clan.
“I’ve never played a character like her before,” said Fanning. “She’s so dramatic, and I felt like I could kind of overdo it and it would be acceptable.”
Fanning admitted that she’s a big fan of stop-motion films. “Everything is handmade,” gushes the actress. “When you watch it, you feel like a certain heart has gone into it. It just stands out from all other animation for me. I love it.”
Because the film is stop-motion, all of the actors’ voice work had to be done in the studio, where, Fanning admits, sometimes things got a little silly.
“It’s very funny the way you do these, because you feel really weird,” confessed Fanning. “After you do the scenes and you do all the lines, they give you a sheet of noises, so you just literally go down the line and just do all the noises.”
Watch the video below to see Fanning recreate one of the weirdest noises she had to make for the film.