James Marsden set to Hop down the bunny trail

Mar 29, 2011 at 12:23 p.m. ET

"He’s one of the nicest guys in Hollywood." You hear this all the time about multi-talented, hottie James Marsden. Whether he’s a singing music host in Hairspray, a cartoon prince in Enchanted, a tortured writer in the upcoming and very dramatic Straw Dogs or a superhero with laser eyes in X-Men, Marsden pulls focus every time he’s on screen. Maybe it’s those gorgeous blue eyes and his great comedic timing. Maybe it’s his excellent singing voice. Whatever it is, it’s working.

In the adorable new family film Hop, James Marsden plays Fred, an out-of-work guy searching for his future when he grazes a rabbit with his car. This is no ordinary rabbit but E.B., the talking son of the Easter Bunny who is running away from taking over the family business. These two misplaced bachelors have a lot in common and form a reluctant, but life-changing bond.

James Marsden in Hop

SheKnows is with James Marsden in his trailer on the Universal lot to get his advice on working with CGI animals and raising kids. He's telling us that his wife helps him pick his scripts and he stresses that a guy should look sharp and neat while remaining a "real" man.

Hopping with James Marsden

SheKnows: Did you do this film for your kids or is it just a fun challenge for you to act with fuzzy critters who aren't there? Didn't your prince interact with a CG chipmunk in Enchanted?

James Marsden: Ah, but I got to ignore the chipmunk in Enchanted. He just followed me wherever I went, whereas with this one, the rabbit ignores me. I've done enough films where there are visual effects involved that you get used to being on set with a green screen or you're reacting to an explosion that's not there or they say, "Now the beam is coming out of your eyes." But to have your costar not there and you are running dialogue and you have to have chemistry with each other, that was challenging.

SheKnows: Russell Brand did E.B.'s voice, so did you guys get to talk about the relationship? This is really a buddy picture.

James Marsden: Yeah. Russell and I did get together early on just to figure out our dynamic within the movie. We would do the scenes together and he would record his voice. That was massively helpful but, on the day, it just turned into almost a completely technical process.

SheKnows: Did you celebrate Easter as a kid? What did you do?

James Marsden in Hop

James Marsden: Yes. We had visits from the Easter Bunny every year and we would dye eggs the night before and paint them and wake up and there would be this sort of magical little display of baskets and candy and eggs and all of that. I had two brothers that were very close in age and we would do an egg hunt. They had these plastic eggs that you could put candy into and sometimes there was money, like a five or ten dollar bill. So it became not this fun kind of, like, "Ah, this is so sweet. We're going to go find the eggs." It was like, "I'm going to kill you." Then we'd count the eggs after, if one had more than the other it was like a fist fight.

SheKnows: Yikes! No fighting really in this but it was more physical for you than I would have thought. You were jumping over ledges while carrying big Easter baskets. Were there any injuries?

James Marsden: No injuries. Those were light baskets but I was leaping over hedges but it looked more spectacular than it really was. I love all the physical aspects of that. But, when I'm in the protection suit for feeding the dogs and I slip and fall, that was almost an accident. And, that's best when it happens and it looks organic.

James Marsden on fatherhood

SheKnows: E.B. doesn't want to follow in dad's footsteps. How will you feel if your kids do or don't want to be in the entertainment industry?

James Marsden helps a bunny in Hop

James Marsden: Well, the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree and that's for sure with my kids but if they decide they want to do this, whatever they want to do and are passionate about, we're backin' them once they're eighteen. That's our one thing. You can be in theater class, you can take any classes you want but professionally, you're not doing it until you're eighteen. You can't ask a five-year-old, "Do you want to be an actor?" and the kid says, "Yes," and the parents say, "Well, it was their decision." They're five! But it's a great business and it's been very good to me.

SheKnows: Do you see any leanings in the actorly direction yet with either child (James has a five-year-old and a ten-year-old)?

James Marsden: Yes. My daughter is so stage-starved it's unbelievable. She loves it. My son doesn't like the spotlight as much but he has my ear. He has my gift for mimicry. He does spot-on impressions. My daughter will be on Broadway and he'll be a film actor. I don't know.

SheKnows: So you've learned the lesson that the daddy Easter Bunny learns in this film; back your kid in what they want to do in life?

James Marsden: Yeah. Now, I realize, as a loving parent, that all that (pushing the kid in the direction you want) comes from wanting to protect your kid. You want to help them make good decisions but you have to let them make their own decisions whether they are the right ones or not. Hopefully, it's not going to impair their lives too much if they make the wrong one.

James Marsden's wife chooses his films!

SheKnows: Were you someone who left the home nest late like your character Fred or were you out the door and off to Hollywood at a very young age?

James Marsden: Well, I didn't start as a kid actor and I was very lucky when I came to Los Angeles because my father knew somebody who was a casting director. He set me up with a manager. So, on my drive to L.A., I already had representation. I was nineteen and I'd done a few semesters of college. I was studying mass communications, journalism. I probably would have been one of you or a news anchor. I was a teenage one when I was 16 for the Good Morning Oklahoma show. There's some really embarrassing footage out there.

James Marsden on the set of Hop

SheKnows: Love to see that! How much does your wife's input on scripts and projects influence you? Have her choices usually paid off?

James Marsden: The God's honest truth is she reads every one of my scripts and most of them that I don't even read -- mainly because she loves reading them. She knows what would be good for me. She thinks she has too good a taste. She's like, "Everything I think is really great, comes out and it's great but nobody sees it. If you want to make a movie that makes a lot of money, I'm going to read the script and go, 'Ugh, I don't think it's very good.'" But, most of the movies I've done she's read and said, "You'd be great in that role."

SheKnows: If she doesn't read the script, can you make a decision on it?

James Marsden: I get really nervous if a script comes to me and I'm out of town and not with her. "They're offering you the part and they need to know fast." I'm like, "Hang on! I don't have time to give this to my wife and have her read it and tell me what to do." That's the truth. She's a huge part of decision-making. She's got great taste and I don't always.

SheKnows: There are some guys visiting SheKnows to find out what "She" knows so, for them and for women who want to clean up their hubbies, you look about 16 in this film. What do you eat, what do you put on your skin and what is your exercise regimen?

James Marsden: First, thanks! If they want to clean up their hubbies, the first thing I would say is make sure they don't clean them up too much. Cosmetically, you've got to be a guy. Little trim here and there is all right. But use your electric razor for the hair in between your eyebrows. No plucking! I'll put like lotion on my face but I'm a firm believer that a guy has to be a guy and that doesn't mean you have to be a slob or not polite. It's finding the balance.

SheKnows: Yeah. A lot of guys are a little too cleaned up.

James Marsden: We've gone so far in the other direction that women are wanting men to be men. You've always wanted that but that metrosexual thing? No. Enjoy being a man and embrace your testosterone. You don't stop watching sports or wearing a baseball cap.

SheKnows: Great advice. Exercise?

James Marsden: For exercise, I run and bike and that's my therapy now. I did triathlons last year. You're outdoors breathing the air and getting the sun. For diet, it's like everything in moderation. If you are doing that kind of exercise, it starts out being for vanity and ends up being for your sanity. I didn't mean for that to rhyme [laughs]. If you do take care of yourself, you can really eat whatever the hell you want. Oh, and button your coat jacket. That's a big thing and tuck your shirt in. Don't hang that shirt out of your pants like the guy in his mid-40's going to Vegas! [Laughs] Look nice and be a man! Uh, you can tell the girls to tell their guys that.

When James met Kaley

SheKnows: Wow, what great advice! Can you talk about working with Kaley Cuoco who plays your sis in the film?

James Marsden and Kaley Cuoco in Hop

James Marsden: I knew Kaley before we started working on this because we have the same manager. She was dating a friend of mine so I've known her for a long time and we had sort of a brother/sister dynamic so that was great for this film. She's such a great comedienne. She just naturally has the ability. I look back on my work and see me getting better. I look at the older stuff and go, "Oh, that was painful!" but you see the growth. She's just a natural. We had a great time together. I marked on my calendar when Kaley was gonna be on set. Wow, a human being! I'd been talking to my imaginary friend for so long I didn't know how to talk to a human.

SheKnows: You got to sing a tiny bit in Hop and you sound great but are you itching to do another musical? You're really good.

James Marsden: Thank you. The more I hear that, the more it fuels me wanting to do it. There were a few things on Broadway that I was thinking about doing. It's a big lifestyle change. My family and I would have to go to New York for a couple of years and that's exciting. But, now it's about either finding the right stage musical or getting together with musicians and doing a CD.

SheKnows: Would you do a guest spot on Glee?

James Marsden: I'd totally do a Glee, absolutely!

SheKnows: Will there really be an Enchanted 2?

James Marsden: I hear there is a script so I hope so. (Amy and I) are sort of the ageless prince and princess in that movie. If we wait much longer, I'm not sure that's gonna work.

SheKnows: Why do you think women would especially enjoy Hop?

James Marsden: What I really like about this movie is, what Chris Meledandri (producer) and Tim Hill (director) are really smart about is "let's make a movie for the parents." Kids are going to go see the cute little bunnies and the chicks anyway and they'll love the Easter factory and all the animation. If the comedy and plot is at some level of sophistication, something that will entertain the parents, then everybody will like it.