INTERVIEW: Jason Fuchs Drifts Into Ice Age 4
The popular stage actor discusses his work as the screenwriter of the highly anticipated animated film.
THEATERMANIA: How did you get involved with Ice Age 4?
JASON FUCHS: Ice Age 4 came totally out of nowhere for me. I was told Fox Animation was interested in hiring me as a story supervisor or something or other that sounded way too professional for me. My agent convinced me to take the meeting anyway and the day before I went in to Fox, the VP of the studio called and told me that no such position existed; that they were making a fourth Ice Age and were interested in me potentially coming onboard to co-write it. It was very cloak and dagger at that stage. I worked for a private intelligence service when I was in college and this was way more secretive. Bin Laden should have hid in a bungalow on the Fox lot, no one would ever have found him.
TM: Were you a big fan of the previous movies?
JF: I had actually never seen the films when I had that initial phone call with the studio. They asked me if I'd seen them. I said yes. They asked if I liked them. I said no...I loved them. And then they asked what I responded to best about the movies and I just thought that every actor kind of says the same thing when they're in one of these deals. They always go, "The comedy - it's accessible to grown-ups, but appropriate for children." So, I said that. They said that that was the thing they were the most proud of. And then I had to go download the three films from iTunes that night before I had my meeting the next day. And, happily, I loved the films. I was a late arriving fan, but a big one. They were visually just beautifully animated movies. They were exciting and trending toward bigger and bigger action as the series went on, which appealed to me. And they had this wonderful moral compass. They were all about - - on some level -- what it means to be a family. They were just the kind of films that I had seen growing up that made me want to be in and write movies, so, the opportunity to be a part of this was crazy exciting.
TM: Which character in the movie was the easiest to write for?
JF: The easiest character to write for was Louis because -- full disclosure -- I am Louis. He is one of our new characters, and voiced by Josh Gad, but I actually described him in the script as "a Jason Fuchs type". I think I was actually shorter than Louis in high school and, you know, I had the crush on my best friend who was just totally out of my league. She was infatuated with the guy that just didn't get at all why she was special, she had her Ethan. So, for me, it was fun to explore a story that I felt like I had lived and that I think a lot of people have experienced some version of. It's this very relatable almost universal story of what happens when you realize you're falling in love with your best friend...and oh by the way, the world is also -- literally -- falling apart around you and psychotic animal pirates are trying to kill you.
TM: Does it help knowing which actors were voicing the characters beforehand?
JF: Well, when you're writing for already established characters, they not only have actors attached, but they have established voices, so, you're trying to make sure that whatever you write feels like it's in the voice of that character. As far as new characters go, we built those as we went along, In some cases we got exactly who it was written for and in other cases we were surprised by who was right for the part. Sometimes you write a part with one actor in mind and then you listen to his voice up against the character design and for whatever reason, it just doesn't click. You really have to feel that that voice is coming out of that ridiculous animated body and there is a certain level of verisimilitude that either happens or it doesn't. Peter Dinklage is a great example. We listened to tons of voices for the Captain Gutt role and it was hard to find someone whose vocal performance filled this hulking ape. The character design aped, no pun intended, a lot of voices. And then we listened to Peter and suddenly this guy was really really scary. And it just worked. And then you go back and re-write based on that.
TM: What parts of your script do you think adults will most appreciate?
The comedy is accessible for grown-ups, but appropriate for children. No, I mean, that is true, but listen, we screen test the living daylights out of these films and we actually tested a percentage point higher with adults than children, so, I think that speaks to the fact that this is a movie that hopefully works as well for adults as for kids. I think we have a lot of more grown-up oriented humor. I think we have some action that is epic enough and fun enough that it will appeal to fans of action adventure films of whatever age. I mean, we have an anthropomorphic ode to Das Boot in our finale that I think is pretty visually stunning. And, at the end of the day, a lot of the key story elements are relatable to grown-ups. Manny is a dad who's struggling with his teenage daughter preparing to leave the nest. Sid is dealing with his mental patient grandmother who his family has abandoned with him. Louis is a guy who's falling for his best friend.
JF: Ica Age felt like stage acting. You'd write a sequence and sometimes you'd submit pages, but other times I would actually perform it for the directors and producer in my office. So, it kind of felt like an ongoing, evolving stage show at Blue Sky Studios for a year and a half. Of course, acting was my first love, it's always been a huge part of my life and I miss it so much. I'm in the middle of a few things on the writing side right now, but as I get to the tail end of those, if it were the right play -- and by that I mean anything that someone agreed to cast me in -- I would absolutely be up for it.