Neil Patrick Harris Does It All
The acclaimed star discusses starring in The Smurfs, working with The Muppets, and his dream job.
THEATERMANIA: What was the most fun part of co-starring with six little blue people in The Smurfs?
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: I'm a big Buster Keaton-Charlie Chaplin Chaplin guy, so I like the physical comedy the best. That first scene when they come bursting out of the box -- I'm whacking at stuff with an umbrella and crack myself in the head and fall over and the dog jumps on me and I get hogtied by the Smurfs -- that was weird and fun to film. And it's equally amusing to watch.
TM: Was it important to you to make a "kids'" movie?"
NPH: I'm proud in my career that I've been able to hurdle different demographics. I've got How I Met Your Mother, which is mainstream fare, and I've done the Harold & Kumar movies, which makes me look really dark and uncomfortable. And while The Smurfs is a family film, I don't agree that it's a kids' movie. We spent a lot of time with the script to make sure it wasn't just for kids. A lot of this movie is gonna be driven by people who were kids back in the 1980s, so to just make it a kids' movie wouldn't have been effective.
TM: Speaking of kids, you and your partner, David Burtka, now have nine-month old twins, Gideon Scott and Harper Grace. And you play an expectant father in The Smurfs. So how did it feel that you knew you were to become a dad when you were making the film?
NPH: When the script came my way we had just started that process, so it seemed like good timing. By the time we were filming the movie, we were six months pregnant -- but we were not telling anybody, so it was my little secret. Looking at an ultrasound photo and feeling what emotion that brings was a nice moment for me.
TM: With everything on your plate, why did you make time to do a cameo in the upcoming Muppets movie?
NPH: That was a bucket-list thing for me. I'm a huge Muppet fan. Between takes they just keep on playing. That's what I would do if I could leave this profession.
TM: You always fit in some sort of regular theater work every year, whether it's acting or directing. Why make that concerted effort?
NPH: Because I'm such a proponent of people seeing things live. I think just to be there and immersed in live performance is more powerful than sitting in your living room and watching it on a screen. That's why I love The Tony Awards. And it's why I love watching things like magic and juggling -- all the variety arts. People work generations to do that tightrope act, and i think it's super-important to go see it.
TM: Do you have some overall career plan now?
NPH: I think it's great that I'm in the position where I can choose to do things that I want to do because they seem fun to me, as opposed to some hyper-calculation of how things are supposed to go in the future. I found that to be the biggest trap in this industry -- to be working on something you're not enjoying, but being too aware of what's the next move. I'm lucky. I get to host the Tony Awards, and sometimes I get to judge So You Think You Can Dance, and how that all ends up affecting my future I don't know.
NPH: If I could be Ed Sullivan at night and direct during the day, I'd be the happiest man alive.