Talking to ghosts, zombies and witches is a plot trait many people would associate with terrifying horror movies. But the anticipated action comedy ‘ParaNorman,’ which is set to hit theaters on Friday, promises family fun with its title character, an 11-year-old who spends most of his days seeing and speaking with the dead. Actor Tucker Albrizzi, who provides the voice of Norman’s best friend, Neil, enthusiastically affirms that ‘ParaNorman’ provides scares and laughs for the entire family.
‘ParaNorman’ is set in the town of Blithe Hollow, whose locals profit from the history of the site, as a famous witch hunt occurred there 300 years ago. Since he doesn’t enjoy the company of his family, Norman (voiced by Kodi Smith-McPhee) confides in the impressionable Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), at their middle school.
When Norman is contacted by his Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) unexpectedly, he’s surprised to learn that a centuries-old witch’s curse is real and about to come true. Only Norman will be able to stop the curse from harming his town, and calls on his older sister, Courtney (Anna Kendrick); Neil and his older brother, Mitch (Casey Affleck); and bully (Alvin Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to help.
Albrizzi graciously took the time to speak with us over the phone recently to discuss what it was like filming ‘ParaNorman.’ Among other things, the 12-year-old actor discussed why he wanted to play Neil; what it was like working with Smith-McPhee and the animated comedy’s directors, Chris Butler and Sam Fell; and why he prefers working on animated films over live action movies.
Fans of Albrizzi can find more information about the actor, ‘ParaNorman’ and his upcoming projects on his official Twitter page, @tuckeralbrizzi.
ShockYa (SY): You have a lead role as Norman’s eternally optimistic best friend, Neil, in ‘ParaNorman.’ Why did you want to play the role of Neil in the movie?
Tucker Albrizzi (TA): I wanted to play the role of Neil in the movie because he’s just like me. He’s happy all the time, nothing gets him down. He kind of looks like me. They made that character before they even saw me. He’s also weird and goofy.
SY: Kodi Smit-McPhee voices the role of Norman in the film. Did you get to work with him while you were recording your lines?
TA: Yes, I got to work with him once, when Norman was showing Neil that he can talk to dead people. It was fun working with Kodi on that.
SY: What was it like working with Kodi when you were recording your lines? Was it easy working with him?
TA: Yeah, it was easy and fun.
SY: There are several older actors in ‘ParaNorman’ as well, including Anna Kendrick and John Goodman. Did you get to act with any of them while you were shooting?
TA: No, mainly I just did solo recordings. The only recording I did with someone else was with Kodi.
SY: Did you find it easier to record with Kodi, or did you prefer to record your lines by yourself?
TA: I found it a lot easier to record with someone else, so that we could talk to each other and connect in the scene. It was much easier.
SY: Besides ‘ParaNorman,’ which is an animated comedy, you also acted in live action films, such as ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.’ Do you prefer recording lines for animated films, or do you like life action films?
TA: I like both of them, but I would have to say that I like animated movies more. I can show up in my pajamas, and I don’t have to worry about dressing up.
SY: Do you find it easier to prepare for animated movies than live action films?
TA: I find it easier to prepare to do voice-over work. Like on my TV shows, you have to worry about where you go and your facial expressions for live action movies. But with voice-overs, you can relax and have fun with it.
SY: Chris Butler and Sam Fell both directed ‘ParaNorman.’ Did they give you any acting advice while you were filming?
TA: Oh, it was great working with them. They were really nice, and they helped me out. I’ve learned a lot of stuff from them.
SY: Like we mentioned, ‘ParaNorman’ is an animated adventure comedy. What are some of your favorite animated movies?
TA: Some of my favorite animated movies are ‘Ice Age’ and ‘Madagascar,’ they’re just classic for me. I saw the sequels for both when they came out this summer.
SY: ‘ParaNorman’ follows Norman as he talks to ghosts and zombies, in order to save his town. Do you like to watch scary movies with ghosts and zombies?
TA: I’m not a fan of scary movies that much. I usually get startled, so I’m not a big fan of those movies.
SY: Many audiences are looking forward to seeing ‘ParaNorman’ when it comes out in theaters next month, especially after its panel at San Diego Comic-Con last month. Do you think people will find the movie funny, and like it as much as the ‘Ice Age’ and ‘Madagascar’ sequels?
TA: Yeah, I think it will attract a great crowd of people, because it has the scariness and comedy in it. Most of my friends have already told me they want to see it.
SY: Were you able to attend Comic-Con for the ‘ParaNorman?’
TA: No, I wasn’t able to attend Comic-Con, because I was in the Bahamas for summer. But I really wanted to be there.
SY: Besides movies, you’ve also acted on some TV shows, including ‘Big Time Rush’ and ‘Good Luck Charlie.’ Why do you like working on TV?
TA: I really like acting on both. I really don’t have a preference of acting in movies or on TV shows. For films, it’s cool because you get to go to different locations and sets. But for TV shows, you’re only on one studio all the time. For movies, one time when I was filming, I went to Vancouver. That was fun.
SY: Like you said, you’ve traveled to shoot your films, like to Canada. Do you like traveling for your movies?
TA: I love traveling. I just love doing that when I’m filming.
SY: Since ‘ParaNorman’ is an animated movie, do you think that it’s just a family movie? Or do you think that everyone will like it?
TA: I think that everyone will like it. It has the funniness of a kid movie, but yet it can attract adults. It will attract adults, because the people (Focus Features and LAIKA) behind ‘Coraline’ made ‘ParaNorman,’ and a lot of adults liked ‘Coraline.’ So I think it will attract a great crowd of people of all different ages.
SY: What do you think makes ‘ParaNorman’ different from other animated movies?
TA: ‘ParaNorman’ is different because the point of it is very original. It’s not like any other animation movie. It’s very unique and different from everything else.
SY: How did you become a part of the movie? Did Chris and Sam ask you to be in it, or did you audition for it?
TA: I auditioned for ‘ParaNorman.’ Usually for voice-overs, you would go and tape it somewhere. But I went to the casting in person, and that made me more comfortable. So I auditioned, and went back to call-backs. I got it, and I was ecstatic.
SY: Besides acting, you also created your own charity, Driving for Donors, with your brother Patrick, after he was diagnosed with Leukemia. Are you still working with the charity?
TA: Yes, we’re still doing marrow drives all across the country. It’s still going great, and I’m still helping out with them.
SY: When you’re doing your work for Driving for Donors, do the fans of your acting support the events?
TA: Yes, I get great support from my fans. They help out as much as they can. They learn about what the marrow drive is and how they can help. Sometimes they get on the marrow donor list.
SY: Do you have any upcoming movies or television shows coming up that you can talk about?
TA: Yes, I actually just did a pilot called ‘Shmagreggie Saves the World,’ and I play Shmagreggie, the main person in that. We just filmed that, and we’re still waiting to hear if that got picked up or not.
SY: Do you have any other films coming out?
TA: I just did (the straight-to-DVD family comedy) ‘Treasure Buddies’ (Albrizzi provided the voice of Budderball), but other than that, I don’t have any other movies. I’m concentrating more on TV right now than animation.
SY: Do you have any favorite actors that you look up to when you’re filming?
TA: I like Jack Black and Jonah Hill. Those guys are really funny, and I look up to them.
SY: Would you like to work with the two of them one day in a movie?
TA: I would love to work with them. It would be my dream to work with them on a movie.
SY: What is it about their comedy that you enjoy so much?
TA: They’re just really witty and really funny. They don’t hold back, they just go all out there. They make people laugh.
SY: Why should people see ‘ParaNorman’ if they haven’t heard much about it?
TA: I would tell them that this movie’s all about having the courage to be yourself. It’s fun and funny and great.
SY: What was your favorite part of being in ‘ParaNorma?’
TA: My favorite part was just being weird. I could just be myself in the room. I didn’t have to worry about anything else. I could just do the lines how I want them to be, and how I would do them. So I could just be my weird self.
SY: Would you like to work with Kodi, and Chris and Sam, on another movie in the future?
TA: Yeah, it would be great to work with Kodi and everyone else in the future. I would love that, that would be awesome.
Written by: Karen Benardello
Photo Credit: Vincent Sandoval Photography