A Chat with Matthew McConaghey

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY voices Buster Moon in Sing.  It's about to release on DVD so here's what he had to say about the whole thing...                 

Q. You choose your projects very carefully. What was it about SING that made you want to be a part of it?

Working with Illumination, having fun, and making something my kids could see. I also wanted to see the world through their eyes and play an extraordinary character that allowed me to be a bit larger than life. With a film like SING you can blow the rooftop out of reality a bit, which wouldn’t be possible in a live action movie. Only in an animated film can you have your father be a gorilla that pulls the bars out of his cell to see his son perform in a show.

Q. In SING you play the main character Buster Moon, who comes up with the idea to organize a singing contest. What do you like about him?

I like his optimism even though it can be borderline delusional, and how much he proves you can actually get done by just willing something along. He is a guy, or better said a koala, who has to blow through his obstacles. Buster will do anything to make sure the show goes on. That was my favorite aspect about him.

Q. It’s interesting to see those flashbacks of Buster’s early life, when we understand where his passion for the theatre and entertainment takes off.

Those images set up his lineage early on. Then when we jump forward a couple of decades, we see how his father and that lineage come forward to motivate him and give him the courage to do things, which at the same time leads to his heartbreak when things fail.

Q. You recently voiced the character of Beetle in Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings. What appeals to you about working in animation?

The freedom to act like a kid because there is nothing conscientious about it. It’s alright to mess up, as it’s all audio – which is why I would always say, “Press record, don’t yell, ‘Cut!’ and let me do 30 versions.” That way you can go back and tab the one you like the most.

Q. Many animated movies label themselves as family films when they are not really for the whole family.  But that is not the case of SING.

I have seen a lot of these so-called “family films” and I don’t love all the messages they sell. Even though SING is all about singing and performing, it is not saying that it’s the only way to be significant. There is a lot about family and relationships and people coming back together and loyalty and fear and doing it for the love of doing it. SING has a pure heart to it.

Q. The truth is that even though there are many characters in SING each and every one of them have a well flushed-out storyline.

There are many storylines – with Buster in the middle – that you can follow and that all come together in SING. And each time you get back to one you think, “Oh, I’m glad I’m back here!” because you had missed that character. Not many films are capable of doing that.

Q. What can you say about the director Garth Jennings?

Garth has unbridled enthusiasm, not in a whimsical way. He knew what he wanted and at the same time was open to other ideas. It was very uninhibiting for me to work with him.

Q. Did Garth’s openness allow you to bring your own input to the role of Buster Moon?

Yes, because I came in with my own ideas for the character and after our first conversation, which lasted around three hours, we both felt that we were starting off on the right track. I was very receptive to Garth’s ideas, too. There is a real freedom and trust that comes from playing make-believe with animated characters that makes you want to give things a shot.

Q. Garth Jennings also voices a great character in the movie: Buster’s old lizard assistant Miss Crawley. What did you think about her?

She is pretty irresistible. I think she is Reese Witherspoon’s kids’ favorite character.

Q. Even though all the characters are animals they feel so relatable.

Actually, if done well like they are here, I think that makes the characters easier to relate to. Being animated animals you are not coming in with an inherent judgment. It is all a freefall and one big zoo, even though they are going thru some very personal issues. It’s almost more innocent in a way. 

Q. The film talks about overcoming our fears. Can you relate to that in any way?

Yes, daily! There are two types of fear: the one where your Spiderman senses are going off for a good reason, and then there are the butterflies you have because you are just scared of failing.

Q. How did SING surprise you when you finally saw it completed?

It surprised me to see the different storylines Garth brought to the forefront and how the film gives each one of them a beginning, middle and resolution. But, at the same time, the movie doesn’t feel too busy or confusing. SING is a joy!

One of the great things about what we get to do in our business is to entertain. This film is a very interactive experience in the theatre. And even though the humor is there, it doesn’t have a bunch of one-offs. This story is thread together and told really well and that’s a great reason to go to the theatre.

Q. You mentioned that one of the reasons to do this movie was to work on something your kids could see.  Did they enjoy it too?

Absolutely! They have seen it several times and every time they come out they have different favorite characters, they are singing different songs and repeating different lines.

Q. Does music play an important role in your life?

I’ll actually take it over moving pictures! It’s very important to me in getting through my daily life because it allows me to form my own pictures. Sometimes you feel they are singing that song to you or that you are singing it. On other occasions you feel it’s just an ambience anthem that’s coming from nowhere in particular but that fits the moment. I’ll never forget how Richard Linklater, on his first day on the set of Dazed and Confused, handed us all a cassette with 5 songs on side A and another 5 on side B and told us to listen to it because he thought it was the kind of music our characters would be listening to. What great direction!

Q. What would you like to know someone said or felt when they walked out of the theatre after seeing SING?

“I am going to do it because I love it!”

Sing is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on Wednesday the 26th of April 2017