Comic actor Ben Schwartz (Turbo, Runner Runner) portrays the voice of the titular character in Paramount Pictures’ live-action adventure comedy Sonic the Hedgehog (in Philippine cinemas February 19).
Sonic the Hedgehog is based on the global blockbuster videogame franchise from Sega that centers on the infamously brash bright blue hedgehog from another world. The film follows the (mis)adventures of Sonic as he navigates the complexities of his new life on Earth with his newfound – and human – best friend Tom (James Marsden). Sonic and Tom join forces to try and stop the villainous Dr. Robotnik from capturing Sonic and using his immense powers for world domination.
The casting of Schwartz to portray Sonic is a Hollywood story in itself. “We love Ben’s work and hired him to be a kind of proof-of-concept voice for Sonic during the development of the project,” producer Neal H. Moritz recalls. “As we neared production and began testing other actors, none measured up to what Ben had done. He provided so many terrific variations of Sonic’s vocalizations in a given scene. Like director Jeff Fowler, he’s one of the biggest fans of Sonic and the game I’ve ever met.”
“Well, I was excited just being part of the concept process. I guess it went well enough, so I got to portray Sonic in the movie,” Schwartz interjects.
Co-actor James Marsden counts himself among Schwartz’s many fans: “Ben has a mischievous, childlike quality that’s perfect for Sonic, and he brings that in a very human way.”
Given Schwartz’s affinity for the iconic figure, it comes as no surprise that he made the most of an intensive and extensive period of “research” for the film. “Like any good Method actor, I enjoy immersing myself in the role I’m playing, so I played the Sonic videogame … a lot,” he says with a knowing smile.
But he didn’t stop there. “I spent a lot of time hanging around with and hugging hedgehogs. It cost a lot of extra time and money, but it was worth it, right?” Schwartz jokes.
The “prep” paid off. “I wanted it to feel like Sonic was a kid with lots of energy,” Schwartz explains. “Sonic is really excited about learning things the first time and about being on Earth, so he always speaks with super-charged power and optimism.”
Schwartz was ecstatic when the ever-energetic Jim Carrey joined the project. “I – and so many others – learned about comedy from Jim,” he says. “Dumb and Dumber is my favorite movie of all time. He’s a legend! The work Jim has done in Sonic the Hedgehog captures the energy of those early movies of his, and it’s exciting to see him reinvent and play with that kind of comedy again.”
Sonic the Hedgehog is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.