Angela Lansbury Interview: Mr. Poppers Penguins
Role Mommy west coast contributor Kristin Flannery got the chance to chat with Angela Lansbury, a legend with a brand new role....
In Mr. Popper's Penguins, Angela Lansbury stars as Mrs. Van Gundy, the owner of Tavern On The Green, which Mr. Poppers (Jim Carrey) needs to acquire in order for him to become partner at his real estate firm.
We sat down with Angela to discuss how she saw Mrs. Van Gundy's role - villain or hero? "Oh, I think she's a hero. I think she's got all the right stuff. She's a tough old bird, but nevertheless she gives him his due when the time comes. She just demands certain levels of behavior. I thought she was kind of wonderful, because of the fact that she obviously had never, never left the 1950s, and that was her time. But, she was a very worthwhile woman, certainly capable of doing all of the things that rich widows do in New York City."
A pivotal scene in the film takes place when Mr. Poppers tries to show Mrs. Van Gundy what a stand up guy he is until the penguins show up. What was it like working with all those penguins? Angela fills us in on the magic of movie making, "Well, what was it like with the penguins?" Well, they weren't there. You do know that. They weren't there. So, we were just pretending that they were there, because that was at the Guggenheim Museum with priceless art all over the walls, and although it had all been pushed aside, you understand. But, that whole thing where the water comes whooshing down, it was a wonderful special effect because certainly that wasn't the way it was. I don't know how they did that. That was the miracle of special effects."
Since the character of Mrs. Van Gundy did not exist in the original book, Angela discussed how she envisioned the character, "Well, I was kind of coerced into doing it, quite frankly because I didn't think there was really a place for me in it in the first place. But, as it kind of growed like Topsy, it suddenly became an interesting character. And when it became a woman who had a warmth buried under all those layers of, I thought, "Well, yes, I can do something with this." And also, working with Jim was a tremendous lure for me, because I love working with great artists and he is one of those. He's very special."
Since filming has constantly changed during Angela's long career, we were curious if the directors are more willing to let you offer your interpretation or vision now than they were back during the storyboarding days. Angela replied, "I think so, yes. Yes, certainly. Yes. Although there's not much room for that, because these days you're always working on a schedule, a time schedule which is cut and dry because every minute costs. And if you're shooting in a very famous gallery like the Guggenheim in New York and you have eight hours of night shooting to manage to shoot X number of shots, there isn't much time for fooling around. And there's no time to rehearse. That's one of the drawbacks of movies, for my money, is you never really get to rehearse, because they can't spend the time they have not putting it on film."