CLIFFORD: Jack Whitehall On BIG RED DOG/The Rock, HARRY POTTER Audition, JUNGLE CRUISE 2 & More (Exclusive)
With Clifford the Big Red Dog now available on Digital HD, we recently caught up with the film's leading man Jack Whitehall to talk to him about starring in the family film, a possible sequel, and more!
Following a successful run on streaming and a better-than-expected turnout at the box office, Paramount's Clifford the Big Red Dog is now available to purchase on Digital HD platforms everywhere.
Ahead of the movie's launch, we caught up with English actor/comedian Jack Whitehall, who plays the clumsy yet good-natured uncle Casey, in the charming children's adventure comedy film and talked to him about starring opposite the iconic Big Red Dog, who would win in a fight between Clifford and The Rock, evolving his comedy for western audiences, a potential sequel, and more.
He also kindly shared a fun story about auditioning for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, spoke on which direction he'd like Jungle Cruise 2 to go in, and teased his next project, which seems to be a major departure from his recent family features.
Check out the interview below, and keep scrolling for the full transcript!
ROHAN: Let's get the tough questions out of the way first: was it more difficult working with Clifford the Big Red Dog or your Jungle Cruise co-star Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson?
JACK: Yeah, they’re very similar. Two iconic figures, two very big figures as well, both of them have to be fed a lot of protein in the course of shooting those movies. It was a good warm-up for the Big Red Dog, working with Dwayne Johnson. In fact, I heard rumors when I signed up to the movie that Dwayne was going to be playing Clifford, but unfortunately, that never materialized. Maybe it was a clash of diaries, but I think he would’ve been great casting for Clifford.
ROHAN: Having already worked with a CGI animal on Jungle Cruise, did that prepare you to work with Clifford?
JACK: Yeah, it was quite good preparation, I’m like the go-to guy now, working with CGI animals. On Jungle Cruise, Proxima, the jaguar was played by a stunt performer called Ben, who wore a jaguar-skin leotard and would crawl around on all fours. He had a very feline movement and was the go-to guy in Hollywood for when you want a cat, he’d been in Jungle Book and various other movies playing cats, so he perfectly perfected the movement, but a lot of the scenes, on Jungle Cruise, were quite surreal cause it was me and Ben and him curling up on my lap or having to stroke him or tickle his belly, so when I came to Clifford and it was all of a sudden a big red puppet, it wasn’t really even as weird as what I’d gone through on Jungle Cruise, so I think I was mentally prepared for it.
ROHAN: On Jungle Cruise, you were working with Emily Blunt and The Rock, both veteran actors, but on this film, you're working with younger co-stars in Darby Camp and Izaac Wang - was there anything you learned from working with Emily and Dwayne that you wanted to bring to this film where you're serving as the mentor figure?
JACK: Yeah, I mean I think the thing that I learned from Jungle Cruise, that even when it’s a big-budget film like that, even when there’s a lot of CGI and special effects, you still have to remember to have fun with the scenes and improvise and play with them and find the characters and find what makes scenes work and what makes them funny and there is always space to do that, even though you’re working on what is a juggernaut of a movie and that was not necessarily something I knew going into Jungle Cruise, but it was definitely something I took away from it.
So, when it came to doing Clifford, even though quite a lot of scenes had to be planned intricately because there was obviously going to be a big CGI element added in afterwards, it was important to be able to play with the scenes and be loose with the script and to try things out and the director was great at allowing us to do that and I think it’s what gives the movie its life and its energy and that was definitely not something that I would’ve been able to do had I not done Jungle Cruise before it.
ROHAN: You're a very popular comedian, but as you know, American and British humor can be quite different - have you found yourself adapting your humor for more western audiences since starting to work in the U.S.?
JACK: Yeah, I mean I think it has been a little bit of a process of adapting it, maybe a little less cynicism, less sarcasm, that plays better in the U.K. than it does in the States, but also, it’s as much the cultural differences suddenly kind of tailoring my sense of humor to doing family movies because most of the stuff I’ve been doing in the UK has been for a more adult audience, the tone and the nature of that comedy is very different. So, it’s been a challenge, but it’s been one that I’ve really enjoyed. It’s also amazing to be able to make films like this that my friends can take their kids to see and my nieces and nephews can see, godchildren can see, and that’s never been the case before. Everything else that I’ve ever done has always been a project that, “You cannot show your children this, it will corrupt their young minds.,” So, it’s so nice to finally be able to have made something that they can share as well.
ROHAN: You've done back-to-back family films, what was it about these two roles and scripts that convinced you to sign on?
JACK: The one major thing crossover that you might sort of instantly notice is the physical comedy, it’s obviously something that I’m always drawn towards. Physical comedy is something that’s pretty universal as well, it’s the comedy of slapstick from silent movies through to big family movies like this. It’s a humor that works on every level, in any language, and is something that I’ve always been an admirer of and I love crafting a physical set piece and a pratfall or a visual joke and yeah, with both of them, there was obviously quite a significant physical element to them and that’s something that I really relished.
ROHAN: It's been announced that sequels to both Clifford and Jungle Cruise are in the earliest stages of development, where would you like to see your characters go next?
JACK: It’s fantastic that they’ve connected with an audience in such a way that the studios feel confident to start developing sequels to the movies and I would absolutely love to be able to tell more stories and to play and revisit these characters and just hope that, in both cases, that they find interesting ways to develop the characters and to surprise audiences and put them in new and interesting environments and situations and find areas to go that will kind of surprise audiences and will be a challenge for me as an actor and also, on a more literal level, for both of these sequels, I have been pushing very hard for them to be set in London, just because it’s more convenient for me. I live here.
Jungle Cruise, they could easily do one of those up the Thames, maybe to Henley-on-Thames or somewhere like that, and with Clifford as well. I’d love to see Clifford in London, maybe cocking his leg on Trafalgar Square or running around the London Eye. I definitely think there’s a world where both of those properties can maybe just shift their focus towards London.
ROHAN: With the Harry Potter 20th Anniversary celebration coming up, what do you remember about being one of the people to actually audition for that original film?
JACK: Yeah, everyone was obsessed with Harry Potter! I looked just like Harry Potter as well when I was at school and I remember being very excited about auditioning for that. Obviously, I didn’t end up getting the part, but Emma Watson, who was at my school did - we didn’t go out for the same part, obviously I was auditioning for Harry, she was auditioning for Hermione. If we were both auditioning for Hermione, that would’ve been a really hard get.
But yeah, I remember hearing that she’d got cast in that movie and then watching it and I’d met her a couple times as a kid, and it was amazing to see her in this huge juggernaut of a franchise and my godfather Richard Griffiths, the late Richard Griffiths played Uncle Vernon Dursley as well, so I got to go to the premiere with him and see it on the big screen. Yeah, I’m a big Harry Potter and I’m very excited to see what they’ve got in store for the anniversary.
ROHAN: You were able to work with one of your heroes, John Cleese, on this film, what was that experience like?
JACK:He was great and he really put me at ease and he was a very kind and generous person. I love that he still got a sense of humor and he’s still got this really mischievous spirit and he was very avuncular and friendly. We shared lots of stories and I was able to ask him questions about his outlook on comedy and Fawlty Towers and Monty Python and all of these iconic shows that I grew up watching. Every day I was on set with him was an absolute delight.
ROHAN: Having done a pair of family films, what kind of role would you like to tackle next? Would you maybe want to step into a darker, possibly villainous role?
JACK:Yeah, I’d love to do something like that, a bit different and go and try and do an action movie or something that’s a little bit darker in tone and try to find something that’s different and challenging. I’ve shot this movie, Robots, with the creative team behind Borat and lots of that kind of stuff, so that’s totally quite different and that was really fun. It’s with Shailene Woodley and it’s an R-rated comedy and I really enjoyed doing that. But yeah, I’d love to find something more dramatic as well and surprise the audience.
Clifford the Big Red Dog is streaming on Paramount+,
and is now available to purchase on Digital HD!