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91st Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

SPEECH BY: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller


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Q. Extraordinary film.  Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's dedication at the end got a standing ovation in Chicago.  Can you tell me about how you went about wanting to reflect the essence of their artistry and their message to the world?
A. (Bob Persichetti)  I mean, that was the end, finally, that got played off, I don't know, but maybe you don't see that up here, but maybe you do.  Literally, we were just going to thank Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for really inspiring this whole thing, you know, and for, you know, being a force of believing that all of us, human beings, have the potential and the capacity to be heros.  I mean, that was really sort of from day one, you know.  Phil and Chris had put together a treatment and there was sort of a statement that was essentially saying it was a challenge to make a movie that challenged the audience to believe in themselves and to believe in their neighbor and really, you know, be positive and make a difference in the world and possibly be a mentor or be heroic.  That was really it.  That's from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.  That is what we were trying to say.

Q. This question is for Phil or anyone that wants to jump in.
A. (Phil Lord)  Hi. 
Q. If there is a sequel to the movie, would you consider exploring Miles Morales' Latino side further?  Maybe an adventure in Puerto Rico or something like that?
A. (Phil Lord)  Well, we don't want to get ahead of ourselves.  We're really proud of this movie and there is a lot of great ideas for another one, but, obviously, we're really proud that Miles has Puerto Rican heritage.  I'm Cuban American and they say that    [speaking Spanish]    we are linked so, you know, so obviously that is something that is a really interesting dimension of the character that has been left to explore further.

Q. Hello, guys, congratulations.  And I just want to know how much of the Filipino animators contributed to this movie. 
A. (Peter Ramsey)  I know back at Imageworks we had    I'm going to shout out John Butiu.  Remember John?  I know there were a bunch of people up in Vancouver.  It was a substantial contribution.  We had talented people from all over the world working together on this movie that kind of echoed what you see in the movie is people coming from whole different universes to get together and realizes their commonalities.  So we are very proud of what our Filipino animators and artists, who were among a crew of 800 artists, gave to the film. 
A. (Unidentified speaker)  Shout out to John Butiu. 

Q. Peter, as the first black director to win the Animated Feature award, talk to me about the responsibility of bringing an Afro Latino character such as Miles to life. 
A. (Peter Ramsey)  Yeah.  It's a huge responsibility.  This is something that is going to be seen and taken to heart by millions of people, but everybody has to know that our whole team, I mean, the guys standing up on this stage, as well as those other hundreds of artists that I was talking about earlier, all of them deeply felt the importance of that idea and that mission.  So Miles had a real    Miles had a lot of backup.  He had a lot of people who really loved him as a character, believed in this story and knew how important it was going to be to, you know, black kids, Latino kids, kids who just want to be their best selves, no matter who they are.  So everybody gave it 110 percent, and we are very gratified that people are    are receiving his story in the spirit in which we put it out. 

Q. Congratulations on your win.  I was going to ask, what did    I'm sorry, hold on, let me double check my notes here.  What responsibility did you guys have to accurately portray one of the first representations of an Afro Latino superhero to audiences that are hungry for diverse representation? 
A. (Phil Lord)  I mean, it's obviously a huge responsibility.  We were lucky because Brian Bendis and Sara Pichelli created a roadmap for us with the comic version of Miles that they invented and they made so many important choices.  They made Miles part of a really loving type family and that they made choices that are somewhat unconventional, and they were    they did a lot of the heavy lifting for us.  So once we made the decision, like we want this movie to be about Miles and his family, the rest kind of fell into place. 

Q. Hi guys.  Tell me if I'm wrong.  Mahershala Ali has one of the voices for the character, Uncle Aaron, so this should be a second Oscar for you, right? 
A. (Rodney Rothman)  Yes.  If we have any advice for filmmakers out there, put Mahershala Ali in your movie.  It seems to work out okay.

Q. So my question is how animated was his acting there?  What was his job [indiscernible]? 
A. (Rodney Rothman)  Broadly, we tried to    we cast all kinds of actors, we had a lot of actors who had never done voice acting before and who favored a naturalistic style of performance, and our animators really met them and started to craft animated performances that were based on fairly underplayed, fairly subtle vocal performances, for which Mahershala Ali is a great example.  One last story about him is that we    well, can I even say it?  It is a spoiler alert. 

Q. Just tell us about the character. 
A. (Rodney Rothman)  So he had to have a death scene in the movie and he    we actually asked him to do it    we had him do it twice, on two different occasions.  We had him    we asked him on a third occasion and he essentially said no.  He basically, in a very calm, you know, well articulated way said that for him to do that kind of scene takes a lot of effort and takes a lot out of him and he essentially said to us, "Next time, if you still need me to do this again, I'll do it, but maybe look at your stuff because it takes a lot out of me when I do that."  And we went and we looked at the scene and we did not ask him to do it again. 
A. (Phil Lord)  It's our way of saying he's super committed. 
A. (Rodney Rothman)  He's very committed.  He's a method actor.  He did a beautiful, beautiful performance, as did the rest of our cast, and they are a big part of why we are standing on stage right now.

Q. Congratulations to you all.  Peter, my heart is pounding in my chest for you.  This question is for all of you.  What do you love about being storytellers?
A. (Bob Persichetti)  To be a storyteller, it's really just about connecting with your audience, whether it's your little kid that you are putting to sleep or, apparently, millions of people who go see your movie.  So I think it's just validation of just being a human and sharing the experience of being a human.  So it's kind of an amazing career. 
A. (Christopher Miller)  To feel like you have affected someone else's life positively, one way or another, is a really magical thing that we don't take lightly. 
A. (Peter Ramsey)  Bob said it.  You know, people have reached out to us about this movie, none of us have ever been through anything like the experience of after our movie came out and people would reach out to us and what they say, what they feel, and we feel very close to those people, and that is very addictive and that is why we do this, because we want to feel closer to people and we want people to feel closer to each other. 
A. (Rodney Rothman)  I can't really top these guys.  If you can make a connection, that is everything. 
A. (Phil Lord)  It's two things for me:  The collaboration with other people in this medium, which is a team sport, and it's miraculous to me that hundreds of people will collaborate just to get on an airplane, let alone to try to make a work of art together.  That, to me, is so beautiful.  And the idea of all those people putting a message in a bottle and exercising a part of their essential humanity, which is that we all know how to make art somehow, and it's amazing, and sending that out into the ocean is, like, to me, that's the whole bag.


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