Tuesday, March 29, 2011

HOPping fun in L.A., part two

When we last met, brave blogger Dawn was settling into the most comfortable bed of her life, after spending an amazing 20 hours in a whirlwind of travel, fancy schmancy hotel living, pre-release movie screening and hanging out with cool bloggers. As thoughts of celebrities danced in her head, she finally fell asleep, wondering if it would be possible to wake up suddenly super cool, as if some L.A. osmosis exists that occurs overnight.

Alas, some dreams can't come true, so it was regular old dorky me who arose from that (seriously-I-can't-rave-enough-about-how-comfortable-it-was) bed on Saturday morning, and the excitement level was high, let me tell you. It was with a happy, and beating-much-faster-than-usual, heart that I met up with the group for our trip to the Universal Pictures backlot.

Upon arrival, our not-so-motley crew was directed to the "tent" that was set up for breakfast. I had no idea what to expect... maybe a modest spread of bagels, donuts, juices and coffee, and some tables for us to sit at while we waited for interview time to come. What wonders did my eyes light upon instead?

Candy overload? BAH- impossible, I say!

Yeah, the tent layout was so much more elaborate and tricked out than I ever could have imagined. I ate a modest breakfast and an obscene amount of candy all before 10:00 am. The place was hopping with press along with our "parenting blogger" group, and apparently there was a little resentment on the part of some of the "traditional press" folks about why we were there in the first place, why we had a photographer with our group, that sort of thing. Hey, I say this- Universal Pictures recognizes that the traditional press provide straightforward movie reviews and have a reach to the general public in that manner. In addition to-- not instead of-- they also recognize that parenting sites and blogs also have a significant reach, and in the case of a family movie release, their reach is to the exact audience who's going to pony up the cash to go see the movie. So, no need for hate- each of the groups was there to do their respective job!

Alrighty, time for another photo to break the tension. How's this?

Group photo fun- aren't we a good-looking bunch?

Eventually we headed over to Stage 28, apparently infamous after it was used to film The Phantom of the Opera in 1925, for the four roundtable interviews we'd be conducting with the "talent" from the movie. (Watch out, I'm getting cocky and using the lingo and everything.) My stomach did a few little somersaults as we walked to the curtained off area set up for us, and I knew the time had come to actually sit at the same table as some movie stars. Holy cow. Here's a shot of a couple of us, two experienced and totally comfortable writers and one nervous geeky chick with shiny cheeks:

Meredith, One-in-desperate-need-of-powder, and Carey
 Photo courtesy of Chris and Kristen Photography

Then it all started, just like that. The first star of the movie HOP walked into our curtained area, and it was on.

James Marsden (Fred O'Hare):
  • For the low-down on the interview, with quotes and fun pics from the movie, please read my 5 Minutes for Mom piece, Fatherhood in Hollywood, James Marsden's Star Performance.
  • Okay, the real dish... James Marsden is... such a fabulously nice guy. I don't know how else to say it other than the seemingly overused phrase- he seemed like just a "regular person." No airs, no fancy attitude, just a guy who acts in movies, is pretty funny on camera, has fantastic hair and a boyishly-cute face, and seems devoted to his wife and kids.
  • The group talked about parenthood, and he shared tidbits about his family (he has a ten year old son and a five year old daughter... I got James Marsden beat on something, since I can see his two kids and raise him a three year old son, to boot!). It was a low-key, lovely conversation, and he couldn't have been more polite or kind.
  • After our twenty minutes or so, we exited the oddly-lit curtained area where we sat out onto the open area of the sound stage for a group photo, and even a larger-than-life E.B. joined us!
Mr. James Marsden to the left of E.B.
  • One final note needs to be documented... after the pic was taken, the group began to break up, but each of us still stood nearby. I believe everyone was hoping as I was to take one moment to shake James Marsden's hand and say a quick one-on-one message. Yeah. So when it came to be my turn, I reached out my right hand to shake, which he politely took in his own, and as I began to say something to him that piggybacked on my question to him in the interview, I did the dorkiest thing. Inexplicably, my left hand came out and placed itself over our shaking hands. What in the world?? I actually registered the oddness of that action in my head while I was still saying words to him, so I probably also looked like a crazy person. Nicely done.
Chris Meledandri, Producer, and Tim Hill, Director: 
  • Chris and Tim were both very articulate and gave lengthy and informative answers to questions about the origin of the idea for the movie and the movie-making process. I'll go more into depth about this in part three of this series, to post later this week.
  • I can say that I really enjoyed the music in the film, and with E.B.'s aspirations to be a drummer, music certainly plays a large role in the movie. It was nice to hear how much thought went into the selection of songs that would be just right, and I personally think they got it perfect!
  • It was interesting hearing about the process, because I don't know about other average movie-watchers, but for someone like me, I really had no idea how a producer and a director work together in the course of making a movie. These two certainly have experienced a lot of success- Tim Hill with the Chipmunks movies and SpongeBob SquarePants, and Chris Meledandri with a little flick called Despicable Me (which I have yet to see, but my kids watched it with hubby, and Pudge hasn't stopped walking around yelling, "It's so FLUFFY!" since), and it certainly appeared that they have a great feel for how the other works.
  • We finished up and took our mandatory group shot:
Mr. Chris Meledandri (behind and to the right of the little chick) and Mr. Tim Hill (front row, on one knee)

Kaley Cuoco (Sam O'Hare):
  • You probably know her best as Penny from The Big Bang Theory, a hilarious show with the only opening song on TV worth not fast-forwarding through. She never ceases to crack me up on that show, and she was just as cute, bubbly and funny in person.
  • When asked about her favorite scene in the movie, Kaley immediately began to talk about the part of the film that is shown in this movie still. They filmed with her holding this bag filled with sand, and then animated in the images of E.B. It's really a cute scene that looked seamless to this average viewer, so it was cool to hear how it was made.
  • She remarked how that one scene took two days to film, and how that shocked her, coming from a television background where the work is done in a much shorter time frame. I can only imagine that she and "her four brothers at work," as she referred to her Big Bang co-stars, have an absolute blast while filming.
  • And then it was time for another group photo, this time with most of sporting some cute headwear:
 Ms. Kaley Cuoco (sans pink beret) between the two bunnies

Russell Brand (E.B.):
  • And then there was the Russell Brand interview. Well, I almost hesitate to call it an interview, and wonder if I should instead refer to it as the Russell Brand show, because it was, for the lack of a stronger word, HILARIOUS. (And that's an important word here, kind of like a password, if you will... you will soon find out why.)
  • I'll be pulling myself together and sounding less like a giggly schoolgirl in my 5 Minutes for Mom piece, Russell Brand, What a Firework!, that will post later this week. Over here, not so much.
  • Okay, seriously, from the moment Russell Brand walked into the roundtable area, there was almost a hum of electricity in the air, if electricity shocks were experienced like laughter. This man is funny. And charming. I never really understood the concept of charming with a positive connotation before this experience, but now I get it. Holy cow.
  • There's the accent, and the quick and sudden wit, and the big, huge smile, all of which I was fully expecting, but then there was a very intellectual and articulate tone to Russell Brand's responses that I have to admit surprised me a little. He's obviously very intelligent, and at one point he talked about the rabbit often being a "trickster" in folklore, which I happily related to many children's literature staples.
  • He called us "Mummy bloggers," which I've repeated in my terrible-impression-of-a-British-accent a bazillion times since, and my children are now frequently attempting it, which is even funnier. He then  feigned an extreme American accent that had me giggling some more. Honestly, everything that came out of his mouth was either terribly funny or really quite thoughtful. 
  • Did I mention how charming he was? I did. Oh, okay, just making sure.
  • The time flew by, and suddenly we were being ushered out for the group photo. I had been told to try to stand in the back for photos, so I just went to a spot and suddenly Russell Brand was being put into place next to me. So there he is, with his right arm around me. (Squeal!)
 Mr. Russell Brand, between a bunny and a chick with a smiley face sore from laughing

  •  And finally, the story behind the password. After the photo was taken, I turned to Russell Brand (who I feel compelled to call by his full name, apparently) to shake his hand. Thankfully, I had the forethought to keep my left hand down by my side this time. Instead, I opted to say something dorky. "Thanks so much for meeting with us today. I know you must hear this all the time, but I just think you're hilarious." The next couple seconds went by in a series of quick realizations:
    • Right after I said those words, Russell Brand's face went from smiling to oddly serious. All I could think was, "Oh crap, did I just piss off Russell Brand?"
    • I suddenly became aware of his two hands grabbing either side of my head. 
    • My next thought was, "Oh. His face is scratchy. And, it is touching my cheek!"
    • A gasp erupted from the crowd around me.
    • A chorus of high-pitched "I think you're hilarious, too!" was quickly heard.
  • Yes, I was kissed, on my right cheek, by Mr. Russell Brand. Apparently, my face was beet red, and our wonderful contact from Universal, Seana, even worried that I was horrified. I wasn't. I giggled for five solid minutes afterward. It SO caught me off-guard that all I could do was laugh and wonder at how crazy it all was- me in L.A., me interviewing movie stars, me getting a cheek kiss from an actor who has made me laugh so hard I feared I'd pee myself on my couch. Wow.
There you have the official part two of my big L.A. adventure. There's still one more part to come, so watch for some more details about the filming of the movie and my official review of the film HOP on Friday.

Disclosure: Universal Studios paid my expenses to attend the press junket for Hop, but any opinions about the experience or the movie (or my annoying giggling) are completely my own.

With elbows that have been rubbed by movie stars,

Since I'm blabbing about this trip all over the Internets, here is the full collection, that will be updated as posts go live: