Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for ‘Pacific Rim’ role

July 09, 2013 | 9:00 a.m.
pacific rim 3 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 5 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

The United States' Gipsy Danger in a scene from "Pacific Rim." Gipsy Danger is a Jaeger, one of the fighting robots invented by humans to defeat an alien kaiju onslaught. (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 4 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, left, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 10 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, left, and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 13 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, and Clifton Collins as Ops Tendo Choi in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 16 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, left, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 17 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Robert Maillet as Lt. S. Kaidanovsky and Heather Doerksen as Lt. A. Kaidanovsky in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 18 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

China's Jaeger Crimson Typhoon, left, and Russia's Jaeger Cherno Alpha in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 25 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, left, and Mana Ashida as young Mako in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 31 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

The United States' Jaeger Gipsy Danger, left, and Australia's Jaeger Striker Eureka in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 35 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, left, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 37 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 40 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 41 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 47 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 48 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, left, and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 49 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, left, Max Martini as Herc Hansen, Clifton Collins Jr. as Ops Tendo Choi and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 50 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Charles Luu, Lance Luu and Mark Luu play the Wei Tang triplets in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 54 Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for Pacific Rim role

Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, left, and Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Comedy fans might know Charlie Day as the manic presence that animates much of the silliness on the long-running FX series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” or from his turn as the man sexually harassed by Jennifer Aniston’s lascivious dentist in 2011′s “Horrible Bosses,” among other featured roles. But “Pacific Rim,” Guillermo del Toro’s new film set for release Friday, showcases a somewhat different side of Day, as the kaiju-obsessed Dr. Newton Geiszler.

“It was refreshing to get to play a character that had some intelligence,” Day said.

The actor recently spoke to Hero Complex about the challenges of providing some comic relief in the sci-fi blockbuster while staying true to character, and what it was like to work with cast member Ron Perlman and to be directed by Del Toro, whom Day described as a cinematic visionary in the mode of Orson Welles or Hitchcock.

HC: Which came first, Guillermo del Toro visiting the set of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or your being cast in “Pacific Rim”?

CD: I did “Pacific Rim” first, and then I got Guillermo on the eighth season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” He was a big fan of the show which is how I got the part. All through the course of shooting the movie, he kept talking to me about what he wanted his cameo to be and oftentimes they were ideas that I wasn’t quite sure what to say to. But … we found what we thought was the perfect part for him. He came in and he improvised — he even had a little googly eye made up for the character. He said to me the other day that he wants to do another cameo, I said, “All right, you’ve got to put me in another movie first.” (laughs)

At what point did you and he first have discussions about your playing Newton Geiszler?

Danny DeVito came up to me on set one day. I guess Guillermo’s casting director had contacted Danny, they knew each other, had a relationship and so Danny told me first …. Guillermo wanted me to meet him. I drove up to where he lives and has an office. I was looking for a dark castle of ghouls and madness in this very sort of pedestrian neighborhood. I couldn’t find one and I thought, I must have gotten this wrong, I’ve gone to the wrong place. As I turn around and I’m coming back, I see that one of the houses has all the windows blacked out, I said, “All right, this is the place. I got the guy.” I had this wonderful meeting with Guillermo where he was walking me through this crazy world he was going to try to create and his vision for a series of movies. He was explaining the character to me. If you’ve ever met him, he just has this infectious personality and he’s quite thrilling to be around. I couldn’t wait to read a script.

Did it take a minute to get your head around this premise or were you in from the very beginning?

I had the benefit of seeing artwork before I even heard the pitch. I knew nothing about the movie, I just knew that Guillermo del Toro wanted to meet with me about a movie he was making. The very first thing I saw were drawings, my reaction, I suppose, was in awe of the scale. He was showing the scale and I was thinking, Well, how is he going to do something this massive? He showed me a lot of artwork before I read anything. I had a good idea of what he was attempting to do and if anything I was excited to see him do it.

Had you been a fan of his work?

I was, most of all “Pan’s Labyrinth.” It’s a movie that to my mind is flawless and beautiful, a very soulful movie with a lot of heart. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to get a call from “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

How did you work with Guillermo to flesh out the character? Did you have it in your head pretty clearly what you wanted to do with this guy?

A little bit. I knew I wanted to bring the side of myself which is much more like the guy that writes “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” than the guy that’s on it. I also knew that they wanted me — certainly the studio, I’m sure, wanted me — to bring some levity to the film and I was afraid of them wanting it to be all sort of knock-knock jokes. Guillermo and I both agreed that the character should actually be very serious, the acting should be serious and that we could find comedy in the guy’s personality and his opinions more so than any outside attempts at joke telling.

The tattoos that your character has, were those done with makeup and how long did they take to apply?

They took a long time to apply. That was done with makeup. By the way, he wanted to tattoo my entire chest and neck and then we dialed back from that because it wound up looking almost a little too sort of Aryan Nation. We just went with the arm tattoos. It took a while. The first couple of times it took over three hours. Then the makeup artist developed the technique of putting large chunks of the tattoos on in a way that didn’t require as much time, almost like stickers and then they paint around what was applied, but I also do have large portions of the movie where I’m wearing a leather jacket so I didn’t have to put it on every time I went to work.

Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, left, and Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, left, and Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler in “Pacific Rim.” (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

A number of your scenes are with Ron Perlman. What was he like to play against?

I had no idea what a ham Ron Perlman can be. He’s known for playing such intimidating and tough guys — and he certainly does have that quality — but he’s really and truly a funny guy, a joke teller, and he seems much more like he would have been Sinatra’s Rat Pack than he does seem like a guy you’d find on a motorcycle. The other side of it is that Ron and Guillermo have this wonderful relationship that goes over the course of 20 years, and it was fun to be a fly on the wall at their boys’ club.

How was the experience of working on set with Guillermo as a director?

I loved it. I think I had a very different experience than some people have had. Guillermo certainly hired me for a very specific reason and gave me a little bit more freedom than I think he’s been known to give people. I think he wanted to do that to really capture the rough edges of the character. So often his characters are sort of stoic and heroic and I think he needed this guy to be a little bit more sloppy and a little bit more of an everyman. He would let me play around with things and some of the dialogue, but he was also filled with all sorts of brilliant cinematic moves. There’s a sequence where my glasses fall off, and he constructed a very large pair of glasses — maybe the size of a table — and he put them in front of the camera. I’m trying to find these glasses, which, of course, are massive. Then I saw the shot, it’s a beautiful shot. The glasses are big in the frame and I’m big in the frame and that’s an old Alfred Hitchcock move. He sort of has that feeling on set. He’s this larger than life presence and he’s as much a star of the movie as the actors or the robots and the monsters. It’s what I would imagine it was like to work with an Orson Welles or a Hitchcock.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATherocomplex

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Comments


7 Responses to Charlie Day talks playing smart, staying funny for ‘Pacific Rim’ role

  1. Californian12 says:

    What in the hell is this movie about?

  2. kaspog says:

    somebody know what's the brand + model of the glasses that Dr. Newton Geiszler wearing?

  3. This move is the most nonsense movie I have ever seen

  4. Elizabeth says:

    This movie dident make sence why dident they just use the sped in the first place trying to kill the first Dino thing? Also why did there noses bleed?

  5. Elizabeth says:

    *sword

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