‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′ director talks recruiting Cate Blanchett

June 09, 2014 | 10:00 a.m.
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Dean DeBlois, America Ferrera and Jay Baruchel, the writer- director and stars of "How to Train Your Dragon 2," at the fifth annual Hero Complex Film Festival (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

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Dean DeBlois and Jay Baruchel discuss the making of "How to Train Your Dragon 2" at the fifth annual Hero Complex Film Festival. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

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America Ferrera talked about what she predicts for the third installment of the "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise at the fifth annual Hero Complex Film Festival. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

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Jay Baruchel cracked up the audience while discussing his identification with the character Hiccup at the fifth annual Hero Complex Film Festival. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

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Dean DeBlois, Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera discuss the making of "How to Train Your Dragon 2" at the fifth annual Hero Complex Film Festival. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

In “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” the young Viking Hiccup is reunited with an important figure from his past — Valka, a character voiced by Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett.

“I had her in mind when I wrote the character,” said writer-director Dean DeBlois. “I needed to channel a woman who would be both rich in that she’s really commanding and has a really authoritative presence but also has a lot of stinging regret, so there’s a vulnerability to her as well.”

Speaking as a special guest at the fifth annual Hero Complex Film Festival on May 31, DeBlois was joined on stage for a Q&A about the new animated sequel by stars Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera, who voice Hiccup and his feisty confidante Astrid, respectively, following an early screening of the film at the TCL Chinese 6 Theaters.

The trio described the challenges of following up the 2010 original — a critical and commercial smash that took in about $500 million at the box office worldwide and received Oscar nominations for animated feature and original score.

Set five years after the events of the first film, “How to Train Your Dragon 2″ sees Hiccup taking on a wider set of challenges; while the original cast members reprise their roles, new actors join the ensemble including “Game of Thrones” star Kit Harrington, Djimon Hounsou and Blanchett.

During the Q&A, DeBlois then recounted how he approached Blanchett at the Academy Awards in 2011.

“I walked up to her at the cocktail reception before the ceremony started and I said, ‘Hey, I wrote a part for you in ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2.’ And she said, ‘Really?'”

DeBlois said he was aided by some inside pressure from Blanchett’s camp that spurred her to sign on for the role.

“Her boys were huge fans of the first one, so that helped.”

Watch the clip above to hear what else the two stars and the writer-director had to say, and look for more video from this conversation and others from the festival soon.

– Justin Sullivan | @LATHeroComplex

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