There are so many things to worry about in the world these days, but you can cross one off the list: Quentin Tarantino won’t be playing Brainy Smurf in the big-screen version of “The Smurfs” after all.
“There were conversations about it, but it didn’t work out,” says Hannah Minghella, president of Sony Pictures Animation, which is making the movie with a blend of live-action and animation. “Quentin is such a fanboy that it was part of the appeal.”
Tarantino won’t portray the little know-it-all Smurf, but other notable names are l
ining up with intense interest about joining the tribe of miniature blue imps.
“You have no idea,” Minghella said of the blue-in-the-face lobbying by agents who want their stars to be part of the revival.
So far, the ensemble includes Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf, Katy Perry as Smurfette, George Lopez as Grouchy Smurf and Kevin James as Hefty Smurf and Alan Cumming (who has prior experience in the wild blue yonder of cinema) as Gutsy Smurf.
Hank Azaria, the stalwart of “The Simpsons” who memorably chewed the historic scenery in “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian,” will be Gargamel, the sour sorcerer who just absolutely hates the tiny blue folk.
While most Americans recognize the Smurfs from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon that ran from 1981 to 1990 — and the mountain of tie-in merchandising — what they might not know is that the little people were created in 1958 by Belgian cartoonist Peyo, whose real name was Pierre Culliford.
“The property is 50 years old,” Minghella said. “In Europe, it has never ceased to be a current popular
phenomenon. It still airs in prime time in certain countries around the world.”
The idea of the new movie, the first in a potential franchise, is that the Smurfs enter the real world and the lives of a young couple played by stars Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays.
“We liked the idea of juxtaposing the Smurf values with the modern world,” Minghella explained. “Smurfs grow their own food and are very environmentally conscious. They don’t have technology or electricity. They do everything together and are really supportive of each other. For us, that was the starting point. Let’s bring that magic into the real world, the grounded world.”
So the blue people are actually, uh, green. That catches the humans off-guard at first. “They don’t know how to react, but the Smurfs become an agent of change and bring magic into their lives,” Minghella said.
– Rachel Abramowitz
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Photos: Quentin Tarantino. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times; Brainy Smurf. Credit: I.M.P.S.