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Interview: Kelly Macdonald of 'Brave'

'It's amazing to see what they've done with all my messing about ...'

By James Rocchi Jun 19, 2012 10:43AM

Dark hair straight and cut short, Kelly Macdonald doesn't look a thing like Merida, the crimson-curled Highlands heroine she plays in Disney/Pixar's "Brave" -- which is, in many ways, the point. Audiences know Macdonald from "Trainspotting" and "No Country for Old Men" and "Boardwalk Empire," but in "Brave," the Glasgow-born actress took her first foray into voice acting -- and found it may have had unexpected side effects on her flesh-and-blood performances. We spoke with Macdonald in Scotland.


In your acting work, stillness and subtlety are such a big part of it ... and you don't have access to that when you're doing voiceover work. How much of a challenge was it for you?


Kelly Macdonald: It was a massive challenge. It was massive. Mark Andrews was just really aware of that as well when I was first in the room with them. He said, "I know how you work, and I love how you work, but it's not going to work; everything has to be bigger." It took a while to get into the swing of that.


When that happened, were you cutting loose?


Yes, absolutely. It was really liberating, actually. I think it's changed me. I hope I'm a better actress for it.


Merida does get off at least one great "Shut it!", the classic Scottish exclamation. Did you find yourself being an informal Scottish consultant, to say, "No, Mark, we wouldn't say that ..." or "How about we try this line, Mark?"


Yeah. We all did, all the actors separately. We would get our scenes and there'd be certain Americanism-s in there that didn't really ring true, so we felt really comfortable and we were able to say, "That's a quite American word," and Mark and Katherine would say, "Well, what have you got," and for us to replace it with what Scottish words. It was kind of fun coming up with all these Scottish words that you don't hear very often in film.


In this role she's an action heroine, with the bow and the riding and sword fighting, ... but you don't have to do any of that. Was that gratifying that you didn’t have to work out or did you miss the chance to pull back the string a little bit and let fly?


I feel that I slightly wouldn't have been cast if it was a requirement to be that physical and athletic and capable. (Laughs.)  I was quite pleased about that, but I had to do play fighting. It was a lot of play fighting. It was exciting. It was a huge amount of fun, and now it's amazing to see what all they've done with all my messing about.


You're not in the booth at the time as the other actors; so you didn't get to work opposite say Billy Connelly or Emma Thompson. Did you feel that lack a little bit?


No, because we were really lucky. We had Mark Andrews to bounce off, and he's a very bouncy character. He's like Tigger. We were really lucky I got to do my lines with him.


The stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt writes about how he can no longer enjoy Halloween after voicing the lead in "Ratatouille," because he sees kids dressed as his character, and it interferes with his drinking. Are you worried about next  Halloween and seeing a bunch of Meridas and feeling a little bit weirded out?


No, I hadn't even thought about Halloween. I think that's brilliant. I look forward to it ...


("Brave" opens this Friday.)


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