Meet “Charlie,” Dory’s dad, in this exclusive Eugene Levy Interview | Finding Dory’s Dad. This post is sponsored by Disney as a part of #FindingDoryEvent. All opinions are my own
Eugene Levy Interview | Finding Dory’s Dad #FindingDoryEvent
Eugene Levy is a pro when it comes to playing dad roles in movies and on TV. But landing the role of “Charlie” aka Dory’s dad was not the usual dad character. Go behind-the-scenes of Finding Dory with my exclusive Eugene Levy interview and our quest to Finding Dory’s Dad. Find out why Eugene Levy had the 5 characteristics to be the perfect dad for the most forgetful fish in the sea. What emotions were essential for this unique role? What was Eugene Levy’s biggest challenge? And what message does he hope Charlie brings to the screen for kids and parents alike?
Eugene Levy interview photos credit: Sara Lundberg of BudgetSavvyDiva.com
Getting into Character
As with any role, Eugene Levy had to get into character. He’s certainly no stranger to playing the “nice dad” roles in his career. Perks like playing alongside Diane Keaton were definitely motivating, but Eugene admits that being a happy dad can get quite lonely.
I got a phone call asking me if I wanted to be a part of it. Of course I said yes, kind of jumped at it. Didn’t take too much thinking to be involved in the sequel to Finding Nemo.
I recorded by myself. I had a lovely session. It was actually a bit of a privilege because this doesn’t really happen that often. I did have one session that I worked with Diane [Keaton] and we were in two different cities. I was in Toronto. She was in Los Angeles. They hooked up cameras so that I could see her on a monitor in my studio and she could see me on a monitor in her studio. We were able to do the scene together, which doesn’t happen a lot when you’re doing these things because mostly you’re working by yourself. It’s quite lonely actually.
When I was working with Diane was that I was kind of mesmerized by just watching her on the monitor working even though I was doing a scene with her. I was very aware that it was Diane Keaton behind the mike and I’m just fascinated, just watching the way she was working behind the microphone and then I’d have to go “Oh, yeah. I’ve got a line here.”
It’s a great story. Animated features, I’ve done kind of a few of them and it is a different way of working than doing a normal movie. You have to get used to that process of going in [and] not having a lot of time. I mean these sessions usually are like three hours and you get five sessions maybe over two and a half, three years. It’s just going over every line and giving the director as many options as you can on every line so that when [Andrew Stanton is] putting it all together he’s got the gamut of delivery on a line from A to Z.
So it’s odd and exciting in a way, especially when you’re working with somebody like Andrew Stanton. I mean he’s like a genius. [He] wrote the story and directed it. When you’re directing actors in the studio working like this when you’re just kind of just pounding away at lines and giving different options. You’ve gotta be a great director. You’ve gotta be a good psychiatrist, to keep the morale up. And he just laughs a lot. He laughs a lot. He laughs a lot which makes you feel good and kind of gives you the confidence to go on and give him more things.
Being Dory’s dad meant getting in touch with your emotions. And playing Charlie meant touching on them all.
The storyline here was a great storyline. Nemo had such a great emotional impact to it that Dory, when I read the script, had the same emotional impact. You could feel it when you were reading it, so you knew you were onto something hot.
That was a big part of it – still trying to keep everything kind of light and charming and funny. You have all these emotions kind of snowballing through the movie and you’re kind of laughing and crying and feeling and touching and it’s great. It really is.
Embarrassingly Funny Protector
Sounds like a weird combo, but this is exactly who Charlie needed to be for Dory. Balancing humor with a protective quality proved to be a huge challenge for Eugene Levy.
The role was kind of a nice dad. I’ve played a nice dad before. But this was kind of a role where you have to be funny. The character was written to be kind of a bit of a jokester in a dad kind of way, which is not necessarily really funny but thinking he’s really funny, sometimes embarrassingly funny.
But also having a child who is memory impaired and the idea [of] how dangerous that can be when your kid doesn’t really remember short term so all these life lessons and safety precautionary things that you’re saying “don’t do this” and “remember not to do that,” when they can’t remember from one step to the next you’re going WOW. What’s gonna happen if we are never around? which is exactly what happens in the movie is. She gets lost and is gone. The fact is unlike any other fish, she will not remember what she was not supposed to do and what’s gonna happen. And that’s something a parent has to live with. Any parent of a child with any kind of impairment goes through things that normal parents don’t necessarily have to deal with on a day to day.
I love when Eugene Levy used the phrase “life affirming” when describing his role as Dory’s dad. It’s a great characteristic that I as a parent can relate to.
It’s always great to play a parent who is supportive and life affirming. You have to be very positive – to be funny, to lighten the load sort of speak and not make it quite so heavy and not make it quite so scary for Dory.
You’re hoping this kind of positive feedback that you’re just putting out there might actually help trigger something that probably won’t happen. But maybe you get enough positive vibe out there and things will start to happen with Dory. And of course it does because she does manage to figure out how to navigate very difficult situations.
Watching the Story Unfold
Eugene watched the film for the first time at the Finding Dory Red Carpet Event. And his fresh perspective on the film that very next day really struck a chord with me. How hard is it as a parent to sit back and watch your child’s story unfold? Pretty easy when Eugene Levy explains it.
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on where the story’s going and then it just kind of opens up and then it opens up some more and just when you think you’re bringing it home it’s opening up some more and then it gets into such an adventure. It turns into an action movie at some point and it’s so incredibly real. The story, it just keeps going and going and going and just picks up energy and picks up pace and wow, you get caught up in it.
Patience and Perseverance
Raising a child with a disability can be so challenging. But Eugene gives this message of hope.
I really think that parents who do have kids with disabilities — I think by in large they kind of know what they have to do and how to do it because it takes an incredible amount of patience and perseverance. I know a couple of friends who have kind of autistic kids and I know how much energy it actually takes to get through a day or even part of a day. If you’re not at all familiar with that, you would have no idea how much energy and perseverance and patience that it takes. I think parents that have kids that have any kind of impairment — they’re doing the job.
Being in the room with Eugene Levy was captivating to say the least. Soft spoken, poised and thoughtful, this guy definitely made the perfect Finding Dory dad.
It’s a great story. If [parents] pick up anything from this movie then that would be a wonderful thing.
Have you been following along the #FindingDoryEvent journey? From walking the red carpet to exclusive interviews and insider info, catch up here:
- Finding Dory Movie Review | Safe for Kids?
- Walking the Finding Dory Red Carpet
- Ellen DeGeneres & Ed O’Neill Interview
- Kaitlin Olson Interview (Destiny)
- Hayden Rolence (Nemo) & Albert Brooks (Marlin) Interview
- Finding Dory Merchandise
- Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Interview
Finding Dory, in theaters now.
What do you think of Eugene Levy’s role in Finding Dory?
I was invited to attend an all-inclusive Disney press trip in exchange for this post. But don’t be fooled, my love for Disney runs deep. Be sure to follow Raising Whasians for more exclusive Disney movie insider info, recipes, crafts and travel.