While actress Abigail Breslin, 14, might not be too familiar with the films of John Ford and Sergio Leone, her first experience with the Wild West also has a style all its own.
In the animated Western “Rango,” Breslin lends her voice to Priscilla, a young mouse who believes a strange chameleon named Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp) has arrived to save her small desert town.
During an interview with me, Breslin, who, at the age of 10, earned an Oscar nomination in 2006 for her role in “Little Miss Sunshine,” talked about the unique way actors were recorded for their scenes in “Rango” and admits she was so young when she starred her first movie, she can’t even remember making it.
Not too many Westerns are made nowadays. Were you at all familiar with the genre?
I’ve actually never seen a Western. The only Western I’ve seen is “Rango.” My dad loves spaghetti Westerns, so I have a feeling I’m going to be seeing some more.
You’re originally from New York City, so I’m wondering what inspired Priscilla’s southern drawl?
I worked with a dialect coach in New York and L.A. [Director] Gore [Verbinski] had a specific way he wanted Priscilla to sound. He wanted her to sound rougher and not as pretty.
Most actors who do voice work for animated projects usually just show up at a studio and record their lines alone in a booth. Did it feel more liberating getting to interact with other actors?
Yeah, it was crazy. We all got to work together, so we got to play off each other. We wore costumes during the shoot. It was like when you were younger and you would go on a play date with your friends and play dress up and pretend, except this time it was with Johnny Depp.
What did you wear and did dressing up like your character help you actually get into character?
I wore a wig and a hat. It did [help] for a bit and then I started getting a rash from my wig on my neck so I had to stop wearing it. (Laughs) But it did get me to look and feel like Priscilla for a while.
What did you think of Priscilla when you first saw her?
I thought she was the most adorable thing ever. When I first got a sketch of her, I wanted to play her just based off how cute she was. Then I actually learned about the story and the character and wanted to do it even more. She’s gorgeous to say the least.
You’ve been acting in movies since you were five years old. Now that you are 14, do you have a better sense of what you are looking for in a project?
I just go role by role and decide if the character is someone I would like to know. That’s how I choose what I want to do, I guess.
So, how did it work back in 2002 when you got your role in “Signs?”
I was five so I honestly can’t remember. (Laughs) I honestly couldn’t tell you. (Laughs) That’s probably something my parents could tell you. That was such a long time ago. I can’t even really remember making the movie much less remember how I made decision about things.
Did life change for you back in 2006 when you were nominated for an Oscar for your role “Little Miss Sunshine” or did everything sort of just go back to normal?
It was a very exciting time in my career, but my life didn’t really change that much. I still had to take out the garbage and feed the dogs. Obviously it gave me a lot of opportunities. I was very lucky.
So you were never like, “Mom, come on, I’m an Academy Award-nominated actress. Do I really have to clean my room?”
(Laughs) No, I would have gotten killed. My brother actually tried to do that on the day I was nominated. My mom was like, “Alright, time for school” and my brother was like, “Aw, come on mom, don’t make her go today. And don’t make me go either because I’m obviously overwhelmed with excitement for her!” (Laughs) Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
Recently, your co-star in “Zombieland” Woody Harrelson said he really wasn’t interested in making sequels, but he really liked the script for “Zombieland 2” and could see himself doing it. Would you be interested in revisiting that role if you got the chance?
Definitely. I loved making the first one. It was a lot of fun. I loved the character, so, I’d love to.