Emmanuel Itier: So did you do this film for your kid?
Jason Lee: It was a bonus, but this was not the only motivation to shoot this film. My son has not seen the movie yet, but I hope he will like it.
EI: How hard was it to do this film–working with no actors and green screen?
JL: Well, sometimes, when you work with real actors, you feel nobody is there! But I wanted to do this because I really loved the Chipmunks as a kid myself. Once you get there, you realize what you’re faced with and how hard the process to shoot this movie truly is. It took me a while to get use to the process. What helped me was the off-camera actors reading the dialogues of the Chipmunks.
EI: How happy are you with the success of your TV show, My Name is Earl?
JL: Very happy, and I think we got the right amount of success. It’s not in any word a success à la Friends, but it’s a solid success with a fan base that’s very faithful. We have the right kind of dedicated audience. Our fans are passionate about our show and they really respect us–they don’t go insane like for other shows, and it’s fine with me.
EI: Is the strike of the writers affecting your work?
JL: For sure. We’re not working right now. We’re waiting for the strike to end. We only shot 13 episodes and we were supposed to shoot 26, so I’m waiting and I’m reading scripts for movie projects right now. I hope a resolution about the strike is coming together soon. It’s affecting everybody, and it’s tough for me to get committed to anything else because I might be needed on the set of Earl any time.
EI: How do you see your character Dave from Alvin?
JL: I just approached him the way I would like with any other projects. There is a story there, even though you’re dealing with “chipmunks.” There is an arc–there is a beginning, middle and an end to this story, and I analyzed it the same way I do with Earl. He is a reluctant dad, he feels protective of the chipmunks, but he is not ready to commit to the idea of “family.” But we have this great payoff at the end when he realizes the chipmunks are his family, and he comes around and does the right thing. So my approach of the role is always the same, even when I have to deal with animated creatures. Who is the character and where is he going? Of course, you listen to your director and follow his suggestions. I always give choices anyway, as an actor, and I know how to act in a wide range of performances. What I liked with Tim Hill, our director, is that he forgot he was doing a movie about special effects and focused really on dialogues, emotions, and actors performances. Some directors would have made it more about the chipmunks and the effects, but not him. He was truly interested in his cast and the whole storyline. He strived to make it work in terms of the relationship with the chipmunks as if it was a normal relationship with human beings.
EI: Any scene in particular that was tough to shoot?
JL: Again, I didn’t have anything to work with, so the entire movie was a challenge because it was so technical. It gets lonely. It’s just me and nothing for five weeks of shooting!
EI: What type of dad are you with your son?
JL: Well, I’m not a push over and I’m not strict either. I educate my son as well as I can. He is four. He gets to watch his movies and eats candies only on Saturdays, and he earns it. He helps out around. It’s a different time for kids right now, I think. I don’t know if it’s across the board, but I tend to educate my kid instead of ignore him. I treat him like a friend. As a result, I think that he is very smart for a 4-year-old, and he feels like he is his own individual and he asks lots of questions. He feels involved and doesn’t feel like the little kid surrounded by intimidating adults.
EI: Do you think you will have more kids?
JL: Maybe, yeah. I like it. It’s amazing, having a kid. I get to share so much with him…and watching him grow and mature–it’s so fascinating. It’s interesting how kids usually get ignored, but I just sit all day long and listen to him, and I’m amazed by his level of imagination. It’s unbelievable. Just being around, I feel so fortunate. He is very funny and very physical. He loves music and he’s getting a piano for Christmas. He is also doing skateboarding. He is doing great.
EI: And you’re into skateboarding yourself, right?
JL: Well, I cruise around in the street sometimes, but I don’t do anything too extreme.
EI: How do you keep in shape?
JL: Walking and biking. I love my bikes. I have a ten-speed. I really like my 1978 ten-speed Peugeot! I restored it and I’m quite proud of it. Bikes are one of my passions, I have to say. I collect bikes.
EI: Do you care about what you’re wearing? What is your style?
JL: I don’t know my style. I have the same style since college. I think I dress like in the late ’70s. For example, I wear today a Lee jacket from the late ’70s. I love to buy secondhand clothes. I never keep the clothes that are given to me for various Awards ceremonies. Sure, I care about style because it says a lot about a person, but I’m not overly focused on style. I like blazers and caps. I love caps. And you never wear white socks–only dark socks.
EI: What are your other hobbies?
JL: I also collect photography equipment and old cameras. I even have my own darkroom to play with. I’m really a fanatic of old cameras. I have a few dozen cameras, especially the ones from the ’30s. Some of the lenses I use are as old as 150 years. I only shoot in film–modern and old fashioned ways. I travel a lot and take pictures all over–people, places, buildings…on the set also. I love to document life, and one day I’ll make a book from all these pictures.
EI: Do you live a pretty normal life?
JL: I guess so. We eat a lot out, in restaurants with the kids. But breakfast is always at home. My son, whose name is Pilot Inspektor, loves breakfast. It’s a name we came up with and he loves his name.
EI: Why do you think chipmunks are still popular?
JL: Well, they are so cute so it’s hard to hate them. Listen to their voices and look at their smiles. You would have to be a real jerk to hate the Chipmunks!