Charlie Day Talks How He Got Involved with the Project, Bringing Levity to the Story, the Giant Sets, and More on the Set of PACIFIC RIM

     June 19, 2013


If you’re a fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you know Charlie Day is extremely funny.  However, while you might think Guillermo del Toro only cast him in Pacific Rim to make some jokes, he revealed during an on set interview that while he does provide some of the “much needed levity,” his character:

“Gets thrust into the story in a way that his life is seriously at risk and it becomes a little more action oriented and a little more horror movie-esque.  So, he kinda bounces back between being humorous and also being real.  He’s not funny in the way that the guys from Sunny or the guys from Horrible Bosses are funny, ‘cause he has to be real.  Because the movie — you have to buy the monsters and buy the world and you don’t want to be taken completely out of it.  It’s been interesting, I was worried they were going to push me more towards comedy but Guillermo keeps pushing me more towards the dramatic stuff.”

He also talked about how he got cast, the practical sets, his costume, how the script changed from when he first signed on, working with Ron Perlman, what it’s been like to work for del Toro, and a lot more.  Hit the jump for what he had to say.

charlie-day-pacific-rimQuestion:  How did you first get involved in this movie, was it something that you went after, did they come after you?

CHARLIE DAY:  I got a random phone call that Guillermo [del Toro] wanted to meet me, and obviously I was a huge fan of Pan’s Labyrinth so I was excited to meet him.  And I hopped in my car and I went up to Westlake Village where he has his office/house.  And I was told he has this crazy house filled with monsters and things, and I’m driving around this really white-bread neighborhood trying to find Guillermo’s house and all the houses look the same.  I’m looking for one that has a demon on the top or something.  And suddenly I notice that one of them has all the windows blacked out, and I notice two big, black muscle cars in the driveway, and I’m like, “All right, I think this might be the spot.” And as I get closer the doorbell was a gargoyle, or something like that, and then I went in.  And once you walk in the house, it’s this great museum, collection, of all the things that Guillermo loves.  He had told me he was a big It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan and he wanted me to quiz him.  I said, “Nah, I’ll take your word for it.” And he pretty much just said he had this part in mind and showed me drawings of the movie and said he’d get a script to me.  I said I was very excited about the idea and then as soon as I read it, I said yes — primarily based just on the chance to work with Guillermo.  But also I liked the idea of the movie.

Is this a comedic role?

DAY:  It is and it isn’t.  Certainly myself and Burn Gorman provide a little bit of much needed levity, it’s a break from the monsters and the guys fighting.  But then the character gets thrust into the story in a way that his life is seriously at risk and it becomes a little more action oriented and a little more horror movie-esque.  So, he kinda bounces back between being humorous and also being real.  He’s not funny in the way that the guys from Sunny or the guys from Horrible Bosses are funny, ‘cause he has to be real.  Because the movie — you have to buy the monsters and buy the world and you don’t want to be taken completely out of it.  It’s been interesting, I was worried they were going to push me more towards comedy but Guillermo keeps pushing me more towards the dramatic stuff.  So, either people will enjoy the difference or they’ll crucify me, I’m not sure.  We’ll find out.

As an actor, is it just nice to explore that kind of range?

DAY:  Oh yeah, absolutely, absolutely.  I was a theater guy growing up and I wanted to be Al Pacino, and I think I just looked and sounded too funny so I was able to capitalize on the comedy.  But it was an opportunity that I hoped to get ten years from now and the fact that it just fell into my lap now, is really exciting.

pacific-rim-charlie-dayWhat can you tell us about you character?

DAY:  He’s sort of the ‘everyman’ of the movie.  Because the rest of these guys, they look really good in their suits and they’ve go abs, they can kick and fight and punch.  Newt is sort of the ‘everyman’ and he’s flawed and he’s arrogant.  I don’t know how much I can say about the actual plot.

We know a lot.

DAY:  I basically go out on the streets to talk to Ron Pearlman, to talk to a Black Market Dealer, get my hands on an actual brain and have a close encounter with a few of the Kaiju.  So, it’s really the only opportunity for the fans to see what happens to the ‘everyman’ when he runs into one of these monsters.  It’s cool to watch the guys in the robot deal with them and fight them but it’s the only opportunity the audience gets to say, “Well, what if I were walking down the street, what would happen?” In that sense it’s great, he sort of the link to the common person.

What was your reaction when you first walked on some of these practical sets?

DAY:  My reaction usually is that the budget of the set seems like the budget for the season of Sunny.  It’s great though, it’s great!  I really didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t know if I was going to be on a big green stage with ping-pong balls everywhere — I had no idea.  And it’s really exciting to walk into these environments and often times the stuff that I’m doing, there is very little green screen on the set.  I see it somewhere off in the distance.  I’m always in the elements, it seems like it’s pouring rain on me a lot and there’s crowds of people pushing me around, and it feels very real.  Which is great as a actor, you don’t have to come up with too much of it.  I’m always amazed.  And then, just the amount of detail — I don’t know if Chris Nolan or whoever, works like this, I imagine he does too — if you look at one of these broken cars on the set, if you look inside there’ll probably be a receipt from a store that would exist in the movie.  That’s how much detail there is.  I think at one point we were doing a scene on the Hong Kong streets, it was pouring rain, and we cut and I just walked into one of the restaurants that they had.  And even down to the blue stained fingerprints they had on the menus, because the people have the blue Kaiju blood on their hands, and stuff like that.  So the amount of detail really blew me away.  And it’s just exciting to put yourself in the world and then run around and live it, it’s cool.

pacific-rim-rinko-kikuchi-imageLet’s just talk about the look you have on right now — the blood vessel, the scar on the head, is that a result of what is happening now in the film?

DAY:  The blood vessel in my eye is a result of drifting with the Kaiju, which happened earlier in the movie.  The Jaegers are operated by two people sharing a mind-space and I’m obsessed with the potential of sharing a mind-space with one of the Kaiju, then perhaps I could share the space and see its world.  And my first attempt with only a piece of its brain, my eye hemorrhages, and then later it hemorrhages more.  So, that’s the first sort of wound.  Your eye hemorrhages and your nose bleeds, as we all know.  Then I’m in the anti-Kaiju shelter, I get roughed up and thrown around there, so I get some more bangs and cuts and scrapes.  And then I’m going to have one more close encounter at the end of this scene.  Newt gets pretty banged up as the movie goes on.

Talk a bit about working in such a small space with 300 people. How is that experience going?

DAY:  It was great, ‘cause…

Doesn’t sound great.

Day:  Well it wasn’t great, but that was how I was supposed to be feeling.  Like I said, again, it was really real.  I was soaking wet and very cold, like he character would be, and there’s sort of just the general nervousness and tension you might feel — I know I feel, if I go to a concert I feel like that.  So, being in that environment was great.  And then, the set looked so real and the ceiling actually physically shook.  We weren’t pretending the ceiling was shaking, they found a way to make the lights shake and have dust come down on us.  It was great.

Talk a little bit about the look — the costume you’re wearing, the ring on your finger.  How much of that is your inputing, how much of that is just them giving it to you and you saying, “Sounds great?”

pacific-rim-rinko-kikuchi-guillermo-del-toroDAY:  90% of it is me saying “sounds great.” Because Guillermo’s obviously a painter painting a picture and my job is just to provide the color that he probably already has in his mind.  So, often times I’m trying to figure out what he’s going for and then give him what he wants.  And the look of the character — actually, he was going to dye my hair white, I think, and we decided that, that might be a little too extreme.  But in terms of the general look, his sort of rock and roll look, we had a long conversation.  I think we both agreed that it comes from a place of — you know, Newt is incredibly smart, too smart for his own good, and aware of that.  He wants to be like the guys fighting the monsters and he wants to be this rock and roll tough guy, and he’s not.  For lack of a better term, he’s the nerdy scientist.  But I think he has the fear of growing up to look like all the other nerdy scientists with the lab coat, sort of the look that Burn Gorman has in the movie, of his lab partner, Gottlieb.  I think he rebels against it as much as he can.  He’s sort of a failed musician and he has the tattoos of the Kaijus on his arms and he sort of goes with this Sid Vicious kind of look, which both suits and doesn’t suit him, you know?  It speaks more to who he wants to be than who he is.  And I actually think over the course of the story he gets a chance to be that hero, but just not in the typical kind of hero way.

I’m curious about props. Hypothetically, would you ever borrow anything from set, or have you borrowed anything from set on this one? I know you wouldn’t actually take something.

Day:  You mean — for what purpose? Just to–

Just to borrow.

DAY:  Oh my God, yeah. 

Have you actually borrowed something?

pacific-rim-posterDAY:  Oh, that’s a good question.  Yeah.  Well, it’s not a prop but I’ll be honest, I’ve stolen a couple pairs of Newt’s socks.  He has these great, sort of red, rock and roll plaid socks.  And I’ll be honest, I have a few in my rotation.  Once I realized the budget of this movie I was like, “They can afford to have a couple pairs of socks go missing.” So, I might try out the pinky ring, it’s growing on me, the look.

Maybe you wear it home one day, forget to bring it back.

DAY:  Yeah, you know.  Actually, I had this one made because I realized the first one was probably going to take my finger off in one of the scenes, because it was sort of really cheap and sharp — we made a more sturdy one. But outside of that, if they let me come home with a couple things, maybe a Kaiju organ or two, I’ll find some use for it.

Often when you sign on a project, you get the script and over the course of production things change — character gets adjusted, dialogue alters.  How much of what you’ve done so far is what you were originally pitched and shown? Or has a lot changed on set?

DAY:  A lot has changed on set.  I think when I first read the script it went through a lot of rewrites, and I knew it was going to.  That was sort of the meeting that Guillermo and I had, where Guillermo said he personally was going to do a lot of writing on it.  And, not in an improvisational sense, but we have tried different things.  Sort of had some conversations about different ways to say things or approach things, and then landed on something and done that, as opposed to just making something up on the spot.  So, certain things have changed.  Apparently, it’s constantly raining in the movie, which I’ll have to go back and look at the old draft, because I don’t recall that.  Although, really, it’s been fun to be in all that rain. There was a sequence where I ran into a bus and almost got swallowed by a monster, which was going to be this big crazy shoot.  That, I think we all realized was sort of a hat on a hat, because there was already a close-call and we didn’t need another one.  So yeah, things have come and gone but mostly I just come to set and talk to the madman behind the camera and say, “All right, what do you have in store for me today?”

How was working with Guillermo different than working with any of the other directors you’ve worked with before?

DAY:  I don’t want to take anything away from any of the other people I’ve worked with — which is a very short list, in terms of films — but he probably knows more movies and shots than any other director I’ve ever worked with and goes to them.  A good case in point was, I was in that anti-Kaiju shelter — the scene where I get my glasses knocked off — and I’m kind of fumbling on the ground looking for them, and he’d built a giant pair of glasses to put in front of the camera so that the glasses could be big in the frame and I could be big in the frame.  It was straight out of something that Hitchcock used to do.  I think there’s a sense of a guy painting a picture, a true artist. I’m not going to say that the other people I worked with weren’t artist. They were all very great, very talented people, but I think Guillermo will go down in cinematic history as one of our more talented, visually brilliant directors.  And that’s different, I don’t know when I’ll get to experience that again.

Pacific Rim opens July 12th.  For more from my set visit:


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