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March 2004
Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed: An Interview with Matthew Lillard

By Todd Gilchrist

Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed: An Interview with Matthew Lillard

Matthew Lillard's manic presence is certainly one familiar to audiences, having played in the first installment of the hugely successful "Scream" series and then having gone on to feature prominently in movies like "She's All That" and January's "The Perfect Score". Ironically, on the recent press day for his upcoming film "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed", he just didn't seem to be his old, exuberant self.

As it turned out, Lillard was suffering from some fairly major gastro-intestinal pains following a promotional stint for the film. Still, off screen alter- ego for Norville 'Shaggy' Walters attempted to rally for this recent interview with Blackfilm.com, and Lillard discussed the prospect of returning to the role for not just one but possibly two upcoming films.

Matt: I'm really sick. You don't want to know. I don't know if it's the flu or Montezumas. But, if I leave, trust me, I'm some place you don't want to be.

Do you feel better about acting goofy when you see it with the final effects?

Matt: It's a weird experience to see the movie for the first time and see your star there. You're doing all these things and your imagination creates a lot but the things that the guys in visual effects come up with are ten times more extraordinary and more elaborate. It's a mind-blowing experience like nothing else. It's one thing to run from a Tyrannosaurus Rex in Lost World: Jurassic Park. It's another thing where your lead is not there. It's a bizarre thing.

Do you get self-conscious when you have to do these silly things by yourself?

Matt: There's an element of that but that goes away quickly. It sort of goes along with the territory.

Was it easier doing this film because you'd done the last one?

Matt: Yes. The first time the leap of faith was pretty extreme because you have no idea. We didn't know what Scooby looked like at all. So, the kind of commitment it takes to jump into that world was a lot greater than the second time around. The advancement in technology from Scooby one to Scooby two is so incredible that you knew it was going to be much better than the first so it makes that leap of faith much easier.

How was it working with (Neil) Fanning, who does the voice of Scooby-Doo, since you knew this time he was definitely the voice instead of an on-set substitute?

Matt: Neil, you can't underestimate how important he is to the process especially for me. I work with Scooby every single day. The rest of the gang works with him every other ten pages. So, for me, I couldn't do it without Neil.

Is he in eye-line?

Matt: He's in eye-line. He's off camera. A lot of times because Scooby's proximity is so close to you, he can't be in eye line. Because Scooby's tendency is to move so much, there's no fixed point of eye-line.

So does your eye-line determine his movements?

Matt: Yes. And the more you commit to those, the better it is for them to put him in in post. It would be easy to work with Andy (Serkis) in Lord of the Rings. It's awesome. I'd give my eye-teeth for that; a dog that could talk and actually be there. That would be great! But there's no such sort of help on Scooby.

What was it like to be dragged down a table and across open flame?

Matt: That's real fire. It's so funny when you first get in the business, I'll never forget, the first time I flew in a movie it was like Œoh, it's gonna be so cool'. It was Love's Labour's Lost and we spent three days on wires and there's nothing more painful than wire work. It's miserable.

How did you keep your energy up, and how much was improvised versus choreographed?

Matt: There's not a lot of it that's choreographed. I do a lot of work before every movie. I work for two weeks with a couple of coaches that I've worked with for the last ten movies. We get a studio space and just start banging it out beat by beat. That work is really helpful on a movie like Scooby because, when you get there, I'm already three steps ahead of where maybe even Raja is in having ideas. The more ideas you go in with, the better it is. At this point, in the Scooby world, I kind of bring in the starting point in terms of what I was thinking and then Raja tweaks it and makes it better. So it's really a great collaborative effort.

It must be exhausting doing all the manic physical things.

Matt: It's hard. The thing about Scooby is the amount of energy and endurance it takes to maintain that level of running for your life the entire movie Š.everything is up on a scale of ten. There's nothing that is small. There's no intimate moment whereŠ even when he's emotional it's Œoooooh'. It's up high. That's hard and we shot most of it at night which is also kind of a weird thing to your body. But, at the end of the day, I feel like we all went out to make a better movie. Movie one did great in the box office and we thought it was okay but we all went out to make a better movie and I think, collectively, we're all satisfied with the final product.

Linda said that before she starts a scene she says something to get herself in the part. Do you do anything like that?

Matt: I can tell you what she says. She says it every time. I have buzzwords. (somebody brings him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he takes a bite). This is the first thing I've eaten in forty-eight hours. It's good that I'm eating. I have a Scooby loop that I listen to. It's a twenty minute loop of just Shaggy's voice but I can't listen to it anymore. So now, I've gotten to the point where I find it pretty quickly. I've got a litany I do. (In Shaggy's voiceŠsomething like) ŒLike Scoob, Scooby Doo. Where are you? What are you doin', Scoob'? I'll just run through the list. You're doing it every day for six months, five and a half months, whatever it was, you find it real quick.

Had the group dynamic changed with the four of you?

Matt: It hasn't really. It's always nice to go back to see your friends. Something Kathleen Turner said to me once, Œdoing a movie is like having a marriage with a built-in divorce'. You work together so closely for six months and never see each other again. It's nice to go back and see the people that you worked with and have the opportunity to live it over again. It's great. Sarah and Freddie are in love and that's funs to be around and Linda and I are great friends. We're all friends so it's good.

Did you know Seth Green before this?

Matt: Seth and I had known each other forever but we'd never worked together. He's one of those guys in Hollywood that you'd pass and you've met a hundred times.

Did you plan to do "Without a Paddle" before "Scooby"?

Matt: No. It came up during the movie. It was great.

You were shooting in New Zealand. Was it a fun shoot?

Matt: It was good. "Without a Paddle", I think is gonna be a big hit. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I haven't seen it yet but it's one of those movies where three guys go down the side of a mountain; Dax Shepherd, Seth Green and I, and we took a script that was funny and I think we just got better and better. I think it turned out better than any one of us could have ever expected. We're excited.

Did you have any script input on Scooby?

Matt: Not really. We talked earlyŠ I talked to James about physical comedy. We all agreed that the physical comedy in one worked really well so we came up with a bunch of opportunities for physical comedy. In those two weeks that I worked beforehand, I watched a lot of Chaplin and Buster Keaton. I tried to find or steal something so it was great.

What were you doing in Mexico that you might have gotten Montezuma's revenge?

Matt: I was doing "Scooby" press which I will never do again.

What did you eat?

Matt: It was wonderful when it was going down. I don't know.

Do you take the character home when you do a film?

Matt: Well, I don't talk to a dog. Dog doesn't really talk back but I think there's an element. It's a reality like anything else. I think it does happen but it happens more on a more introspective character. Like when I went home during "Scream", I was definitely a different person. "Scooby", it's not like I'm going home like (in Shaggy voice) ŒSo, honey, what are we eatin' tonight?' But I think when you take a heavier role, it goes home with you?

Have you signed for a third?

Matt: I have signed for a third. Not everyone has signed for a third but I've signed for a third. It all comes down to how it does opening weekend.

Was there more that you knew Scooby could do? Did it change anything for you?

Matt: No, not really for me or the storytellers. Just more for the animators. There were seven ghosts. Three of them were CG and the rest were physical and that was a great thing. When you go to work in these sets that Bill Boes created and these incredible costumes and the Mystery Machine and you've got like Captain Cutler's ghost there, it's like a mind-altering experience. Whoa, this is weird.

Is there something you'd like to see Shaggy do in a third one?

Matt: Well, I got the girl in the first one. I saved the day in the second one.

You're the bad guy in the third?

Matt: That's interesting. No, not really. I think what we learned in the first one that we brought to the second one is that it's about the gang. That's what Scooby Doo is about. In the first movie they all split up in the first five minutes. It all takes place on a desert island in the middle of the daylight. Just by virtue of the fact of what Scooby is, both of those things were kind of misses. If we're lucky enough to do a third one I hope we'll go back and maintain kind of the same storylines that Scooby Doo maintains. I like the fact that the movie has something to say. I like doing family films. As a father, I appreciate them.

They morphed your head on a girl's body. How did that feel?

Matt: I wish I'd felt it. She's Miss Canada.

Would you do this even if they re-cast Fred and Daphne?

Matt: I don't know what's going to happen. I would rather not do it without Fred and Daphne but I have no idea. It's a really interesting subject right now around Scooby-land.

How old is your child?

Matt: She was born the day Scooby one opened. The first movie she saw at home.

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