Making the transition from exclamation-laden stand-up to family entertainment was always a challenge for Jack Whitehall.
Making the transition to family entertainment was always a challenge for Jack Whitehall.
The British comedian is best known for his swearing stand-up and more adult TV fare such as Fresh Meat, Bad Education and the hit Netflix Road-trip series, Travels With My Father.
However, it has recently branched out, making it for kids on this year’s Disney action-adventure cruise through the jungle and now in a big-screen adaptation of the beloved children’s book, Clifford the Big Red Dog. .
But sometimes old habits die hard, and given how many NSFW takes he’s had with laymen Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson, it’s pretty sure there could be a version of Jungle Cruse out there somewhere. that would make children’s ears bleed.
“You absolutely have to stay the course,” he laughs via a Zoom call from Los Angeles. “There’s definitely an R-rated cut of Jungle Cruise that’s out there in the ether. There is a version of this film that certainly would not have made the certificate.
He says he’s fared much better for Clifford, in which he plays Uncle Casey, the male child, opposite the CG titular giant dog, but this time around the language barrier between his Native England and her colleagues across the pond almost fell apart.
“I think I accidentally said the word ‘bullshit’ in one of the scenes, which had been in the cut for a while,” he says. “And finally, someone Googled it and realized what it meant and that it was a little English slang that accidentally crept into the movie and no one thought about removing it.
Fortunately, the finished piece is bollock-free. It’s very family friendly and there won’t be any of my coals nearby.
Whitehall is full of praise for his junior co-stars at Clifford, especially Darby Camp and 14-year-old Izaac Wang, who he says are much more composed and together than they were at their age. Whitehall, the son of producer and TV agent Michael Whitehall, made a few early forays into acting himself, but the results were less than stellar.
“I was absolutely horrible,” he admits. “I cut myself off from certain things. On one thing, I was reshuffled and demoted to extra at the back of the shot. And then I also filmed something where they completely doubled my voice because for some reason the day I developed a speech impediment and was unable to say the line correctly, they m ‘doubled with the voice of another child.
And while Whitehall admired their boundless youthful energy in the sweet and inclusive story of a young girl and her inept uncle who find themselves trying to argue over the brightly colored oversized mutt of New York, he was less than impressed with their timing and musical selections.
“There were a couple of times we were on the makeup trailer at six in the morning and Izaac and Darby were playing Justin Bieber pretty loud. During the day I would say I’m a Belieber, but at 6 in the morning , I think I’m more of a Bel-Atheist so I had to ask them nicely if we could maybe wait until eight or nine until we started playing Justin Bieber. And then the next day. morning it was One Direction instead, so I don’t think the message quite got across.
High on Whitehall’s priority list for signing up with Clifford was the chance to work with his comedy idol John Cleese, who plays the kind, mysterious and magical Mr. Bridwell. Whitehall says he’s always linked to physical comedy as well as the class-conscious, very nervous button-down characters made famous by the great Monty Python, to the point that “my whole career so far has been just about ‘a tribute to him “.
“That’s why I do what I do and I was very nervous to meet him for the first time,” Whitehall says. “But he’s an amazing presence, he’s avuncular and funny and even though he’s 80 he has this incredible mischief and a big booming laugh which is the ultimate payoff if you can make him laugh.” It absolutely makes you melt.
Whitehall has fond memories of his trip to Australia early last year for the final episodes of Journeys with My Father, in which he and his mischievous father Michael have traveled the world as unlikely and hilarious travel companions. The couple just managed to sneak into the visit before the coronavirus pandemic cut off global travel and they were quickly quarantined when they returned home to London, having struggled a few weeks earlier with emus and danced with drag queens.
“On the contrary, it was probably perfect timing because at the end of filming a series of Travels with my Dad, I’m like ‘OK, I need a little distance from my dad now'”, Whitehall said with a laugh. “It’s a bit intense to be on the road with him for so long. And then there we go back to England and it was literally a government enacted law that I couldn’t see for a few months and I think we were both okay with that at that time . “
Clifford the Big Red Dog opens in theaters on December 30 with previews on December 18 and 19.