Last week at the world premiere of Detective Pikachu in Tokyo, Pokemon.com sat down with Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton and Ryan Reynolds for an extended interview about their work on the upcoming film.
During the interview, the three actors discussed the film’s story, their favorite Pokemon, and about some of the challenges they faced working with (and acting as) CGI Pokemon. As the two main human characters of the film, Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton talked about the difficulties acting with characters that weren’t actually there, and the steps they took help bring the world of Pokemon to life.
Pokemon.com: Speaking of the bond that people have with their Pokémon, one of the things that struck us about the movie is that it has some really heavy emotional scenes. As actors, what’s that like to emote with and have these tender moments with these animated Pokémon?
Justice: It’s difficult sometimes because it can be hard to act with something that’s not there, but Rob Letterman, the movie’s director, made us very comfortable and made sure we knew where the Pokémon were at all times. And as actors, it is our job to imagine. It’s our job to make imaginary circumstances feel as real as possible. I mean, Kathryn has been doing this since she was in the womb—we were trained to make things seem real.
Kathryn: That’s what was so fun about making this movie. We really got to use our imaginations. We were acting with nothing, but we know Pokémon. We know what they’re like; we know their personalities, and because of growing up with Pokémon—watching the anime, playing the games—we just wanted to do a really good job.
We all felt a really big responsibility to the Pokémon fandom, so we hope that when fans see the movie, it’s like what my dream is. Like, if I wanted Psyduck to be real, it’s actually better than I imagined.
Ryan Reynolds on the other hand, plays Detective Pikachu himself through motion capture technology and CGI. While he had done similar work on the set of Deadpool, he admitted that the technology has come a long way since then. In fact, when Reynolds first saw his voice and face put into Detective Pikachu, he actually found it quite unsettling at how accurate it was!
Ryan:…And in terms of emoting and telling that story, the motion capture technology they have now is—I mean, it’s changed even since I did Deadpool 2. I played Juggernaut in Deadpool 2, which was just a short stint of motion capture, but this is just—they’re not just mapping your face and body movements and putting it into Detective Pikachu. They’re also grabbing my micro facial expressions now, which are some of the hardest stuff to duplicate and map onto a CGI character.
It was super unsettling the first time I saw it. It really did feel like somebody had pulled the soul out of my body and put it into Detective Pikachu. So, I had a kind of uncanny valley situation for a minute where I couldn’t quite stare at it for too long because it was like seeing me. It was a very odd thing, but it made emoting very easy because it’s able to pick up even the finest, tiniest facial expressions as opposed to these grandiose ones which was the way it was even two years ago.
Finally, Reynolds ended off with a little teaser about what might be in store for the franchise in the future.
Ryan: I don’t fully know. (laughs) I mean, look, if you’ve ever found a universe that is suited to building itself out cinematically, it’s the Pokémon universe. It’s Star Wars in a sense. There are infinite ways that you can tell different stories, the world is so dynamic and intricate. I know that they’ve suggested a couple of things that I thought were really, really interesting. Stuff that was so interesting that I almost wish we had got to do it in the first movie, but we’ll see!
Detective Pikachu is premieres worldwide on May 10 2019. To read even more about what the cast had to say at the World Premiere event, you can read the full interview on Pokemon.com.