Paramount’s latest family movie, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, is a fast-paced sequel that lives up to the 2020 box office hit that came before it. However, in this new adventure, the heart of the SEGA videogame franchise, on which the film is based, is captured like never before. We got the chance to chat with the flicks leading actors, Ben Schwartz, and James Marsden, about their experiences filming this highly anticipated videogame movie.
Directed by Jeff Fowler, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 follows on from the events of the first movie, and sees our favourite blue rodent meet some new friends, all while saving the world from the evil plans of Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Ben Schwartz voices the titular chilli dog-loving Sonic, who is tasked with protecting an ultimate power source – the Master Emerald. James Marsden plays the part of the sheriff of the quiet town of Green Hills and human best friend of Sonic, Tom Wachowski – whose Hawaii vacation with his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) ends in disaster as he is pulled back into Sonic’s fray.
In our interview with Ben Schwartz and James Marsden, we discussed what it was like being a part of Sonic’s transition to the big screen, and working on the film during a global pandemic. Finally, we go over what the future of the cinematic Sonic franchise may look like.
The Digital Fix: This movie is such a joy to watch, and there are so many references to the videogames. When you watch it, it really highlights how this character means a lot to a lot of different people. But I want to know, Ben as the star of Sonic…
Ben Schwartz: Oh my God, right in front of James! (laughs) The star of Sonic. I love it. I love it, continue.
Sorry James, (laughs) But yes, Ben, as the star of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, what does the character Sonic mean to you?
BS: Oh, man. Well, to me growing up, you know, me playing videogames my whole life, but also being introduced to videogames in the late ’80s, in the early ’90s, Sonic to me is one of the most iconic videogame characters of all time. So the idea that I get to voice this character that has had such an incredible lineage and has such great VO actors along the path to here, it’s been amazing. And then to bring my own little thing to it, and then to bring some improv sensibilities and try to bring heart, it’s been amazing.
And I knew it would be huge for me, just like it really meant so much to me, but then to see how fans have reacted and have been so welcoming of me into that whole franchise. So it’s been a dream come true. I’ve left like 1000 voice notes as Sonic for 1000 different people.
I feel so lucky, and I realise that these types of movies don’t happen all the time; the idea of the new sequel, so I feel very lucky to be a part of it. James has been in 1000 of these. So, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care. I think.
James Marsden: Yeah, (jokingly) I’m kind of over it. It’s fun to watch someone experience it for the first time [points to Ben].
BS: Oh, yeah. So you don’t care?
JM: (laughs) Yeah, no, no.
Speaking about you, James. You’re the most live-action component in this movie. One of the things that I loved about the film was that it felt like a journey because of all the different locations. You filmed in Vancouver, you filmed in Hawaii. But you also did all that during a global pandemic.
What were the challenges of making this film during Covid-19?
JM: This was the first film. It was the first time I was ever in front of the camera after the pandemic hit.
BS: Oh wow.
JM: Yeah. So day one was Tika [Sumpter] and I stepping on set, at the house saying goodbye to Ben, as we were going off to Hawaii. And it was, it was nerve-wracking. But we felt safe because the protocols were really in place and everything. But it just felt good, just being back doing this movie again, or, you know, the sequel to the first movie.
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That movie had had some success. And everyone loved it and loved the redesign of Sonic, phew (laughs). So it was a good one to sort of get us back into it. I would have not liked going into a movie set with a bunch of strange new people. You know, so it was like there was a feeling of famal…I think family is the word?
BS: Yes. Family or families is the word. Where there is like a mom and a dad or like the idea of a community family?
JM: Listen, I never said I was smart. I’m an actor, not that smart sometimes.
JM: (laughs) But It was great, it was great to get back into it. You know, like Ben said, sequels don’t happen often. And usually, it’s an indicator that people like the first film, and they want more. So knowing that it was a lot of fun stepping back into this world.
Yeah. You mentioned family. And one of the things in this movie is that we see more of the SEGA family coming into the picture with Tails and Knuckles. You have both signed on for Sonic 3, so if given a choice, which characters from the games would you pick for your new co-stars in any future movies?
BS: Well, listen, there are so many different characters on the Sonic floor, and there’s also versions of Sonic that are pretty freakin cool. We can throw in a Metal Sonic in there; there’s all sorts that could be fun, like an Amy Rose. Or if one day we get to introduce Shadow or something like that.
I think what we did with this one is trying to look at what people want. We are fans who make the movies. So we’re trying to look at what we would like, and so that’s why Knuckles is in this one and why Tails is in this one. If you look at the lineage of the games, this is about the time when Tails was introduced to the second one, and then the third one is when Knuckles is introduced. So it’s like we love the idea of bringing all these characters in and making everybody happy.
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Oh, and I think that Christopher Walken should voice all of them (laughs). We just have a very unique VO thing. Bobcat Goldthwait from Police Academy should be there too.
(laughs) He would be a really good Big the Cat, to be fair.
BS: Oh! By the way, Big the Cat, my favourite character. So, if this goes as well as we hope it will go, I think the idea that we keep building on what this is will just get bigger. What we’re doing is we’re making the fans happy. But also, we’re bringing people who didn’t really know about the world of Sonic. We’re teaching them about what else is involved in this world.
JM: I’m one of those people.
BS: There you go!
Great! Well, thanks so much for speaking with us, again, congrats on the film.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 races into cinemas on April 1 in the UK and on April 8 in the US.