JAMES HAPPILY BOUNDS ALONG
The multi-talented British funnyman couldn’t help but be drawn to lending his voice to the mischievous role of classic bunny Peter Rabbit
Mischief is James Corden’s middle name. Whether making Adele’s eyes pop at his smashing harmonising, causing comical chaos on stage in One Man, Two Guvnors or on telly with The Late Late Show, or giving voice to Beatrix Potter’s prized creation in the new movie Peter Rabbit, the English funnyman has made a career out of making mischief.
“You just wanna try and bring a bit of lightness and little patches of joy wherever you can offer it up,” says the 39-year-old of his modus operandi.
It’s that vibe director Will Gluck was after when he decided Corden was the only person to give voice to Peter Rabbit. And Corden has to admit the role suits.
“I am a fan of mischief, there’s no denying that,” he says, from his adopted home of LA. “I’m a fan of mischief and fun and that’s all Peter is really ever on the lookout for.”
Where Peter can’t refrain from stealing from Mr McGregor’s veggie patch despite his mother’s frequent warnings, the young Corden couldn’t resist raiding his mum’s baking trays.
“I would always be the one stealing cakes,” he admits. “If my mum said, ‘You can only have one of these chocolates from the bowl’, I would always be trying to steal two, for sure.”
Gluck and Australian studio Animal Logic worked closely with the keepers of Potter’s estate to capture the spirit of her stories in the live action/ animation hybrid Peter Rabbit.
Like many, Corden was read those stories as a child. “It was the first time I’d ever heard a story where a character was really naughty. I remember thinking, ‘This is amazing!’,” he laughs. “Then you very quickly realise that every time he was naughty it comes back to bite him on the bum.”
The film opens with Peter, cousin Benjamin and little sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail in a running war with old McGregor and basking in the glow of his kindly neighbour Bea (Rose Byrne).
When McGregor keels over, Peter thinks he’s set for life – until Mr McGregor’s uptight nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) arrives from London and ups security around the veggie patch. It makes for a feel-good family romp in the vein of the Paddington movies or another Aussie-made classic, Babe.
Peter Rabbit was largely shot in Sydney, meaning Gleeson was running around Centennial Park doing his best pratfalls in the 40C heat of an Aussie summer. Corden, meanwhile, never stepped out of his air-conditioned voice booth in LA.
“It’s not fun putting a man of his disposition in such weather,” Corden tut-tuts of the suffering imposed on the ginger-haired Irishman. “I was in my sweatpants doing this voice, eating snacks, watching him throw himself against walls thinking, ‘Oh bless him’.”
That’s not to say Corden didn’t work up a mild sweat.
“Sometimes you get a little bit light-headed when you’re doing all the running and the panting and the ‘OK, come on guys, let’s go!’,” he says.
Corden was considered a surprise choice to host the internet-breaking Late Late Show in the US, where he was largely unknown. But in his native UK and beyond, the bigger surprise might have been why Corden accepted the job. The why is family: his wife Julia, son Max, almost seven, daughter Carey, three, and a three-month-old baby (name yet to be publicly confirmed).
“At the time I took the job, my wife was pregnant with our second child, we’ve now just had our third ... and I don’t wanna leave ’em, you know,” says Corden.
“I don’t want to be going off to Atlanta or Vancouver or Australia wherever those things might take place. I just want to be around my children as they grow up.”
Corden’s decision appears a savvy one. He has kept his toe in film, with an appearance in Ocean’s 8 coming in June.
“That I would be offered a part in a film with Sandra Bullock, that’s mind-blowing to me,” he says, “let alone Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway and Mindy Kaling.”
And he has wound up creating a cultural phenomenon in The Late Late Show’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment. It’s provided him with the kinds of experiences he wouldn’t trade for quids. What stands out?
“Oh man, how long have you got?” Corden sighs.
“Singing in a car with Adele or Bruno Mars. Getting to ride around with Michelle Obama or rap battle with Dame Helen Mirren or run out into a road and sing songs with Hugh Jackman. These are all things which, if I could tell my 12year-old self that this would be his life, his head would explode, you know?” Peter Rabbit opens today, just in time for Easter
Funnyman James Corden was delighted to voice everyone’s favourite bunny in the new film Peter Rabbit.