An Exclusive Interview with Ellen DeGeneres and Ed O’Neill of Finding Dory #FindingDoryEvent
After 13 years, FINDING DORY will hit the theaters this Friday! The film was so good, but even better was the fact that I sat down for an interview with Ellen DeGeneres and Ed O’Neill about the film. Here’s what they had to say:
While some of the cast had seen an earlier screening of the film, the world premiere was the first time they had seen FINDING DORY finished and able to watch among other people. Ellen and Ed O’Neill both agreed that watching the film with an audience and seeing and being able to feel the reactions was so much better. Ellen explained, “Because, as much as you want to go, “Hey, we’re great,” it’s really nice to see it with a bunch of people and feel the energy of everybody, and then it’s kind of like, “Oh, it really did work!”
Ed O’Neill had the same thoughts. “They showed it for the cast once, but it wasn’t finished, and it was in a room with just us. I didn’t play quite the same.
I mentioned in my movie review that you might want to bring tissues with you to the theatre, but even Ellen and Ed agree! Ellen said, “It was weird because I was crying, and then I was crying because I was crying on screen and I’m crying with myself”. Then Ed added, “I know the first time I saw it, I didn’t get that choked up, but last night, when it started happening, I was — “Oh, my God, I’m gonna cry.”
When we asked Ellen and Ed if they had three words that kept them going when they faced challenging times, Ellen replied, “I have to say that it’s weird that that became a part of this iconic character, because I didn’t know it before this happened, but that was my motto, you know what I mean? My life has gone through a lot of different twists and turns, and I did just keep swimming. I didn’t realize that was what I was doing. But I just kept moving forward, and I just kept doing what I know how to do, which is make people happy and make people smile and make people laugh. And so it’s just so weird that is part of this fish’s motto! And I’d talked to so many people that go through whatever it is, if it’s an illness, or they are going through a difficult time, “Just keep swimming” is what they think about. So, I guess that’s everybody’s motto that persevere.”
Ed had a different take, which had the room laughing. He said his three words would be “Just keep punching,” he laughed with us. “That was mine. That was always my motto, But now it gets more difficult to punch.”
We then asked Ellen what she hoped her character would bring to kids and parents. She said, “I think that message (of just keep swimming). I think “never give up” and “be optimistic” and “there’s always another way.” When someone says that there isn’t another way, there is! You don’t get stuck. And no matter what your situation is, it can get better, and everybody starts from a different places, and some people start with a lot more odds stacked against them. But there’s a way out. There’s a way to use whatever you do best to help you, you know.” I loved her inspiration! She then added, “Even if you have a disability, use your strengths. Whatever that is. Mine was making people laugh. I had a lot of stuff that was hard for me in my life, and I knew that I could make people laugh, and that was my strength.”
Ed had a similar reply. “When my character says there’s no way out, and Dory says, “there’s always a way out,” and Hank says, “There’s no way out,” and then you say, “Well, what about that?” And it’s, “Oh, there is a way out!” It’s the same thing, you know. There’s always some other option”.
We then asked Ellen and Ed if they did any research on their characters. Ed shared, “I did one thing. I Googled mimic octopus. I did. Because somebody told me to. And I didn’t know that that animal existed. You know, it wasn’t like an octopus I knew of. They shape shift. Or they change colors. Somebody said they only live about three years. They don’t have a long lifespan, but it’s probably good because they’d be ruling the world. Amazing.”
Ellen chimed in and said, “We should Google that, right now. Let’s make sure that that’s accurate, but, you know, it’s quality versus quantity, right, so it has a full life of being anything it wants it to be, and mimicking whatever it wants to mimic.”
We were happy to google the lifespan of a mimic octopus, and when we reported our finding that they really only live about 2 years, Ellen said, “Well, this is a bummer, all of a sudden.” And it is! Let’s get on that sequel to Finding Dory now, so Hank can come back before he isn’t with us anymore!
And speaking of Hank’s character, when Ed O’Neill jumped on board for FINDING DORY, he didn’t originally know what his part was going to be or that he was going to be such a large part of the film. He thought his involvement would be merely a cameo and a one or two day involvement at most, similar to his project on Wreck It Ralph. All he knew when signing on board was that the role was an octopus and that it was a sequel for Finding Nemo. He hadn’t even seen a script.
But Ed’s casual appearances developed into something more and his character “Hank” is a major part of the film. As he helped make his character come to life, Ellen described her thoughts. “Oh, this is so perfect,” she said. “He’s so perfectly grumpy!” And he plays it well.
Ellen then joked that she made FINDING DORY a reality because of her continual lobbying on her show. “I take full responsibility that it’s happening, because I made it happen,” she laughs. “I kept saying, “What’s wrong with you people? It won an Academy Award.” It’s a great film, it’s iconic. I didn’t imagine that it would be about Dory or that — I just thought that Pixar makes sequels, right? I mean, there’s a Toy Story One, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, there’s sequels, where’s the FINDING NEMO sequel? But, and then it just became a joke. I had a talk show, so I had a place to make a joke about it, every time a new sequel came out.”
“It really was just a joke. At a certain point, I just gave up. I just thought, there’s no way. I guess I stopped swimming. Some of our group then said, “Aww” and Ellen said, “I know, it’s sad. So when (Director) Andrew Stanton called me, he just started with saying “uncle, I give up,” and then shared his idea about Dory and finding her family.”
And while Ellen didn’t have any involvement in the creation of the script, she did improv a lot during recording. She explains. “We would go in with things that they wrote, and then they gave us free rein to do whatever, so I had a lot of lines that I don’t necessarily remember, because it’s been three years. But the line — “how can someone save this park in one day?” That was an ad lib, and you could play around.”
And speaking of playing around, our group ended the interview by dancing it out! I’m talking Ellen DeGeneres and Ed O’Neill dancing with 24 bloggers that were smiling from ear to ear! There were so many smiles in the room, and talk about a life list check for me! I have watched Ellen every.single.day for the last several years! She is my spirit animal, so when she graciously gave me a hug after we took a group photo… let’s just say I will never forget that day! #HaveALittleFun
Make sure you get your tickets for FINDING DORY, which is in theaters on June 17. I’ll have more exclusive interviews soon, so make sure you check back through the week!