Dane The Plane

Actor Dane Cook attends the premiere of Disney's "Planes".

Dane Cook is not the most beloved entertainer of all time. His polarising comedy act, while a big hit with the masses, has drawn criticism from comedy hipsters and his fellow funnymen.

Some accuse him of stealing material, others say he simply isn't funny.

Whatever you think of the guy, it must be admitted that the 41-year-old US actor has proved himself a survivor, and has managed to parlay his stand-up fame into a fairly decent movie career.

Highlights were Waiting, Dan In Real Life and Detention. The low point would have to be the execrable Good Luck Chuck.

With his new film Planes, which opens here on Thursday, Cook is trying something a bit different: Playing nice.

In Pixar's latest animated flick, he voices Dusty Crophopper, a humble crop duster who dreams of competing in an around-the-world race.

Could the film perhaps be a metaphor for Cook's career? Weirdly enough, he and his character share the same initials.

Read on to find out if he's finally managed to become likeable!

How exciting is it doing a Disney animated film and with a part like Dusty?

Would you believe me if I said it's like you really want to jump up and down, and it's like being a kid again?

I've known John Lasseter (chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios) for several years. John has been a fan of my stand-up comedy.

From time to time, I would see him and he would say, "Oh, I was on a road trip listening to your comedy."

My heart would always race, hoping that someday he might be like, "I've got an idea for something." This is a lifelong dream of mine.

I've loved animation. I used to watch Bedknobs And Broomsticks, and Pete's Dragon... you name it. I grew up loving animation and musicals and things of that nature, so I feel like I'm at home.

 

Do you draw?

Yeah, I did draw a little bit when I was a kid. Actually, that's funny. I didn't really realise that until you asked me, but yeah.

I used to draw characters, and there was a time in my life where I probably was always kind of sketching the characters from Bedknobs And Broomsticks.

Angela Lansbury was in it singing and dancing, and there were these great characters when they go to the island. I used to draw the lion.

I remember just telling my parents at one point, "I really want to experience whatever that world is. Can we go there? Is that a Disney world?" So I was always fascinated by it from when I was a young child.

This performance as Dusty is so different from the Dane Cook that so many are so used to seeing. How was it for you emotionally, changing it up for this very kind, gentle, warm and loving aspirational guy?

I think that people who have known me my whole life realise I'm way more Dusty than I am the kind of guy at the helm of these big shows that people see.

I also grew up not just shy, but I had a lot of fear growing up. I was the kid that had a lot of anxieties. I had panic attacks. I grew up in kind of a phobic family.

So I was more Dusty than I am Dane Cook the performer that you see. It took me a lot of years to be able to really find my voice... it was more close to home than some people would probably imagine.

Did you have to change your voice much for the character?

I didn't know at first if they wanted me to kind of put on a character.

I based a lot of what I wanted to do with Dusty on Tom Hanks in Toy Story.

John said: "I want you to use your voice, and the reason is I want Dusty to have edge and I want him to have like a real grit to him. He needs a tad bit of darkness in him because he's determined.

He needs to have this, you know, this moment." That made perfect sense to me.

When we did the performance of Dusty, I would go back through after we completed scenes because what Tom Hanks would do, which is so wonderful, is he would find little moments in the character to add the slightest inflections.

For example, maybe Woody would fall while he was trying to unlock a door, and instead of just, "Uh, oh," it was, "Uh, huh-uh." Like you could really hear angst.

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