Sing cast poses with animated animal counterparts in exclusive photos
Who else could get Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Scarlett Johansson to sing Top 40 hits as a koala, pig, and porcupine, respectively?
Only the wild minds of Illumination Entertainment could lasso such A-listers to go full animal for the latest pic from the filmmakers behind Minions and Despicable Me: Director Garth Jennings’ ensemble musical, Sing, which follows a wily producer named Buster Moon (McConaughey) who puts on a singing competition to save his theater and inspire some dreams in the process.
It turns out, even animals have fantasies of stardom, and that explains why the cast of Sing is stacked with certifiable superstars — all of whom have a shot at winning the contest and emerging on the top of the charts, thanks to a soundtrack of more than 65 song covers, from the Beatles to Kanye.
The participants, as gorgeously assembled in EW’s exclusive cast portrait above, span the species spectrum: There’s Taron Egerton’s Johnny, a soulful gorilla who wants to break out of the family crime business; Meena, a shy elephant teen who bears the ferocious vocals of Tori Kelly; Scarlett Johansson’s prickly porcupine, Ash; Seth MacFarlane’s Sinatra-spewing mouse, Mike; Gunter (Nick Kroll), a German pig; and Rosita, Reese Witherspoon’s put-upon mother of 25 piglets, who puts her own dreams on hold for her children. (See below for another shot of McConaughey with Buster Moon.)
“There’s something really wish-fulfilling about it all,” Witherspoon tells EW of the project. “We all have secret desires and part of us feels like no one sees our real talent, or our sort of true self. My character is the mom who does everything for everybody, and nobody seems to notice that she has bigger dreams and desires. I think there’s something really beautiful about our secret dreams being fulfilled.”
Witherspoon has gone down the animated route before (“My secret trick is eating M&Ms — they make me go completely nuts,” she giggles) but is in new territory with such a starry cast, a red-hot director in Jennings, and executive producer Chris Meledandri, the overseeing mind of Illumination.
“This was one of those wonderfully organic casting processes where we talked about our ideal voice for each role, and virtually everybody said yes,” says Meledandri. “I think it’s resulted in certainly one of the strongest casts that I’ve ever worked with.” McConaughey, for instance, was a particularly inspired choice as leading man Buster, Meledandri adds: “We were looking for somebody whose voice carried an immediate sense of charm…we felt we could take the character to places where we could experience his flaws and still remain connected to him. Matthew embodies that vulnerability while still being very, very confident, and he loves to play characters that have tremendous conviction.”
As is the case with big-ticket animated films, much of the cast didn’t get to work together, but Witherspoon says the experience was a bonding exercise regardless. “I thought they did a really nice job connecting us…we sort of became a little family, because none of us really saw each other [during] the process, so the little times where we would touch each other’s shoulders or hold hands or encourage each other were unexpected for me,” says the Oscar winner. “Because I hadn’t done it with Matthew. I didn’t see Scarlett the whole time. I never even met Jennifer Hudson!”
And that doesn’t even include the handful of cast members she didn’t know were in the ensemble until they filled her in: “I was doing the White House Christmas tree lighting last year, and Tori Kelly was like, ‘I’m in Sing with you!’ and I was like, ‘You are?! That’s so great!’” laughs Witherspoon. “She’s amazing, and such a young talent. And I was on SNL last year, and Leslie Jones was like, ‘I’m in Sing.’ And so was Jay Pharaoh. Like, we’re all in this movie together! It’s a fun connection.”
Sing arrives in theaters on Dec. 21, from Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures.
‘Sing’: Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, And More Unleash Their Musical, Animated Animals
With DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls continuing to expand overseas in advance of its Nov. 4th domestic debut*, and Walt Disney’s Moana about to kick its campaign into its final lap, Universal/Comcast Corp. is a bunch of very specific images for Sing. Just like Walt Disney did with The Jungle Book earlier this year, this photo shoot places each of the big movie stars alongside their animated counterpart. Like that Walt Disney blockbuster, a big part of the sell for this musical is the cast. The difference is that they will be playing “original” characters as opposed to known characters from the Disney toon/Rudyard Kipling novel.
The Illumination offering is exactly what it seems like, a star-studded “Let’s put on a show!” comedy with a bunch of known actors/movie stars belting out a deluge of known/popular songs as animated anthropomorphic animals. Like The Secret Life of Pets, this is so primal of a gimmick that I’m a little shocked that no one bothered to do it before now. As I’ve discussed before, I cannot imagine that Sing isn’t going to be a huge/leggy smash when it opens over Christmas weekend, to the extent that I fear a little for anything that isn’t Sing or Rogue One.
Having such a sure-fire kid-friendly option, certainly a more promising one than Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, may prove a slight problem for the Star Wars Story. Alas, the Walt Disney spin-off may have to settle for making “most of the money” as opposed to “all of the money” this holiday season. The Secret Life of Pets showed that Illumination could do huge ($864 million worldwide-and-counting) without attachments to the Despicable Me franchise. We already know they can thrive right alongside a Pixar blockbuster. Let’s see how well they do alongside a Star Wars movie.
Sing opens Dec. 21, 2017.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY AND BUSTER MOON
For the first time ever, Academy Award® winner MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY appears with his character, Buster Moon, from Illumination Entertainment’s Sing. Buster Moon is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who still believes in the wonder and magic of his once-grand theater and will do anything to preserve it. Like all the stars of Sing, McConaughey does his own singing in the film, with a memorable rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
“I’ve always regarded Buster as the ultimate creator…a showman who refuses to accept defeat and a guy who will accomplish the impossible through sheer force of will. Others may see his theater collapsing around him, but not Buster. Through his eyes, you’ll begin to imagine the crown jewel of this incredible town…a place where people can truly transform.”
SCARLETT JOHANSSON AND ASH
For the first time ever, SCARLETT JOHANSSON appears with her character, Ash, from Illumination Entertainment’s Sing. Ash is a betrayed teenager who will mend her broken heart through the power of rock-and-roll. Like all the stars of Sing, Johansson does her own singing in the film, including renditions of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and an all-new original song, “Set It All Free.”
“Once Ash understands that all of the attention, effort and energy she’s been giving her worthless boyfriend has been standing in the way of her own musical gifts, she transforms into a badass. Ash eschews outdated expectations that she should deliver a pop-princess act on the stage and just rocks it out with original music. I adore her.”
TARON EGERTON AND JOHNNY
For the first time ever, TARON EGERTON appears with his character, Johnny, from Illumination Entertainment’s Sing. Johnny is a reluctant part of his dad’s bank-robbing crew, as well as an aspiring singer who longs to step out and show who he really is. Like all the stars of Sing, Egerton does his own singing in the film, including renditions of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” John Legend’s “All of Me” and Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.”
“I think that one of the biggest fears we all have is that we will disappoint our parents. All you want is their acceptance, but as you come into your own, you begin to realize that your dreams don’t always intersect with theirs. Johnny’s relationship with his father epitomizes this. He only needs Big Daddy to listen, to actually hear him, just once. If that happens, Johnny believes he can become his own man and really soar.”
REESE WITHERSPOON AND ROSITA
For the first time ever, Academy Award® winner REESE WITHERSPOON appears with her character, Rosita, from Illumination Entertainment’s Sing. Rosita is an overtaxed mother run ragged tending a litter of 25 children but who keeps the flicker of a secret dream inside. Like all the stars of Sing, Witherspoon does her own singing in the film, including renditions of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Bananarama’s “Venus.”
“Ever since she was a girl, Rosita has held on to this tiny part of herself she’s been hesitant to share with the world. But once she genuinely owns who she is, this shy mom and wife realizes that it would be criminal not to unleash her talents. In fact, it’s the love and passion Rosita’s given and received that pours out of her when she embraces her inner diva and lets loose.”
SETH MACFARLANE AND MIKE
For the first time ever, SETH MACFARLANE appears with his character, Mike, from Illumination Entertainment’s Sing. Mike is a con man who croons as smoothly as he swindles. Like all the stars of Sing, MacFarlane does his own singing in the film, including renditions of standards including Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” “Pennies From Heaven,” made famous by Bing Crosby, and “My Way,” which is synonymous with Frank Sinatra.
“What I like about this character is that he has zero concept of just how small he is. Mike is a whirlwind mix of bravado, swagger and showmanship, and he genuinely believes he has nothing to prove. He needs the contest money because he’s made some very poor decisions, and he’s certain that his larger-than-life personality and stage persona hold the ticket to winning.”
TORI KELLY AND MEENA
For the first time ever, TORI KELLY appears with her character, Meena, from Illumination Entertainment’s Sing. Meena is a timid teen with an enormous case of stage fright who keeps a powerhouse voice trapped inside. Like all the stars of Sing, Kelly does her own singing in the film, including renditions of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” The Beatles’ beloved classic.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a bit of Meena inside. She’s that timid kid who desperately wants to share her gifts with the world, but is always second guessing herself. As an artist, I went to that place of insecurity inside teenage Tori to find my inner Meena. Then you take a deep breath, shake off the nerves and just let the music take over.”
NICK KROLL AND GUNTER
For the first time ever, NICK KROLL appears with his character, Gunter, from Illumination Entertainment’s Sing. Gunter is the Spandexed show-stopper whose sheer enthusiasm overcomes his lack of actual talent. Like all the stars of Sing, Kroll does his own singing in the film, including renditions of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Bananarama’s “Venus.”
“Gunter knows what we all should: Everything is better in a gold track suit. He is the yin to Rosita’s yang. If she’s hesitant, insecure and brilliantly talented…then Gunter is the one who’s first to hit the stage and shake his piggy patootie; he’s a legend in his own mind. When I first experienced Reese and myself as Rosita and Gunter on the screen, I honestly couldn’t stop grinning.”