In lieu of writing a long introduction to an interview with Eugene Levy, I’m going to go ahead and assume you know who Eugene Levy is. Levy is one of those actors who has achieved national treasure status. He’s in a lot of movies you’ve enjoyed over the years, like Splash, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and American Pie (and all three of these movies are discussed ahead, along with many more).
Levy is promoting his work in Finding Dory, where he voices Dory’s father, Charlie. (Word of warning, it’s impossible not to cry in many scenes that Levy is in. Finding Dory exists to make you emotional and it does its job really well.)
I’ll be honest, this is one of those interviews where I just had a really fun time. Usually I’m a pile of nerves, but Levy has a way of making a person feel calm and strangely happy. (And I hope this turns out to be just as fun to read as the fun I had talking to Levy.) (And, yes, we know the word “assless” is redundant in the headline, but it’s how Levy describes them and it’s funny so we’re leaving it.)
Hearing you do voice work in Finding Dory is a lot different than the first time I heard you do it in Heavy Metal.
Very different movies.
Hey, you know, the thing about Heavy Metal, sometimes you get asked about what the process is for these movies. Heavy Metal is the one animated feature I remember where the cast was all doing scenes together. I do remember being in the studio with five or six other cast members all doing the scene, reading it at the same time.
That doesn’t surprise me with Heavy Metal, it does have that vibe…
To be honest, it’s been so long since I’ve seen that, I’d have to go back and look at it again. There must have been some kind of spontaneity sound that comes out of that thing — maybe people talking over each other, something. I remember it was pretty loose and it was a lot of fun and that was my first foray into the world of animation voice work. I thought, boy, this is loads of laughs!
It’s surprising you hadn’t done a Pixar movie before Finding Dory.
Well, I did, Over the Hedge, and that was kind of sweet and nice. I did Curious George — but this is my first Disney/Pixar.
With Pixar you know this will be a movie people will be watching for the foreseeable future.
Well, listen, when you get a call asking of you want to be a part of the Finding Nemo sequel, you know, it’s time to pop the cork. It’s great for a number of reasons: number one, because it was just such a huge, monumental film; number two, you just know the quality of the work is so great, you just want to be a part of it.
I’ll admit, there’s a scene you’re a part of in Finding Dory that made me cry. Waterworks.
They really do know how to combine some great laughs with a great emotional wallop. They are just so good at it.
Outside of SCTV, what project was it when you started to notice people recognizing you in public. Was it Splash?
Well, that was the first major film that I did. So, that’s kind of when it started to happen on a larger sale. But, quite honestly, I think it was American Pie that hit so big.
That’s surprising, because you were in so much before that.
I know. I know. Outside of Armed and Dangerous, where I was co-starring with John Candy, I’d usually come in for three of four scenes and my job was to come in, get some laughs, and get out. And I don’t really have to carry any exposition, so to speak. But I think it was just how huge American Pie hit. And the other one that really was groundbreaking for me, in that regard, was Bringing Down the House. But up until then, people would kind of see me and relate me to a certain film – it could have been Splash, it could have been any number of things. Multiplicity or Father of the Bride…
I have a friend, every time I see him, we yell “Davenport!” at each other – your line from the beginning of National Lampoon’s Vacation.
[Laughs.] Yeah, well, boy, that was a great movie to be a part of. The late, great Harold Ramis – who we worked with on SCTV of course – he used John Candy and he used me. That was a great little scene – one of my favorite little scenes actually is that opening scene of Vacation.
It is a great scene to open a movie that’s such a classic now.
It’s something. It’s really something. I remember being at home and watching Harold who was on Letterman. And I knew he’d be on promoting the movie – and as soon as he sat down in the chair, Letterman starts talking about the car-salesman scene. And I just bolt up from the bed and just kind of thinking, Whoa! He’s talking about that scene!.
I just love how you yell “Davenport!” and the character Davenport is so non-plussed by the whole thing, “I don’t know.”
The other thing that made me laugh, too, is when I came out and I referred to Chevy’s son, his name was Rusty, and I think I called him Reuben as we were walking down to the car.
You mentioned this movie earlier, but in 1987 there was a never-ending loop of two movies on HBO. One was Martin Short in Innerspace and the other was you and John Candy in Armed and Dangerous.
I have to go back and re-watch that thing, because it’s probably been 30 years since I’ve seen it. I do remember just having loads of laughs with John on that thing. And it was John that talked me into wearing those assless chaps and to this day I can’t believe he talked me into wearing them.
You two are synonymous with each other and you did a few movies with him, but that’s the only movie where we get a full movie of you two together.
I did I think like five movies with John, but that was a great buddy film to do with your buddy. So I love that movie for that reason alone.
You have a lot of movies to re-watch now.
I have to go back and revisit a few movies. You’re actually kind getting me excited about movies I haven’t even thought about in awhile.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.