Calm before the storm (of invading aliens) love blossoms between Ricky (Robert Hoffman) and Bethany (Ashley Tisdale) at an idyllic summer vacation home. © Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises

For Robert Hoffman (Step Up 2: The Streets ), his dance background came in handy when portraying Bethany’s (Ashley Tisdale) arrogant boyfriend, Ricky, in Aliens in the Attic. During a visit to his girlfriend’s vacation home, Ricky is implanted with a mind-control device by an alien named Zirkonians, who is hiding in the attic, which makes him act like a robot, carrying out all the aliens’ wishes.

How did your dance training help with all the physical comedy you did in this film?

Calm before the storm for Ricky (Robert Hoffman) and Bethany (Ashley Tisdale) © Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises

Dancing was absolutely instrumental, or I should say my background in creative movement was absolutely instrumental because not only did I have this library of moves that I’ve developed in my life, and silly ways of walking and mimicking animals, it also allowed me to be really free and come up with different gags according to the scene and what the obstacles happened to be.

How much improvising did you do with the physical gags?

Tons of stuff. I always tell people when they ask me, ‘How was it?’ When I got back into the States from filming in New Zealand, I said, ‘Honestly, I think I really know what it’s like to be Jim Carrey on a movie set because, sincerely, I would get there and it took a couple of rounds where they figured out, ‘Oh, wow, he can bring some fun stuff to the table’. And then it got to the point where I would show up on a day that involved me being the robot and they were like, ‘Okay, Rob.  What to you want to do?’ and I’d be like, ‘Okay. Well, wouldn’t it be wicked if I come flying around the corner and bang into the car?’  ‘Yeah, let’s do it.  What else, what else?’  ‘We could lay a mat down here and I’ll do a crazy pratfall and I’ll get up and look all stupid and do a chicken walk to the side’.  So, it just got to be a creativity fest. And sometimes it would be, ‘Okay, we’re going to go wide and you just do a bunch of stuff’. Truly one of the more gratifying, creative experiences I’ve ever had.

Were there any injuries?

Lovebirds (Ashley Tisdale) and Ricky (Robert Hoffman) © Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises

Yeah, definitely.  My back took a beating for sure.  There were a lot of times in a fight scene where I had to keep landing on my back really hard and stuff like that. And that thing where I run in a circle on the gravel, I definitely tore up my arm pretty good.  I definitely got some scars there.

Did they get you a chiropractor or massage therapist?

No. Nothing like that.  They’re a good studio to work for but they aren’t that good. But, it’s just like dancing.  When the music is on, you can be doing the most atrocious things to your body and you’re not going to feel it.  As I’m working on it, the movement is really hard but, once you learn the move and you can do it to the music, you feel nothing until the music stops.  Same thing with being a character in a fun scene, you’re just so delighted, scraping yourself, banging your knees, it’s like ‘whatever’.

In the film your character gets into a Martial Arts fight with Doris Roberts who plays Ashley’s grandmother, what was filming that like?

Alien commander uses a mind control device on Ricky (Robert Hoffman) © Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises

I think the concept alone was really fun and the fact that we got to do some really iconic videogame moves and I got to do my first really intense action scene, that was really fun.  We also had to protect Doris because you can’t make a wrong move with Doris, she doesn’t have the endurance or the resilience that we have, so we had to be pretty cautious.

What scared you as a little kid in your house?

Oh, underneath the porch. My dad would have to go fix something and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to go under there!’ because there were spiders. There were just so many webs and my dad’s like throwing spider webs to the side. When I was a kid I was running through the forest and I ran into this big web and this huge spider got on my shoulder, and the huge chicken that I was, I just started screaming and finally, I felt like twenty minutes later, my dad comes out and flicks it off. I was like five.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.