Actor Jay Baruchel has big shoes to fill – Mickey Mouse’s! He’s starring as the title character in Jerry Bruckheimer’s new fantasy adventure The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The movie is based loosely on the iconic segment from Fantasia, in which Mickey Mouse was cast as a protégé who longs to use magic, animating brooms to carry water and do his chores, with chaotic results.
In the new movie, Nicolas Cage portrays Balthazar Blake, who is trying to defend present day Manhattan from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina).
He first meets a 10-year-old boy named David Stutler after the child wanders into the bizarre Arcana Cabana curio shop. Given a dragon ring that comes to life on his figure, Balthazar tells David he will be a powerful sorcerer one day. The young boy tries his best to forget this bizarre experience, but 10 years later David (Jay Baruchel) is destined to meet Balthazar again and become his apprentice.
What was it about this project that appealed to you?
I’m a huge, huge nerd. I love any movies where guys shoot energy out of their hands, but I’m not usually the go-to guy for stuff like that. And then I read the script, and I was like, ‘Wait a second, a guy like me gets to shoot energy out of his hands and stuff? Done! I’m here for the plasma bolts!’
Dave is his own worst enemy, the architect of his own misery. He spends his life trying to live down that moment in the Arcana Cabana when he first encountered Balthazar and Horvath. He gravitates towards physics, which is the discipline he gives his life to.
When he meets up with Balthazar again, the sorcerer tells Dave that it was no coincidence that he drifted towards physics, because although illusion and magic are different, magic and science are the same thing.
You’re filling some rather big shoes here, the legacy of Mickey Mouse.
There’s a gravity to it that’s not lost on me. When we were shooting the famous Fantasia sequence, doing our version of it when the mobs come to life, (you realize) you really can’t mess this up.
Worst case scenario, every time someone else sees the cartoon Fantasia I will be irrevocably connected to it, like, ‘I remember that punk kid and how terrible that was.’
It sounded cheesy but I felt like the ghosts of my grandparents were kind of watching me. When you’re paying homage to one of the more iconic sequences in film history, it’s right up there with the people making out on the beach in From Here to Eternity, it’s like a big one.
I tried my best to fulfill everything I had to do in terms of paying homage to the character and to the sequence whilst looking for moments where I could maybe do my own thing with it. I was scared.
What challenges did you experience working with such a big star as Nicolas Cage?
You can approach a situation like that in one of two ways. When you work with somebody who’s close to hero status, it will either make you wilt in the presence of greatness and so you just lose it all, or it makes you (say), ‘Now I’m playing with the guys that I got into it for. The guys that made me want to become an actor, and now I have my chance. I better bring my A game as hard as I possibly can.’
That’s what it was (like) with him. I got to show up on set every day and get to work and have conversations with this guy who I’ve watched since I was a little kid, and just been a huge fan of, and in awe of everything about him.
I didn’t want to blow it. It just made me want to work as hard as I possibly could to be as good as he is.
What does setting the story in Manhattan do for it?
This movie is a love letter to New York City. Anyone who has spent any time in New York knows that it is truly the world’s capital. In the film, when we’re driving in Times Square or on Sixth Avenue in the car chase, we’re actually doing it.
Everybody, including my mother, has been blown away, gobsmacked and awestruck by the size, grandeur and detail. People are going to see our movie and get taken away into a New York that they recognize, but have never really seen before.
You’re remaking one of the most beloved scenes in history – what was that process like?
Any time you’re kind of paying homage to something that has meant a lot to a lot of people for many generations, you’ve got to approach it with a degree of reverence and I like to say that we have a really great seed to start from, because the Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence in Fantasy is the seed to our oak tree, and you can pick a lot worse seeds to start from.
If we failed it would have been a big, big, big mess because Sorcerer’s Apprentice is just two words that have meant a lot to a lot of people for a long time, and hopefully we’ve given them what they’re used to, and then some.