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Cars 2 – Stars Owen Wilson and Eddie Izzard on identifying with their characters

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Cars 2 - Eddie Izzard and Owen Wilson
Miles Axelrod (voice by Eddie Izzard) and Lightning McQueen (voice by Owen Wilson) © 2011 Disney/Pixar

Owen Wilson returns as the voice of racecar Lightning McQueen in Cars 2. In his new adventure, Lightning and his best friend, tow truck Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) find themselves headed overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix. But the road to the finish line is filled with plenty of potholes, as Mater is mistakenly ensnared in an intriguing escapade of his own – international espionage.

Owen Wilson and British star Eddie Izzard, who voices the character of Miles Axlerod, a former oil baron who has converted himself into an electric vehicle, spoke with us about their new movie.

How do you each identify with your characters in Cars 2?

Cars 2 - Eddie Izzard
Miles Axlerod (voice by Eddie Izzard) © 2011 Disney/Pixar

Owen Wilson: Well, they sound a lot like us. I think maybe the enthusiasm that Lightning McQueen has. I like that quality.

Eddie Izzard: The businessman (in his Miles Axlerod character). I was doing accounting and financial management at Sheffield University before I said “No. Let’s chuck that in”. I was never going to be that but I can do that stuff. Doing gigs in French is a brilliant business idea but it’s really tough work.

I do identify with that and the Richard Branson-esque quality (that Miles has). I do like great new ideas, even though there is a twist in my character that takes us to a different place.

Did the voice of Lightning McQueen come right back to you this second time around or did it take a while to get the feel of the character?

Cars 2 - Owen Wilson
Owen Wilson with director John Lasseter © 2011 Disney/Pixar

Owen: No. I would say it came right back. I was excited that John Lasseter was directing again so it was nice to be working with him and this story was even more fun to do than the first one because the character was already established.

On the first one, it was a lot of figuring the tone and on this one it was a great adventure that these characters are on. I liked the friendship between Mater and Lightning McQueen, and think it was a hilarious, interesting thing to explore.

You’ve been all over the world doing publicity and shooting films. Is the car culture as prevalent in other countries? We love cars here.

Eddie: Yeah. Every country has an obsession with cars; may be a boy thing but no, my niece is into cars and gadgets and I like that. In different countries it might be different cars, but John Lasseter would know and they’ll be in the film. There might be more American cars that we (Europeans) might not know round the world but everyone has their own favorite cars.

What was your first car?

Cars 2 - Owen Wilson
Lightning McQueen (Voiced by Owen Wilson) © 2011 Disney/Pixar

Eddie: Volkswagen Beetle. I was born in Aden Yemen and my dad bought one and taught himself to drive it. There was no police so he drove around hitting things. I grew up in Volkswagen Beetles which I didn’t realize were created in Nazi Germany.

Owen: Didn’t that mean “the people’s car”.

Eddie: Yeah, volks, people’s wagen but it was promoted by a Jewish advertising company in New York so we’ve taken it over and it’s become the Love Bug and a Hippy car. I have one right now.

But my first car was a mini. My dad had told me never to buy one. I went to university and I was hitching back there and it was raining (a car picked me up) and there was water in the floor of this mini and the guy said, ‘I’m selling this’. I said, ‘How much?’ ‘50 quid.’ I said, ‘Alright. I’ll buy it’. So I had this piece of junk, but it was a nice piece of junk.

I drove down from London when I left university and the windshield wipers broke and you can’t actually drive in the rain without them. I tried to sell it and took all the good bits and put them on another mini. The guy came round to buy it and the axle went. The front wheels were pointing into each other and I had the temerity to ask him, ‘So, what do you think?’

Cars 2 - Owen Wilson
Owen Wilson during the voice a recording session on August 25, 2010 © 2011 Disney/Pixar

Owen: The first car I had was a blue Chevrolet Blazer which I later wrecked driving back to Dallas from my first year at USC. My parents didn’t want me to drive straight through and I was like “No. I’ll be fine” and I drove straight through and I was a little bit tired and the car went off the road and was totaled.

Did you ever have a lemon car that you really loved?

Owen: No. I had a Nissan Maxima after the Blazer. I wouldn’t say I loved the car but it was a very functional car. Then the first car I got when I got out here was a Nissan Maxima and that was more because I got bowled over by the sales people.

I go in and the next thing I know I’m in the office with the salesman and had agreed to buy. I asked him, ‘Can you just tell me if I’m overpaying a lot for this car?’ He said, ‘I’ve seen people pay more.’ (he laughs)

What car would you want?

Eddie: An Aston Martin DB 5 or 6. I can never quite tell the difference but they are gorgeous and James Bond had people fly out the roofs of them or an E-type Jag. Michael Caine’s (character) is part of that in the film.

Your character moves so fast. Was that fun to watch for you?

Owen: I move kind of slow so it’s nice to see something I’ve given voice to that has some energy!