The animated family comedy Free Birds, which opens on November 1st, tells the story of a turkey named Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson), who is recruited by Jake (voiced by Woody Harrelson), a relentless turkey and the only member of the ‘Turkey Freedom Front,’ to go back in time to Plymouth Colony, to get turkey off the menu for the first Thanksgiving’s Day dinner, thereby saving the lives of millions of future turkeys.
After hijacking a military time machine named S.T.E.V.E. (voiced by George Takei, Star Trek), Reggie and Jake immediately find themselves being hunted for Thanksgiving dinner, only to be saved by a beautiful and fierce turkey named Jenny (voiced by Amy Poehler)
The cast spoke about the movie, playing turkeys and the underlying theme of vegetarianism.
Did you and Owen know each other before, and is there anything that surprised you about him?
Woody: I was surprised. Owen does take this stuff very seriously so the first session he came and he was all in feathers!
Reggie feels like an outcast. Was there ever a time in your life where you felt like an outcast?
Owen: As a kid you want to fit in and there weren’t many other kids named Owen. That was always the first rule I would have in the neighborhood when we’d play games, that you had to have a new name for the game.
Mine was always Jim Johnson. I think every kid can relate to that.
Woody: I will never call him anything but Jim now. ‘Jim Johnson, what’s happening, pal? JJ, buddy!’
You accomplished a great buddy relationship vibe in this. Was it weird not to be in the recording studio together?
Woody: We did the first session together, but then we weren’t in the same place at the same time. He’d do something really funny and then I’d try to respond.
Owen But we did have a couple of sessions together. I don’t know if there was any more magic in those sessions.
Woody: I remember being hung over and all the magic coming from your corner.
Owen: [Woody] likes to have the last word so sometimes it’s best maybe not to have him there in the room with me.
Woody: (he laughs) I don’t know what you mean by that. You can have the last word anytime.
This movie is filled with vegetarian ideology, did you turn to vegetarianism or veganism after sympathizing with the turkeys in the story?
Owen: I don’t know that it is. I wasn’t thinking that it was vegan ideology when I wanted to play a jive turkey. I think it was more a funny idea for these guys to be traveling back in time.
We could just as easily have been playing soybeans traveling to Japan to get tofu out of Miso [soup]! I just thought turkeys were funnier than soybeans.
Amy, did you do a biography for Jenny?
Amy: This is the [type of research] I should have done before I started! It was fun to play someone who was part of a flock, which is what my character focuses on. The idea that you can’t do it alone, it’s important to stick together.
Those are universal themes that feel like ones I understand, so that was fun to play.
How important was it to do a project that you can show your children?
Amy: It’s nice to be able to work on something that you can [show your kids]. I got to show them some of the art from the film, and they were really into it, which is really cool.
I have two young boys, and they liked the idea of a buddy adventure. It speaks to them. Most of the time they are really disinterested in what you do, like most kids.
Woody: This is the first movie I’ve done that my kids can watch, even the 20-year-old! The cool thing was I asked my little 7-year-old rascal what her favorite movie was, and she goes, ‘Free Birds.’ She knows the way to my heart.
If you could travel back in time, what time period would you go back to?
Amy: I would just go back to last night and get more sleep. Is that shortsighted? (everyone laughs)
Owen: That’s not very ambitious.
Amy: I should probably think bigger.
Woody: I like the time periods that Owen went back to in Midnight in Paris. That was a good era. It would be nice to run into Henry Miller too, and some other fun people.
Owen: Yeah, that would be a good one. This is probably my inner 12-year-old, but I think about dinosaurs and Custer’s last stand. I want to see some action.
Woody: You’d be running for your life!
Woody, Owen and Amy were asked about their most memorable Thanksgiving Day. Click the video below to watch their answers…