As the title hero of the stop-motion animated film ParaNorman (out Aug. 17), Kodi Smit-McPhee gives voice to an 11-year-old kid who is capable of seeing, and speaking, to the dead. It’s certainly familiar territory for the young Australian actor, best known for the bleak post-apocalyptic film The Road and the grim vampire tale Let Me In. “Actually, my favorite genre is comedy,” he says with a laugh. “It’s pretty ironic and funny that I always get these kind of dramatic, sad, kind of low-down movies that are really intense, I guess. But I don’t mind. I think it’s good to get those types of movies, ‘cause they’re the ones that stick with you.”
As you can see in the exclusive photo from ParaNorman below, the character of Norman Babcock has to deal with some very spooky business. Smit-McPhee says never really got that scared himself doing the role, but acting the non-verbal noises that come with being chased by petrifying zombies was definitely a challenge. “An example would be when [Norman’s] on the toilet and it starts to shake, I would have to actually sit in the chair and shake myself,” he says. “That’s probably the hardest part, just all those weird noises. We went from like little [heavy breathing] pants, and worked our way up even bigger, bigger, bigger, to terrified stuff. It was actually pretty draining.”
Check out this first look from the film to get a sense of what’s causing Smit-McPhee’s Norman all this consternation (click on the image for a larger version):
There was one part of the process of making ParaNorman that did truly unnerve Smit-McPhee. The actor, now 16 years old, recorded the role in 10 sessions that spanned roughly from 2009 through 2011 – a precariously long stretch of time for a boy entering adolescence.
“I was noticing by the end, I worked harder to get my voice up into the Norman voice,” he says with an abashed chuckle. “Not only was my voice already high [as the character], I would put on the American accent and then make it higher. By the end of it, my voice was cracking and dropping, and I was like, ‘Oh man, I don’t know if I can do this.’ I think by the last session, we had recorded a little bit, and they were like, ‘Alright, I think that’s it. We just squeezed the last bit out of you.’ My Norman voice is gone and stuck with that movie.”