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Interview: Mizuo Peck of ‘Night at the Museum 2’

Posted on December 1, 2009 at 3:40 pm

In the middle of all the special effects and silly fun of the “Night at the Museum” movies is one character who lends the real heart to the story: Sacajawea, played by Mizuo Peck with such sweet, quiet dignity that it is no wonder Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams) falls in love with her. I had a chance to talk with her about my home-town museum, the Smithsonian, and what it’s like to film a love scene with Robin Williams. The movie is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

NM: This may sound silly, but who are you playing, Sacajawea or a statue of Sacajawea?

MP: That was an interesting question that we were thinking about the entire time when we were shooting. Was Teddy Roosevelt in pain? No he isn’t because he is made out of wax. So we don’t really have the history of the actual figure. But I personally as an actress did a lot of research about Sacajawea and approached the role as if I were a wax statute who was identifying with her.

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NM: She was such an amazing character!

MP: Doing the research on her life was almost the most amazing part about this! I didn’t know much about her before. In the back of everyone’s mind, there’s Pocahontas and Sacajawea but we don’t learn much about them in school. I got to read and watch really cool documentaries and find out what a powerful and important historical figure she was. I was very, very proud to play someone so exciting. There’s all sorts of fun things to learn about her. The Lewis and Clark expedition might not have been successful without her.

She was not an official member of the Corps of Discovery. She was just the wife of one of the translators. But her contribution was essential. She was able to dig up roots when all the men were just about eating their horses. Her being there, a woman with a baby, made their encounters peaceful because it showed that Lewis and Clark weren’t there for war. There were all these swarthy men doing this expedition in the dead of winter and she was a young woman holding a newborn on her back the entire time, so more power to her!

NM: We in Washington were very excited that the second film was set in the Smithsonian. Did you visit the museum when you were here?

MP: Yes, the premiere was there at the Air and Space Museum so I got there a day early and my boyfriend and I got there and did the whole tourist thing, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Going to the museum is most definitely a different experience after making the movie! And it’s such a great aspect of the movie that it makes kids want to go to the museum and check out all these characters.

NM: What’s it like to play the love interest of Robin Williams?

MP: Extremely bizarre, I must say! One of the first scenes we did, he’s looking at me through the glass and I’m still getting over that there’s a huge giant star in front of me and then the fact that he is doting on me? And in the second one, I had a scene on a horse with him. I’m just like “pinch me” because it was incredibly surreal! We had a lot of down tme together so we got to joke around a bunch. One scene started with us in an embrace. We would get into position and be hugging and then there would be a wait before “action” and there were so many funny moments where we would be talking while we were in this hug! It is impossible not to enjoy him.

NM: Did you have a lot of special effects work?

MP: I didn’t have to do as much as the other characters like Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan. In the first one, Robin Williams was wearing green tights in the scene where he was in two pieces and it was funny to see him like that.

NM: What are you doing next?

MP: Nothing like this giant blockbuster! Some independent movies and my own script.

NM: What makes you laugh?

MP: When people do silly things, and when my boyfriend tickles me. The movie “Nacho Libre” — it’s so silly, but Jack Black makes me laugh.

NM: What’s your dream role?

MP: I always like it when a woman starts off vulnerable and gains strength, a really intense arc — I like complex characters. I’ve always been attracted to the role in “La Femme Nikita.” She starts at such a low point and keeps her vulnerability but becomes a real bad ass!

NM: What inspires you?

MP: You find inspiration all over the place. I’m a born New Yorker so just the people on the street give me inspiration, being exposed to so many different kinds of people. We all are so different but we all want the same thing, love, trying to make a living. We’re all so different and diverse but it boils down to a certain sense of love and happiness. That’s kind of inspirational to me.

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Actors Behind the Scenes Interview

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Posted on November 30, 2009 at 8:00 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild action and brief language
Profanity: Brief schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extensive comic/action violence, no one hurt
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: May 22, 2009
Date Released to DVD: December 1, 2009
Amazon.com ASIN: B002GJTYIW

Everything is bigger, better, and especially funnier in this sequel to the surprise hit Night at the Museum. In the original, Larry (Ben Stiller) was an unsuccessful inventor who took at job as a security guard at New York’s Museum of Natural History and found that all of the exhibits came to life at night. With the help of Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams), and the young Pharaoh Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek), Larry was able to reconcile the dispute between a cowboy named Jedediah (Owen Wilson) with his neighboring diorama-mate Octavius (Steve Coogan), tame both a dinosaur skeleton and an enormous totemic sculpture, and defeat the bad guys who tried to set him up and steal the magic tablet.

As this film begins, Larry has achieved his dream of success and is doing infomercials with inventions like the glow-in-the-dark flashlight. He is so busy he seldom sees his old friends at the museum and he is shocked to find that they have all been packed up. The museum is going all 2.0 and is about to be tricked up with fancy interactive animatronics. And all of the old exhibits are being shipped off to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, not for display but for storage.

And that is how Larry, the Museum of Natural History exhibits from the first movie, and dozens of new characters from the world’s biggest museum complex in Washington DC, the Smithsonian. Ahkmenrah’s evil brother Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) wants to use the tablet to raise an army of the dead to take over the world. Larry will have to rely on his old friends and some new ones, like Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) and George Armstrong Custer (Bill Hadar) to fight Kahmunrah and his allies Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Napoleon (Alain Chabat), and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal), who is in black and white because he was brought to life from an old photograph.

Yes, even the pictures, paintings, the gift shop bobble heads and the sculptures come to life in this film and there is one sequence where Larry escapes into Alfred Eisenstadt’s classic photo of VJ Day in Times Square, and he later empties the water out of a Turner seascape. The special effects are exceptionally well done, but what makes the movie work is its inspired cast, all having a blast and trying to top each other. Over and over, the same old gag works just fine as the best all-star comedy cast since “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” finds the sweet spot between action and inspired silliness.

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Action/Adventure Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy For the Whole Family

‘Night at the Museum 2’ Press Conference, Part 1

Posted on May 16, 2009 at 11:22 am

Yesterday, I attended a press conference at the historic Smithsonian Castle and had the immeasurable and almost-surreal pleasure of sitting opposite Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, director Shawn Levy, and screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, who were in Washington DC to talk about the sequel to the unexpected blockbuster “Night at the Museum.” This one is set in the world’s biggest (and in my biased opinion, best) museum complex, the Smithsonian Institution. I will be posting more shortly, but as a starter, here’s a short clip with Amy Adams talking about her role as Amelia Earhart and Levy talking about what he wants children and their families to learn from the film.

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