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Angela Robinson - Director of Herbie: Fully Loaded
" 'Please take care of Herbie. Whatever your problems, he will help you solve them.' Great, a fortune cookie on wheels." Maggie Peyton couldn't believe it either. As Herbie's new owner she didn't know the half of what she was getting into. A Volkswagon Beetle that can talk back, carjack you while driving and even flirt with you by winking and revving his engine certainly isn't your normal car cruising the street or living in your garage. Like a cherished pet that crawls into your lap when you're feeling blue, Herbie feels what you feel and never questions you otherwise.

Herbie: Fully Loaded is a sequel to the classic Herbie movies of the 70s. Herbie's all grown up...well, almost. With age come some rust, a new paint job and an entirely new culture for Herbie to challenge. Angela Robinson, Director, recognized that the heart of Herbie is in you. Based on the emotions and expressions of her beloved mut, Wag, Angela took the old Herbie and allowed him to show his rust: a little bitter from being dumped in a junk yard, frustrated with Nascar and mightier than ever. Herbie's back and he's taking you along for the ride.

Can you tell me how you got involved with Herbie: Fully Loaded?

Angela Robinson: I had my first feature called D.E.B.S. which was at Sundance. I guess somebody from Disney saw it there and thought I would be great. They were kind of looking for somebody to come in and dust off the franchise for the Herbie movie. They really loved D.E.B.S. and sent me the script and I just really wanted to work with them. I came in and gave them my take on the movie and they gave me the job.

How much of the original Herbie film did you use?

AR: The concept was kind of used from the Herbie character from the original movies and brings him into a whole new circumstance. Herbie is the same kind of Herbie with his behavior, languages and stuff. Now he's in a whole new context with Nascar and a girl race-car driver and owners so the background changed, but Herbie stayed the same.

Hollywood is remaking so many great TV shows and films lately with Bewitched already out and Miami Vice on its way.

AR: Yeah, totally.

Obviously it's a trend, but it's hard to top an original. How do you think Hollywood is doing so far and how did that apply to making Herbie?

AR: What's interesting actually is what we're trying to do or what I liked about it because it wasn't typically a remake; it was kind of a new story or kind of a sequel. It was like an old character with a totally new story, but a remake is pretty much taking the originally story and redoing it. We were kind of throwing out all of the original stories from the original movies and doing a different plot with the same character. So I think the track record is pretty great because sometimes it produces not so great stuff and other times it produces great stuff.

There was some gossip and criticism surrounding the Herbie set and its lead actress before the movie was even released. How, as a director, did you handle that?

AR: You know it was actually incredibly bizarre. There were so much kind of hype surrounding the movie with internet rumors, paparazzi and that sort of thing. It was really kind of disruptive. I found that the rumor mill is totally overblown or just totally played out so I'd read stuff on the internet and be like, 'I didn't say that! That stuff didn't happen!' It was an incredibly bizarre experience, but you kind of have to take it and my response was just to work on the movie and try to make the best movie I can because it's so hard to control those other things.

Absolutely. You just have to take it in stride as much as possible. Here's an obvious question I'm sure you've already answered many times: How was Lindsay Lohan to work with on the set?

AR: She's actually a very incredible, incredible performer. I've actually answered this question so many times! She's an incredibly talented actor and really, really fun to work with because she's incredibly efficient. She does it in like one or two takes. It comes in and out and you're, like 'Okay! So I guess that's it!' It's wild. And she's incredibly talented, but she's doing it very deceptively. I think it takes straight acting chops to be able to act with an inanimate object and make you feel like it's alive. Way harder than an incredible actor who gives you a lot of stuff to work with, you know. I actually really take my hat off to her for her performance.

Yeah, I would think talking to a car would be a challenge.

AR: Yeah, right! But she was in it and you're like 'Okay, she's talking to a car…and I believe the car's alive!' Really funny.

I hear she's a bear to work with, but was also going through some personal struggles with her father while filming. But for another reason too, I agree that she actually makes me feel that the car is real as well. So, for other reasons, why did you cast her as your lead?

AR: I really felt that she was the only person I had in mind and had already talked to Disney about doing the movie. But I just feel like she has a real kind of toughness and vulnerability at the same time which I think is really rare. I could believe that she actually wanted to be a race car driver. She's got the kind of really funky energy that I think lends itself to the character and Disney, too; but I think she's one of the most talented actors out there.

Lohan's known as being somewhat of a remake actress with her breakout role being in The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday. Did that have anything to do with casting as well?

AR: Well I know she had a relationship with Disney and they liked working with her so it was all in the family already, but they said I could look at other actors. But I really wanted her because she was the best person for the part – hands down.

Herbie's similar to the Little Train That Could and I drew a similarity between them as Herbie being the Little Car That Could.

AR: Yeah, totally.

What do you think this symbolizes to children and young adults?

AR: I know when I saw the first Herbie movie I remember really wanting my parents' cars to be alive. You spend so much time in your car that you actually develop a relationship with it – love or hate – you know? And I think it's just a real easy step to want your car to be your friend, but I think I kind of like the magical premise that everybody can really relate to. But, above that I really like the message of the movie to follow your own path and to be independent. I really like underdog stories. I really like that it was a girl who wanted to be a racecar driver. I thought it was a dream, especially when Lindsay put her hands through the roof of the car. During the screening; a little girl stood up in her chair and put her hands up like she won the race, too. I was like, 'That's so great.' Now she's like five and she's seeing this movie and she think she can win the race and she can compete and she can stand up for herself and follow her heart so I thought that was a really powerful thing to do.

Well Nascar is normally reserved for men so I was happy to see a female lead rather than your typical young boy teenager who wants to race cars.

AR: Yeah totally, totally. It was a woman giving everyone a run for their money.

Herbie has so much personality. I know that when I was little I had a relationship with my parents' cars as well. Do you think adults appeal to it just because of the car or for other reasons?

AR: I really made the movie for kids and their parents and teenagers, too because I feel like the appeal is…I really think Herbie is the kind of focus and the star and you think of him the way you think of other people, but also the relationship between Lindsay and Michael Keaton and the kind of father-daughter story really pulls you in and kind of the second centerpiece of the movie. I wanted the movie to have a lot of heart so that it was incredibly silly and funny, but that there were also real things at stake, that you didn't really want her to betray Herbie. I was watching it during the screening and there was this little, cynical 9-year-old next to me and he was such a like, precocious kid, but when Herbie was racing the other car the same kid was like, "NOOO!" and let out this blood curdling scream in the middle of the theater. He really got wrapped up in the story of what it means to be a good friend and not just floating down the river, but actually being able to negotiate what you want but still be a good person.

How did you get the car to wink and hop down the street? The crew explained some of it in the special features, but I'd like to hear from you how you got to do all of the facial expressions on Herbie that you'd normally see on pets and humans.

AR: It was incredibly complex. We had four animatronics cars. I really wanted it to not be Super FG and Morphy which is like one way to go. Instead we used animatronics cars so they could wink the eye and the bumper could go up and down on its hydraulic and move pretty much the full series of movements that Herbie had. I kind of modeled him after my dog. And in addition to that we had visual effects to augment the animatronics cars and to do stuff that we couldn't physically do with mechanical aspects.

What kind of dog do you have?

AR: I have a mut. His name is Wag. He's really cute and he knows he has a lot of Herbie-like mannerisms so I was like, 'Wag, you're going to be immortalized on film for a year!' You talk about Herbie's personality in the bonus features. What kind of a person do you think Herbie would be?

AR: I was trying to figure that out because I always thought that he was like a bratty 11-year-old boy, but I suppose he's a pretty old man at this point. I always thought of him as like 11, but have a very Napoleon complex, as does my dog. My dog is so small, but just doesn't understand that he is. He'll take on like any pit bull or masculine dog. He'll take on any dog and I'm like, 'Wag, you don't understand.' He doesn't like people to think that he can't do it or can't handle it. I feel like Herbie's really the same.

I think that having a dog for inspiration is the best, an unconditional friend and unquestioned love.

AR: Totally. And I think Herbie is the same. If you're nice to him and good to him he'll be your friend forever. He'll be the most loyal, fun, joyous friend ever, you know what I mean? He gets his feelings hurt and he acts out and then he's incredibly depressed when they're not friends anymore. Then, Lindsay goes and saves him from the demo derby because he's really lost all hope. He's really a lot like the Velveteen Rabbit because he needed an owner to feel loved.

- Danielle Henbest


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