Emily Mortimer discusses voicing Holley Shiftwell in Cars 2

Actress Emily Mortimer discusses lending her voice to Holley Shiftwell in Cars 2

Back in March, I was fortunate enough to take the trip up to picturesque Emeryville, California to visit the amazing Pixar facility once again. I was part of a select group of press members who got a sneak peek at the animation studio's latest endeavor, Cars 2, which hits theaters across the country on June 24. We were also able to speak with several cast and crew members who helped shape this summer sequel into the blockbuster it surely will be, one of which was the lovely Emily Mortimer.

The British actress lends her voice to Holley Shiftwell, a British spy apprentice who is learning from legendary operative Finn McMissile (Michael Caine). Their assignment leads them to cross paths with the loveable Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) and his race car buddy Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) as they take part in the World Grand Prix, an international race which will determine who is the best in the world, in any division.

Emily Mortimer was on hand at the Pixar event, where I and another international journalist were able to speak with her about her first Pixar experience. Here's what she had to say below.

Your character in the film is a suave, British spy. Did you gain any inspiration by watching spy films, or anything like that?

Emily Mortimer: Well, I've seen enough spy films in my life to know what the genre is that we're playing with. Also, I felt that the most interesting way to do that was to not be like a spy, but to be yourself within that genre. That's how the character really is. She is in that world, and she is very technically savvy. She knows the world of espionage and she's been to spy school, but she's never done it before. She's never been in the field. That was what I drew on, mainly, which I'm very familiar with, being an actor (Laughs). You're always in these completely unfamiliar situations and you're not quite sure you have the tools to cope with them. Then, finding out along the way, that you probably know more than you think you do. That was more of what I was thinking of.

I believe the only other voice work you had done was Howl's Moving Castle. That film was already done and you were doing the English-language version. How would you describe this experience at Pixar, in developing the character, compared to something like Howl's Moving Castle?

Emily Mortimer: It was completely different, not in the sense that you're in a room on your own, and there are no other actors there. In the case of Howl's, there was the movie to see, so I was doing it to the movie. I was dubbing the movie, and I always have these four Japanese actors I'm hearing all the time. That was confusing, for that reason, but in some ways simpler, and it took much less time. But, I was unfamiliar since I was not acquainted with (Hayao) Miyazaki before I had started that movie. I was educating myself with him all along, and by the end, I was obsessed about him and his work, and, have since, have seen them all. I was finding out about the world of his movies, whereas Pixar, I knew everything about it. I have a seven-year-old son, whose first words were practically Nemo. I had seen all the movies, and I didn't need to know anything about them, but the process was much more organic and collaborative. You do the first few sessions, when you're laying down the whole part, then they change things and you redo bits, but you put down the main basis of the role in the first two or three sessions. They video you while you're doing it, so they're using your gestures and physicality to view the character. Right from the beginning, you feel very invested in the part, and you realize, in a funny way, more than in any other film, I felt personally invested in the sense that this is sort of me, like this car is me. This is occurring to me as I'm speaking, so it might be a bit convoluted, but I find that normally, you're trying to find your way into another character, and with this, the way they were videoing me while I was talking, they were looking to find me, and make this car me. It was kind of a cool and different approach from any I've done before. I loved the process that they have here. They go away and fit it all together, and start animating it, and then they show it to everybody in Pixar. They all sit down and watch it, all the other directors and animators working on other movies, they sit down and watch it. I think it's every month or every few weeks, and they all get their notes and they all have their input on it. Of course, John Lasseter is the absolute genius behind it, and his fingerprints are on every frame of the movie, you feel he understands the basic notion of filmmaking, that it's all collaborative and that's how you get the best results.

To what extent do you think that Holley Shiftwell is an important female role model? Do you think this is important in children's films?

Emily Mortimer: For me, I very much sympathize with that feeling that I should know what I'm doing, but I don't, and then realizing that I do. I think that's a familiar feeling for a lot of women, and if you trust yourself and just put yourself into the fray, especially in a man's world where everybody else seems so confident, you can stand strong and be as impressive as any man. In Holley's case, of all characters in the movie, she's the most technically impressive. What's sweet about her is she knows it, but doesn't really believe it. Then, towards the end of the film, you see her really getting it and she becomes much more confident with all the things that she can do. My experience of being a woman in a highly-pressured world, is similar to Holley's. In hope that's inspiring to girls.

You can watch Emily Mortimer's Holley Shiftwell in action when Cars 2 hits theaters nationwide on June 24. Be sure to check back over the next few weeks for much more coverage from this special Cars 2 press event. You can also CLICK HERE to read my exclusive interview with composer Michael Giacchino.