When Night at the Museum became a holiday hit at the box office in 2006, it was inevitable that a sequel would hit theaters, and that's exactly what we got with this year's summer blockbuster Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, which was just released on DVD and Blu-ray today, on December 1. One of the cast members who came back for the sequel was Mizuo Peck, who returns as Sacajawea, along with Ben Stiller Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, and the sequel also includes newcomers to the franchise with Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest and more. I had the chance to speak with Peck over the phone, about her role in the sequel, and here's what she had to say.
The first film was obviously quite a huge hit. I was wondering if there was talk of a sequel while the first one was being made?
Mizuo Peck: When we were shooting the first one, me and some of the other characters would always like to drop hints on what could be the next one. I do remember talking about it when we were shooting the first one. We would always be like, 'Hey, let's go to Paris and do Night at the Museum at the Louvre. We were joking about that even on the second one, so who knows what could come of it. I'm glad they chose the Smithsonian, which is chocked full of characters they could bring to life.
Can you talk about what it was like to come back and reunite with the old cast members, and meeting the new cast members like Jonah Hill and Bill Hader?
Mizuo Peck: What was interesting about that, is Bill Hader and I actually flew to Vancouver together, so we met on the plane. The best story about that is, when I first sat down, I recognized him and I said hi. He told me this later but he was so embarrassed because he was reading a book that his wife had given him on General Custer, so he was really embarrassed that he had been doing that nerdy research on the plane. But we were able to talk on the plane the whole time and it was great. I had certainly watched a million documentaries on Sacajawea, so we both did our research. I was coming back, having done the first one, and he was kind of nervous. This was his first time around so it was an interesting dynamic, this big star who was my friend all of the sudden, while we were getting on set. It was really fun reuniting with the characters. It was like an old crazy camp we were at.
A lot of your scenes are actually with Bill. What was it like having him on set once he got into the character of General Custer?
Mizuo Peck: Oh yeah. He knew enough about the character that he was able to improv a bunch of stuff and he's definitely a great actor and a brilliant comedian. So a lot of the stuff that we did together was completely off the cuff, that he made his own. He knew that General Custer was very vain, so his whole thing with brushing his hair, talking about his silky, flaxen hair, was all off the cuff. He fully came up with that. Even his mispronunciation of Sacajawea's theme was improvised. I was just so honored to be able to play with him like that, because we were able to come up with some unique, fun stuff that they obviously liked.
I saw on the special features that (director) Shawn (Levy) was talking about how he would do one take of how it was in the script and then one take with the actors improvising. What was that mentality to the film like?
Mizuo Peck: That was basically what the film was like. The whole film is with these brilliant, comedic geniuses, so it's brilliant to be able to watch that happen. It's a very smart move of Shawn to get that many actors who can do that. It's such an interesting, surreal setup and situation and everything worked. Of course, Christopher Guest, and all those characters that's what they do, so it's a lot of fun. Teddy Roosevelt, Robin Williams, he can basically do whatever he wants at this time. He's so brilliant, he can just run his mouth off on any subject.
I watched the Gag Reel as well and there are some bits with Hader on there as well. Was it hard to keep a straight face around that guy?
Mizuo Peck: You know what, I'm amazingly surprised. I know there are parts of the gag reel that I am cracking up, but I tried my hardest. God forbid I would be the one to mess up a take. I tried my hardest to be as professional as possible so these comedians could do their thing and I wouldn't mess it up. I'm glad that I was able to keep a straight face most of the time. They would obviously crack up on each other, there's Ben Stiller cracking everybody up on that gag reel, and it's a whole lot of fun, but I tried to be as professional as possible for these guys to do their thing.
You mentioned that you were filming in Vancouver, but I know they filmed at the actual Smithsonian. Did you get to film any scenes over there?
Mizuo Peck: I never filmed at the Smithsonian. I know that Amy Adams and Ben Stiller did. I didn't get to film there, but I went there for the premiere, which was really exciting. It was really fun because I had never actually been to D.C. or the Smithsonian, so I went there a day early and got to do the whole tourist thing. I went to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and I was so happy to because, it's a classic place to go, but then to go to the movie the next day and see them come to life, it was really fun.
It must be kind of odd to see the Reflecting Pool and then see the movie with a big octopus crawling around in it.
Mizuo Peck: Yeah, totally. It was brilliant. I loved how they played around like that. Just seeing the Reflecting Pool in general, you're just taken aback. It's so iconic and it's great to see it and feel like an American, honorable and holy. Then it's just great fun to see a big squid flying out of it.
You worked with (director) Shawn Levy on the first film. Was there more of a shorthand with Shawn this time around? What was similar or different from this time around?
Mizuo Peck: The first one, we definitely were more intricate about who Sacajawea was and what kind of character she was, what kind of attitude he wanted for her to have. He didn't want it to be super over-done. We definitely worked out a bunch of the kinks the first time around, but when the second one came around, I definitely had a pretty good idea of what he wanted for the character. There are always little tweaks here and there and Shawn used to be an actor himself, so he's great at giving direction. We definitely knew that we wanted her to be stoic and soft-spoken and stuff like that. We sort of worked that out mostly in the first one.
You said that when you were on the first one, you were talking about ideas for the sequel. On this one, were you talking about a third one?
Mizuo Peck: Well, me and a few of the other characters definitely kept trying to get Shawn to do the Louvre because we all want to go to Paris (Laughs). Who knows. I honestly don't know why they wouldn't do a third one. It's such a fun film and it's been so educational for children, also, just getting them excited about going to museums and learning about these historical figures. I think it's a great idea to keep going.
I think it would be great to explore your relationship with Teddy in a possible third film as well.
Mizuo Peck: Yeah! That would be hysterical. Maybe we could all have spin-offs and have our stories told. They just get so complicated with storyline, though, so we couldn't want to confuse anyone with the fact that Teddy Roosevelt wasn't actually in love with Sacajawea in real life. Hopefully kids will go out there and do the studying about the actual historical realities.
Do kids come up to you on the street and recognize you as Sacajawea a lot at all?
Mizuo Peck: I don't get it on the street, because unless I'm wearing braids or my fringe outfit, it's kind of hard to recognize me in that character. I certainly get a lot of fan mail and it's certainly been inspirational for people of all ages. Actually, I have a lot of friends that are school teachers and I go to all these schools and talk to kids and they just flip out. It has been really exciting. I make a lot of people really happy just by making a few appearances here and there. The kids are the ones that think it's magical and that's just incredible to me. They actually get a kick out of meeting me and it's fun.
On the DVD there's also a whole disc on just the monkeys. I was wondering if you had any monkey experiences on the set?
Mizuo Peck: Oh, absolutely. The first time around, I didn't get to hang out with the monkeys as much. The second time around, I made it a point to hang out. Crystal is her name and Crystal is very smart and she's super sweet. That was just the cherry on top of an amazing experience. I mean, I had never hung out with a monkey before and I got to become friends with her trainers and I got to hold her and play with her. They're incredible. It's something that I might not have ever had the chance to do and I'm actually excited that on December 1, the day the DVD comes out, I'm actually going to be able to reunite with Crystal the monkey. We're going to do a little promo thing and I'm excited to see her again.
Yeah, she had a great role in this one, slapping Ben around. It was a lot of fun.
Muzuo Peck: Yeah, it was really incredible how well-trained she is.
Is there anything that you're working on now, or that you're looking to join up with in the near future?
Mizuo Peck: Well, nothing could ever top this, almost. It's been very interesting. I'm doing a lot of independent projects and I'm working on a script that I'm writing myself, but nothing could be this. It's a very hard movie to top, I must say (Laughs).
Finally, for those who haven't seen this in theaters, can you talk about why they should pick this up on DVD?
Mizuo Peck: Honestly, in my mind, this is the most exciting, spectacular movie. It's almost like a giant Brodaway musical, but without the musical. The colors, the costumes, the people, it's just so over the top and you can't go wrong. It's just super fun. What's also wonderful is that people of all ages can enjoy it. When it came out on Christmas time, it was perfect movie to go see. You could take your six-year-old kid, your grandma and you would enjoy it as well. It's really got some exciting stuff for people of all ages.
Well, that's about all I have for you, Mizuo. Thanks so much for your time, and the best of luck on maybe another sequel.
Mizuo Peck: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
You can watch Mizuo Peck as Sacajawea and a huge ensemble of comedic stars in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, which was just released on DVD and Blu-ray today, December 1.