Interview: James Marsden's Royal Best
Actor James Marsden has done the superhero thing, playing Cyclops in the "X-Men" movies and standing in as Superman's romantic rival in "Superman Returns." But now he's stepping into a different pair of tights altogether: Playing Prince Edward in "Enchanted," Marsden springs from the animated world of Andalasia into the real-life hubbub of Manhattan, complete with a sword, royal crest, and an ego that he wears on his puffy sleeve. Edward's single-minded in his goal: Save his princess, Gisele (Amy Adams), and take her home for their wedding day. Nothing's that simple in New York City, though, and Prince Edward has to fend off everything from busses to bicyclists to find his one true love.
We talked to Marsden about how he played his Prince Charming.
Beware: Some spoilers ahead.
How do you feel playing a character that will probably live on for a long time?
It's exciting. I have a 6-year-old boy and a 2-year-old daughter and it's definitely something I took into consideration when I [decided to pursue] this role. I grew up with Disney movies. And I'm really shocked and honored that I qualified to play the prince.
What was walking out on the streets of Manhattan in your elaborate costume like?
It was exciting, terrifying, and mortifying all at the same time. The first week of shooting we did the scene [where Prince Edward climbs] on top of the bus. It was like a dream or a nightmare, depending on how you look at it. It was like you could go down two roads, one being, "This is going to traumatize me for the rest of my life," or, "I'm going to enjoy this. I'll claim it."
Prince Edward has a lot of funny qualities. Being oblivious to a lot of things, being kind of vain and self-centered. Do you think those characteristics come from any of the Disney princes?
When I read the script for the first time, the first thing that popped into my head was that he doesn't seem like the prince from "Snow White." [Edward] seems a lot more full of himself. It was always written in the script that he did have a healthy ego. I think it was decided that — to make the humor work and make the audience be okay with [Gisele] finding someone else — the prince was allowed to be a bit more over-the-top. I couldn't play it like the prince in "Cinderella" because it wouldn't be funny. This movie has to achieve a different response without being disrespectful. There were constant talks about finding the right tone. [I was] playing a cartoon character but the key is to not really be precious or cute. There has to be a sincerity to the character. Prince Edward has an innocent narcissism about him.
He never gets what [animated chipmunk] Pip's saying. Is he little dense?
He's simple! Things come very easily to him. When someone asks him, "Do you like yourself?" he says, "What's not to like?" But it doesn't come from a place of "I'm better than you," it's just an innocence and simplicity. He's less curious than Gisele is. She allows herself to learn from [her situation] and evolve, whereas the prince is just thinking, 'This is dirty and smelly and not as easy as I'm used to. I'm gonna find my princess because that's what it says to do in the Prince Handbook and go back to our wedding."
Do you think there's a parallel between the prince and Hollywood stars?
Yes, I guess nowadays celebrities are sort of American royalty. Which is really sad. (Laughs.) But yes, back in his world, I guess he's looked at as a celebrity.
You said you did this movie because you wanted something your kids could go see. What did your kids think of the movie? And, as a parent, do you find it's really hard to find a movie to take your kids to go see?
It's not really hard to find, there's plenty of family-friendly movies that kids can go see. It's great to do a film that the kids can enjoy with me. I took my 6-year-old to a private screening and he really enjoyed it. [At that age], his mind is thinking, "Well, this is really interesting" but still coming to terms with his father is wearing this ridiculous outfit and chasing a woman who's not Mom. (Laughs.) He liked seeing me in the costume and thought the sword was cool but as a 6-year-old, they'll watch a movie and it's real for them. It's not make-believe. So I have to help him understand what I do, that I tell stories basically with different characters.