Interview: The Croods: A New Age director Joel Crawford on finally getting a sequel off the ground and the coup of the original cast returning

To coincide with the US release of the hotly anticipated sequel The Croods: A New Age (set for a North American date of November 25th), our own Peter Gray caught up with the film’s director, Joel Crawford, to discuss the coup of reuniting the original cast and furthering the emotional aspect of the original story.

It must be nice to talk about a movie during a lockdown…

Yeah! (laughs) I mean, it’s not in person which would’ve been more fun, but we’ve been working on this for so long that it’s nice to be able to share this.  The trailer just kept getting pushed, so I’m excited to talk about it.

I know the sequel was pretty much announced off the success of the first film back in 2013, and it appeared to go through that “will they or won’t they” in making the film.  How far into the process did you come on board?

That’s a good question.  They had a sequel going for a couple of years here before I was involved that Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco (the co-directors and writers of The Croods) were involved in.  There’s a version of the sequel that existed but never really got off the ground.  I came on, must’ve been 3 years ago, and we hit the ground running! The studio and everyone involved was excited about making it, so it’s been pretty much “go” since then.

I understand the original story was focusing on motherhood specifically, and it’s quite ironic that this story looks to touch on being isolated from the world and that wanting to be free.  Did you have any input as to where the story went?

A lot of it was ingredients that were handed to Mark Swift (the producer) and I when we came on.  We liked all these elements, all these talented people had been working on this for a while, but we wanted to go in a different direction than the motherhood direction.  One thing that naturally evolved was that it was fun to come onto this film as a fan of the first Croods.  I didn’t work on it but I loved the characters and that it was about the power of family.  It was very much a father-daughter story, but what stood out to me was that it was all about these very different characters.  It’s rare to have all these different entry points that an audience can relate to, and I think that’s the standout power of that movie, the relatability.  So I really wanted to continue with this family who, against all odds, is surviving in a crazy, dangerous, unstable world.  And what makes them survive is not their caveman strength, but this family bond that they have.

You obviously had specific goals in advancing the relationships of these characters…

Yeah, I mean I just loved the father-daughter story from The Croods, so that was something I wanted to continue.  Although they already got to a great place in the first movie, there’s also the next steps in life.  They survived the end of the world, but dynamics change, and I love continuing with where do Eep (Emma Stone’s character) and Guy (Ryan Reynolds) leave off (with their romantic relationship) and how does Grug (Nicolas Cage) accept the change that his daughter is now grown up? So we definitely further those themes of a father not wanting his daughter to leave “the pack” – as they call it – but she’s ready, and her relationship with Guy starts off where it ended in the first film.  They’re the only two teenagers in the world, so naturally they belong together, but that relationship is constantly tested (in The Croods 2).  The reason they belong together is not because they’re the only two teenagers in the world, they’re two pieces of a puzzle that complement each other, and it’s their unique little quirks that draw them to each other.  They decide to be together.

The first film had Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage…was there ever any doubt that they would come back? It’s a pretty massive coup to get that cast back all these years later.

(Laughs) You said it! What a gift that was!  You look at where these actors were 7 years ago and they’re all way busier now.  But they were all so generous with their time, and so excited to be a part of it.  The amount of engagement and openness to play really added so much to their characters.  They really didn’t just want to stop at where their characters were in the first film.  Nic Cage just rolled with the emotional aspect of Grug talking about his family, and he’s able to bring so much heart and comedy to that.  Ryan and Emma were so fantastic to work with, Emma really loved going crazy with just how extreme Eep could be in this.  And then on top of that, we got to add Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran (as The Betterman family), and it was the same process where we improvised going back and forth, a lot of playing.

I was going to ask about the new cast additions. Were Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran the actors envisioned for these characters? Or did they come on board much later?

Some were already attached when I came on board.  Leslie Mann was already attached to the previous version of The Croods 2.  She has the most amazing comedic timing and sensibilities that I wasn’t willing to let go of.  Other characters, because we rewrote them, we changed the casting.  Kelly Marie Tran brought such an enthusiastic, bright-eyed, quirky quality to Dawn that when we heard it we knew she was who we wanted.

You directed the Trolls Holiday Special, did that help in finding your feet in taking on a feature-length movie such as this?

Umm….no (laughs).  Obviously all the experiences add up, but this was a huge undertaking.  I’ve never directed a full feature before, but yes in terms of working with the actors, working with animation.  You find your own sensibilities, and for me, some of it is a bit broader but it holds the heart of the first film.  It was informative of what I wanted to bring to Croods 2.

The Croods: A New Age is releasing in American cinemas on November 25th.  An Australian release will follow on December 26th 2020.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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