Ellen DeGeneres doesn’t do voices.
Excluding her own, of course, and that’s why when “Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton called to offer her the role of Dory, she wasn’t sure what he expected of her.
Fortunately, Stanton had built the character around her normal speaking voice. By most accounts, it worked so well that the awards buzz about the thesp’s voice perf — the most in recent history — should come as no real surprise.
Stanton wrote the part for DeGeneres and was prepared for disaster if she said no. “I sent her the script and then called her two days later and said, ‘I wrote this part for you and I’m fucked if you don’t take it.’ And she said, ‘Well, then, I better take it.’ ”
DeGeneres was flattered that the part had been inspired by her, as her sitcom had just ended and offers weren’t exactly flowing. The challenges of acting solely through her voice intrigued her as well.
“For me it was really challenging because I do a lot of physical comedy and I have pauses and spaces that are as much the comedy as the words are. It’s about the silence, for me, in a lot of what I do, and facial expressions.”
Thesp sees a divergence from the common perception of a comedienne’s range in the more dramatic scenes. “I’m funny, obviously — that’s what people pay me for,” she says, “but I’m also a human being with … a lot of sadness and a lot of pain, and it wasn’t really hard for me to cry. In the end, what was draining for this character was that she was like a 5-year-old.”
The comedienne, who’s now throwing herself into her talkshow, never thought the part would amount to much, let alone generate Oscar buzz.
“I figured it was a small part. I thought, It’s called ‘Finding Nemo’ and it’s about a father looking for a son. And it turned out to be something.”