Kubo and the Two Strings ~ EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, & Matthew McConaughey #KuboMovie

by Heather


Last week I shared with you what it was like to sit down with the Director of Kubo and the Two Strings, Travis Knight. I may have failed to mention that Travis is also the CEO of LAIKA. I don’t know about you but it’s not every day that I get to sit down with the CEO of a company that has brought us hits like Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls!

I have to admit that when I walked into the theater to screen Kubo and the Two Strings I had no idea what to expect. I had watched the trailers and the film looked cute but I wasn’t sure I was going to get into it. I walked out in love with the movie and can’t wait to see it again; this time with my family. Sitting down with Travis gave me more background on how the story was born, how Kubo came to be … the story behind the story … and my appreciation of the movie grew that much more. But you see, sitting down with Travis was just the beginning. We also had the opportunity to sit down with the movie’s stars, Art Parkinson {voice of Kubo}, Charlize Theron {voice of Monkey}, and Matthew McConaughey {voice of Beetle}!

Kubo Collage

For the Press Conference, there was a stage of sorts with seating set up for the talent. Before them is rows of chairs where the media sits so we can ask questions, take pictures, take notes, etc… why am I telling you this? Because, I was sitting in the FIRST ROW, CENTER, RIGHT IN FRONT! Out of everyone in the room, I was the closest. Charlize was sitting right in front of me. I made eye contact with Matthew on a number of occasion. Hmm, I should probably call him Matt now … that makes us good friends, right? I got to see Art ease into his stride of a Press Conference; keep in mind he is still 14 year old. It was absolutely amazing. I can tell you that Charlize is absolutely gorgeous. She was gracious, humble, and personable. Matthew was downright hot. Yes, I said it! I wondered if he would disappoint in person but I assure you … he didn’t. He has a brilliant smile, he engages you as though you are old friends, and he fidgeted with a straw during the interview which I found downright endearing. Art is a cutie pie … as a mom, I think it is fair to say that and you will know what I mean. I couldn’t help but smile when he spoke, he had a great rapport with Charlize and Matthew, and I loved listening to him talk about his relationship with his mom.

So, now that we’ve set the scene … here is what I learned during our time with Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, and Matthew McConaughey!


Difficult Subject Matter … Was It A Draw?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: That’s something LAIKA seems to do with all their projects. They don’t really pander down to the age group. They deal with adult themes in a way that’s digestible for kids. There’s always a good moral to the story, that’s learned in the middle of the adventure. I liked their previous work and this script had all that.

CHARLIZE THERON: I in general love directness. I was raised with a lot of directness. And I think in storytelling we sometimes forget that with children, and there was something about this that was just so clear, and I love that. And I think, as far as taste goes, I like that there’s nothing about this that kind of shies away from very, very real issues and things and I think at the end of the day that makes it very powerful and refreshing because we don’t see a lot of that. I was very excited to be a part of that.

ART PARKINSON: I think it’s a very family-oriented film. I think it’s a very relatable family-oriented film because some of the problems that the family faces in the film is very relatable to every family. So I think that’s definitely what drew me to the project.


Preparing For The Film

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: This was my first animated voice I’ve ever done. I tried to get on quite a few other films but never got it. [LAUGHTER] And I’d just had children, so with three kids, a lot of my friends were like asking them, so what’s your favorite movie your dad did? And they’re like, well, we’ve never seen any of ‘em.” I haven’t made any films in about 10 years that they could see. Yeah, sit down, guys, let’s watch True Detective. So I was looking for something and I think Travis heard an interview that I did on NPR, and they reached out after that. What’d I do for preparation? I mean, I didn’t try too hard to prepare for anything, it was there in the script and then I was listening to the guys. You know, when you walk in the sushi bars and I was all [SPEAKING JAPANESE], and I threw a little bit of that in there and yeah, I sort of found it on the day for me. We didn’t actually work together in those scenes, but that wasn’t difficult really at all. And then just started creating on the day and then we’d talk with Travis and say, how do you like this, how do you like that, and this is the tact I’m on, and we were off.

CHARLIZE THERON: Very similar. I’ve always joked that my kids would have to be 52 before they could see anything I’ve been in. [LAUGHTER] So it’s nice that that now has changed. There was such a constant conversation, the process was really laid back and very relaxing and I loved it, because I had never done a voice either, other than to my son sometimes when I read and he would always say, “Don’t do that! [LAUGHTER] You sound weird.” [OVERLAPPING] Dude, I’m doing a Russian accent, like this is cool. So you know, I was nervous too because I didn’t really know the process but the process is very relaxed, and very much like other films.

It’s really kind of coming back to the core and the foundation of storytelling and Travis was really encouraging of keeping things very grounded and very real, and so I felt comfortable with that. I didn’t know if that was how this process would be. I didn’t know if there were things that kind of bled outside my comfort zone with this process, but it’s very much like any other movie I’ve done before. You’re just trying to kind of look at the material and have that inform you. It was really nice. Art and I got to do some stuff together which was really helpful too, to have him in the room, and we got to play off each other a little bit. Although I don’t recognize him right now. I’m like having a moment of who is this man sitting next to me?

ART PARKINSON: Yeah, I had a big afro at the time. For me, for every project I do, me and my mum do a lot of work together, in pre-production, whether it be looking over the script and reading over the script together. Then, the night before, really studying the character and talking about the different ways that we can portray the character. Travis also helped a lot because he’s such a down to earth person so he’s easy to talk to. So there’s never sort of shy away from throwing in an idea, and Travis was always very encouraging in the ways that I wanted to portray the character, and he always had the little Kubo sculpture set up so that also made it very easy to prepare.


How Their Childhood Played A Role

CHARLIZE THERON: For me, the directness. I felt very comfortable with that. I was raised by a mother that never shied away from anything. Being 40 I just appreciate that, being a parent myself, and I’m raising my children very similarly, because it had such a huge impact on me. There was no part of my life that I felt somehow cheated from, where I kind of like saw or experienced something that I just went, wow, why did nobody say this to me, or my mom always told me exactly what the answer to a question was. And sometimes I think she went too far with it [LAUGHS]. In the moment, but then later on I realized that to be honest and truthful to your children is the most important thing that you can do as a parent. And I look at my son who’s four and a half right now. My baby is only one, but I see in four and a half years how he’s developed from honesty, and it’s so refreshing to see him and he’s really very unique and to see him kind of flourish and his uniqueness in this new world is a really beautiful thing. I think Monkey is so similar to that. I think Monkey has two very, very different characteristics, and one is very nurturing and one is very dry and sensible. It’s sometimes almost brutal. It’s the person who says get up, get up. And I connect with that. I can really tap in with that. That to me is very real.

ART PARKINSON: For me, I could relate to it and draw memories of me and my mother. We are very close. Kubo and his mother are very close, so I always drew from that, by the way I treated my mother and by the way my mother liked to be treated, you know, very respectfully, and I think I really brought that into my character in how I portrayed him.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: See, this is one of those times you’re supposed to say what my kids would say: you forgot, you don’t remember. [LAUGHTER] I don’t know if I did. If I did I’m not remembering right now. I mean, Beetle is a protector, he’s a hero in his own mind and maybe so in reality as well. But he’s also Captain Fun, so that’s our Friday nights in our household, where the answer’s yes to most everything, and have fun along the way. One of the things that I like about the story, and try to teach to my children as well, and it’s true for all of us, is that you have to fight for your own third act. You have to fight for your own happy ending, and as Charlize was saying, directness. It’s definitely what the story is about saying, no, don’t deny anything that’s out there, and the truth may burn and it may be hard, but that’s the only way you get through your third act with a happy ending, if it’s possible.


* BONUS * Matthew Read His Kids The Script … Their Take

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Yeah, I did read it to my children. I’ve found that that’s been a good practice for the last 8 years since I’ve had children, for any script that I do. Any time you’re telling a story, you’ve got to think about who you’re talking to. And as Charlize and I were talking about, a lot of the films we’ve done it’s hard to say how do you pitch that to your child where they get it, and what do you leave out, you know? I know I’ve had a lot of stuff that I’ve had to leave out, and so how do you tell it in more of a mythical way. Well, we read this over quite a few nights at bedtime and they got into it, understood it. I’d watch their reaction to where they thought things were oh, scary, spooky or funny, and then we all went and watched the film. I had a great time watching the film but I also had a great time looking out of the corner of eye at my kids at what they were laughing at. My eldest son in all the animated films he watched, he always loves the goofy sidekick, and that’s what I got to play, sort of the goofy Beetle, you know? And so they still, to this day since they’ve seen it, will walk by and ask me something, and as I’m trying to think, they’ll be like, oh, well, I suppose you forgot, like the Beetle. You don’t remember that, do you, Papai? All right? They still kind of jeer me a little bit about that. They loved it. My wife thoroughly loved it. She still talks about it. She had a really great emotional ride watching it, which is something that I think is true about the film. The kids are going to love it but it’s definitely for adults as well.

And before I knew it, our time with Art, Charlize, and Matthew came to an end. They were amazing and I could have easily listened to them talk for days. They added something to the movie and experience that I can’t even begin to put into words but it was AWESOME.

A MUST SEE film for the entire family. Grab the family and GO!


Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.

Director: Travis Knight

Writers: Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (“ParaNorman”)

Voice Cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, and Matthew McConaughey





I was sent on an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles for the Kubo and the Two Strings Press Junket. Regardless, all opinions expressed are my own. Please note, this post may contain affiliate links.

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Nancy Burgess August 10, 2016 - 8:55 pm
Very interesting article.Thank you for sharing it.
Olivine Eyes August 15, 2016 - 2:54 pm
If I were to see one family movie this summer, it would be this one. I am waiting to see all the cool family movies with my future children.
Linda Manns Linneman August 18, 2016 - 4:21 pm
It has to be so awesome to have these interviews with these talented people. I am so happy that you shared this with us. I can't wait to see this.

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