Directors Interview: Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
Sony’s newest family film, which has the charming title of Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, is set to arrive in theaters this week. Based on a series of ’60s children’s books, directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck have transformed it into a musical film starring crooner Shawn Mendes as the singing crocodile. With a screenplay by Will Davies and original songs courtesy of La La Land‘s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the feel-food picture is ready to get audiences’ toes tapping.
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile opens with Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem), who stumbles upon a tiny singing “crocolyle” in his quest for fame and glory. When a series of mishaps leaves the now-grown Lyle in the care of the Primm family, made up of Constance Wu and Scoot McNairy as the parents and Winslow Fegley as their son Josh, the entire neighborhood is about to be changed through the power of song. The only ones who don’t seem to see the benefits are crotchety neighbor Mr. Grumps and his apparently equally grumpy cat, Loretta.
Screen Rant spoke to the directors about how the role of Loretta the silver-shaded Persian was augmented, what Mrs. Primm’s food represents, and why Javier Bardem makes such a lovable antihero.
Josh Gordon & Will Speck on Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
Screen Rant: Loretta was the dark horse of the film; she stole the show for me. What led to her being even more of an ally than I would have assumed?
Will Speck: I’m gonna give Josh this question, because Josh is really the father of Loretta.
Josh Gordon: Loretta is a character in the book, who is the sort of the mean girl of the story. We didn’t quite think she was going to be such a big character, but once we started cutting the film… We had a real cat actually playing her, and she was so funny. And we sort of thought, “Wow, this is such a great driver of chaos.” And also, she has this great arc in the movie. She goes from enemy to best friend, and we just love that.
So, we actually started to build her a lot in post and made her much bigger in the computer-generated space. She turned into one of the top characters in the movie; it was really amazing.
Mrs. Primm’s recipes look so good, but her family will not eat them. Josh even says that he only eats Bagel Bites. What are they doing to her?
Will Speck: I think that it’s all about what I think every parent is struggling with, which is what to feed your kid. What happens is that you start out well-intended and then, as somebody said to me with my own kid, what changes everything is birthday parties.
And it’s true, because, you can give them as much in a healthy zone as possible. But for the most part, at some point, they’re going to taste Doritos and cake, and the world will change. I think Josh, like most kids, finds his very limited palette. Lyle’s able to open it up to him, and I think Lyle’s so much about food, so that infectious energy is what he gives to Mrs. Primm.
If you look carefully at the end of the movie, they’re all eating cupcakes. As she’s leaving to go on a trip, she has made a dozen of them. So, I think we’re on the side of indulging your family and enjoying life.
Josh Gordon: And I think once you eat garbage, nothing tastes as good.
I really loved how Hector traverses one end of the moral spectrum to the other and back again in the film. What was your dialogue like with Javier about how to portray this character and still make him as lovable as he is?
Will Speck: I think there’s something inherent about Javier that is lovable, and I think Josh and I both knew that when we cast him. Even though he was doing things sometimes that were pretty selfish, or trying to get the results out of Lyle for his own gain, there was always a likeability just because Javier had a likability. And I think the redemption of the character, in the end, is what really rounds it all out.
Josh Gordon: And I think we love characters like that. Because people are flawed in life, you know what I mean Sometimes, they can be both bad and good, and those are the most interesting characters. Javier is the perfect actor to play that.
If Lyle had to sing one song to help you face your fears, what song is he singing?
Josh Gordon: Ooh… “I Will Survive.”
Will Speck: “[Three Little Birds] (Don’t Worry About a Thing)” by Bob Marley.
About Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
When the Primm family (Wu, Scoot McNairy, Winslow Fegley) moves to New York City, their young son Josh struggles to adapt to his new school and new friends. All of that changes when he discovers Lyle – a singing crocodile (Mendes) who loves baths, caviar and great music-living in the attic of his new home. The two become fast friends, but when Lyle’s existence is threatened by evil neighbor Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman), the Primms must band together with Lyle’s charismatic owner, Hector P. Valenti (Bardem), to show the world that family can come from the most unexpected places and there’s nothing wrong with a big singing crocodile with an even bigger personality.
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Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile arrives in theaters on October 7.