Planes promises to be the family film of the year – and Teri Hatcher has a starring role. But how on earth did she end up playing such a charmingly unlikely part?
The images of Teri Hatcher and a forklift are so disparate one could almost make an argument for them being oxymoronic. So what on earth appealed to her about playing the character of Dottie – a forklift – in Pixar’s much-anticipated new film, Planes?
‘The fact that it’s a Disney animated movie, I guess,’ she grins, looking positively doll-like. ‘I’ve been a big fan my whole life, and they’ve been a big part of my life with my daughter [Emerson, now 15]. They still are.
‘I love making family entertainment, especially the kind that I feel I could some day watch with my grandchild. I didn’t even know I was a forklift. They asked if I wanted to be in the movie, and I was, like, “Sure”.’
So how did she feel when she eventually discovered she’d been cast as the mechanical proprietor of Chug and Dottie’s Fill ’n Fly service station? ‘I really liked the idea that, first of all, it’s a girl mechanic,’ she says earnestly. ‘That’s a great new statement because they could have easily made it a boy character. It showed a character can be female and earnest, smart and funny and caring all at the same time, and you don’t see that too often.’
In fact, Teri seems genuinely fond of her character, Dottie. ‘She really represents a true friend, which is someone who wants to be a realist with you, isn’t afraid to be a realist, isn’t living up there in the clouds – no pun intended. Someone who wants to support you in your dreams,’ she enthuses.
So what was it like being in an animated flick? ‘People tend to think animation is easier because you’re not in front of the camera,’ she says. ‘But that’s not the case. You have to distil all the emotion and all the intent of the part your character plays in the movie into your voice.
‘You don’t get to have that twinkle in your eye or the smirk of your lip, or the raise of your shoulder – you have to put it all into your voice, and that’s a challenge in itself.
‘The people who put together animated movies are the masters of delayed gratification because those movies are investments of four to seven years from start to finish. Today, there is almost no one with any delayed gratification, so it’s really kind of an honour to be around people who want to work like that.’
Teri Hatcher is no stranger to the acting industry. Her first TV role was in 1985 (The Love Boat), but she became a household name in 1993, when she landed the starring role of Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (opposite Dean Cain) in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman.
Her role as Susan Mayer in the ABC comedy-drama series Desperate Housewives (2004-2012) earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Primetime Emmy nomination. So how have things changed since the early days? ‘I guess the biggest thing is social media; nobody knew much about computers when I started acting,’ she says.
‘I haven’t had a publicist for 10 years. I love making people happy and meeting fans, and I’m really grateful about all that, but there’s an element of game playing to it all, which I didn’t so much want to be a part of, I guess.
‘And then the Twitter thing. I don’t want to tell you when I’m going to the dentist, you don’t really want to know when I’m at the dry cleaners…
‘I did recently join [she has more than 17,000 followers], and I use the handle @hatchingchange because it is important to me to be a positive voice in your world, in the littlest ways.
‘I thought, OK , if once in a while something happens in my life, or I think of something or come across something that’s worth sharing, which might make somebody think differently or laugh about something, I’ll put it out there, and see what happens. But that’s about as far as I put my toe in it. It’s really changed. People are now famous for being famous, and that didn’t exist when I started.’
Now 48 years old, she has spent more than 25 years working in an industry often criticised for its obsession with youth. Is this something she has personal experience of?
‘I think you would be kidding yourself as a woman to think that the youthful beauty you have is not part of your success,’ she states. ‘Certainly all brilliant performances aren’t based on beauty or age. But if you think back to the 1920s or 1940s, they were all young when they were movie stars. It’s nothing new.
‘But there’s just so much to be gained by people with experience, and it would be great if we honoured that in some way because we have a lot to learn from it, and if we don’t, that’s probably not a good direction.’
And what about a Desperate Housewives film – would she like one to be made?
‘No, I think as finales go, they did a really credible job,’ she says with a note of firmness. ‘As it ended, I think an audience member would walk away satisfied, and that’s good.’
‘It didn’t necessarily need to end. I felt there were more stories, though I don’t know what they were.
‘I don’t think there ever will be a film, but if so, I would get involved. I don’t desire to do it, but I wouldn’t not do it either.’
Disney’s animated film Planes is on general release.
First published in the Lady magazine