Craig Ferguson is a man of many talents. He’s been, among other things, a milkman, a bouncer, a punk rock drummer, a standup comedian, an author, an actor, and, most prominently, the host of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. His latest gig is in the CGI adventure How to Train Your Dragon, as the voice of Gobber, a Viking warrior who offers instruction in the fine art of dragon slaying. In an interview with RT, Ferguson shared some of his favorite movies, and discussed late-night TV and his wild job history — all the while employing more salty language than one usually expects when discussing a kids movie.
Right now, at the moment, I would say Inglourious Basterds. Come on, how can you go wrong? “Killin’ Nazis” to the sound of good music? There’s nothing wrong with that. You know, it’s got a great bad guy in the movie, I love Quentin Tarantino, and it’s “killin’ Nazis.” It’s the best thing you can do in a movie. So I love that.
Let’s see, what other movies do I like… Night of the Hunter. It’s a great movie, with Robert Mitchum doing that kind of creepy voice [mumbles]. I really love that movie.
Run Lola Run is a movie that I really love. It’s very much of its time. I watched it recently, and it’s kind of funny; it doesn’t age that well, but I loved it at the time. And I did a movie around the same time called Saving Grace. Run Lola Run won Sundance the year before us, and then we won at Sundance for Saving Grace — we won the Audience Award — and I remember thinking, “Oh my God!” You know, I can’t believe that we would even be in the same league. That’s when Sundance had movies and stuff — before, like, f—ing drink commercials or whatever the f— they do, some kind of Hollywood ski vacation. But I really loved Run Lola Run. It had a really nice feel to it.
The Name of the Rose. That’s a cool movie. You got Sean Connery, you got a detective story, you got a bit of gay monk sex. Can’t go wrong with that. If you’re Scottish and you don’t like Sean Connery movies, there’s something f—in’ wrong with you. Actually, if you’re human and you don’t like Sean Connery movies, there’s something wrong with you.
Another movie I really like is Carry on Screaming! For my money, it’s the best of the Carry On movies. It has Dan Dann the Lavatory Man, and also [chuckles] Oddbod and Oddbod Junior, the two monsters.
RT: For Americans who don’t understand the appeal of the Carry On films, could you sum it up for us?
CF: Yeah — dirty jokes and breasts.
Next, Ferguson explains why he’s a different kind of late-night host, and why he loves the U.S.A.
RT: So, about How to Train Your Dragon…
Craig Ferguson: It’s pretty good, isn’t it? I’m like, “Wow, I’m in something good! Awesome!”
Why, you weren’t in good stuff before?
No, come on, you and I both know most of the stuff I’ve done is complete s—. This is great!
Right now you’ve got your show, and you’ve worked as actor in movies and TV, and you’re a comedian – in each case, you have to interact with other actors or the audience. How do you prepare yourself when you’re doing an animated film, where there isn’t the same sort of communication?
Well, I think you kind of go in your head a little bit. I’ve done some radio plays, back in the old country; it’s the same kind of process. You know, you close your eyes and imagine the movie. You basically do yourself what you’re gonna ask the audience to do later: go to that place, go that world. You use whatever concentration or lack of concentration techniques… Everybody does it a little bit differently. Some actors huff and puff and walk up and down, some go into a bad mood and ask for lattes. I guess what I do is close my eyes.
Do you have any idea how the movie is going to play when you’re doing the voice acting?
Yeah, you do. They bring you stick animations and stuff that they’re working on all the way along, so you get to see the movie progress. It’s not like you do one session and you go away. It’s kind of an organic process where, you know, you do some stuff, and they do some stuff, then you do some stuff, then they do some stuff. You get to collaborate in a way which feels like they give a s— what you’re saying, which is a very nice thing for an actor, and fairly f—ing unusual, let’s be honest. So it’s kind of nice.
One of the themes of this film is someone who’s caught between several different worlds. I know you’ve been in the states a long time, but at this point in your life, do you feel like you’re truly a dual citizen? Do you feel more American, or do you feel more Scottish?
I’ve gotta be honest and say that I feel American. American is something I aspire to be, and I became. I am an American — I emigrated here from another country, but of course I’m hardly the first to have done that. I think that my sensibilities and outlook are those of an American. Whatever that means, I feel American, I guess.
You were very outspoken about what was going on with the whole Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien controversy as it was happening. Do you think that, in a roundabout way, it was actually good for the medium, in that there was so much attention focused on late night TV?
I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I think I’ve gotta be honest and say with most of America, when I say, “I don’t give a f— who says what, when, late at night.” I mean, to the extent that it’s my job, I do, but I don’t really think I’m a late night talk show host. I really don’t. Clearly you’ve seen my show, so you know I’m not doing the same show that anybody else is doing. I think I get lumped in with these guys because I’m a dude, because I’m white, and because I’m on in the middle of the night, but really, I’m not part of that gang. And I don’t aspire to be, and neither do I condemn them for doing what they do. But the idea that I’m part of that is just not true. I’m not.
So basically, what you’re saying is that you put on a show, and it doesn’t matter what time it airs.
I do a TV show, and it’s whatever a TV show looks like when I put it on, I guess. This is what I do, it’s my TV show. But is it part of the late night genre? I don’t really think so. It’s probably not even for me to say. I mean, I do what I do, and other people can decide, I guess.
You’ve had a lot of jobs in your life. Is there any work you used to do that you particularly miss, or do you like where you’re at now?
Sometimes, you know, yeah, it’d be nice to be drumming with the band again. That was fun. And every now and again, on a beautiful day, in the morning, you think, “Y’know, delivering milk wasn’t that f—in’ bad.” The job I do, I love doing, and I love doing it for now, and when I stop loving doing it, I’m going to quit. I’m not going to f—ing hang around and do it forever, because that just doesn’t seem to make anybody happy. I’ll do it until I’m done, and not a f—ing moment longer. I won’t do it because they’ll pay me more money, because that would just make me nuts, and I can always go back to delivering milk.
So your old band, the Bastards from Hell, aren’t getting back together for a reunion tour any time soon?
Bad as we were then, I think we’d be a lot worse now that we’re old. [laughs]
What else are you up to these days?
I’ve been doing stand-up. I’ve been doing stand-up again, which I really like doing. I enjoy doing that. Rather selfishly, it’s kind of therapeutic, in a way. It’s kind of like a pressure cooker for me; I don’t have to worry about the FCC, or sponsors, or whatever corporate c—s—-‘s going to be angry what I’m going to say next. I can just actually go in and exercise my rights of free speech as an American, and I kind of love doing that. And the audiences have been fantastic right now, which, clearly, I’ve gotta thank the TV show for that. But it’s really cool. Like, I’m doing Carnegie Hall in October and it’s f—in sold out already. That’s just so awesome, isn’t it?