Enchanted : Patrick Dempsey Interview

Patrick Dempsey stars opposite Amy Adams in ENCHANTED, a delightful film that blends hand-drawn animation with a rousing, live action, romantic comedy. The handsome and talented leading man portrays a flawed and entirely contemporary hero.
The story revolves around Giselle, a fairy tale princess, (Amy Adams) who lives contentedly in a magical land, where she is about to marry her ‘true love’ Prince Edward(James Marsden). She is hurled into the middle of modern day Manhattan by the wicked Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) who casts a spell. In the colorful chaos of city life, Giselle discovers a new and very different kind of romance with Robert, (Dempsey), a divorce lawyer, who is a single parent and definitely doesn’t believe in the idea of everlasting love – or neat, fairy tale endings. This is old-fashioned Disney magic – with an innovative, up to date story and characters.

This charming film, which is indeed enchanting, starts out in the glorious, hand-drawn, animated paradise of Andalaisa, where we meet Giselle – a Disney princess in the traditional sense of the word. She falls in love (at first sight of course) with the chivalrous and very dashing Prince Edward. The future promises to be idyllic - until the cruel and jealous Queen Narissa (the archetypal evil step mother) kicks her out and banishes her to the chaos of New York. From this point Giselle is personified by talented actress Amy Adams, as the film turns into a very real romantic comedy. Narissa and Edward (in the human forms of Susan Sarandon and James Marsden) also end up in New York.

Patrick Dempsey plays a character who is firmly based in Manhattan throughout the story. He is Robert, a cynic Manhattan divorce lawyer, who is dubious about commitments after his own divorce. When he comes across a fairy tale princess, wandering the streets of New York in a huge, glittering silk and organza wedding gown, his understandable response is not entirely sympathetic.

“Robert has had his heart broken, his wife has deserted him and he is raising a daughter on his own,” says Dempsey. “Then suddenly a fairy princess walks into his life. Of course initially he thinks she must be crazy; then he has a leap of faith and believes who she is and where she comes from.”

Enchanted (2007)Despite some reluctance, Robert takes Giselle home to his apartment, at the insistence of his little girl, who recognizes a genuine princess when she sees one. Robert is increasingly drawn to Giselle’s charm, kindness, optimism and magnetism. Their two worlds and cultures collide comically, but as Robert and Giselle get to know each other, they learn from each other too: Giselle discovers what it takes to have a real relationship that goes beyond sugary ‘happy ever after’ sentiment, while Robert learns how to trust and how to celebrate life.

“Patrick is a pretty grounded, real-word individual,” says executive producer Chris Chase. “He’s a guy’s guy, he races race cars, he is just a regular Joe kind of guy when you get to know him. He was perfect for the role. He got thrown into the deep end and did a fantastic job. There is a lot of reality in the performance. It was great to watch him. “
“Patrick is wonderful in the film”, says producer, Barry Josephson. “He brings the male perspective of the guy who would never participate in this story and be completely taken in by it. He represents a lot of guys who don’t believe in fairy tales. I think he’s a great actor. He has that Gary Cooper class and humor and sparkle in his eye, you are drawn to him.”

Dempsey grew up on the East coast of America, where he loved performing as a child – and juggling! His early films include HEAVEN HELP US and MEATBALLS 3. But he became well known around the world with the hit film CAN’T BUY ME LOVE in 1987. Other film roles followed over the years, including OUTBREAK with Dustin Hoffman, SCREAM 3, SWEET HOME ALABAMA with Reese Witherspoon and FREEDOM WRITERS with Hilary Swank.

He currently stars in the popular medical TV drama, GREY’S ANATOMY, as neurosurgeon Dr. Derek Shepherd, otherwise known as Dr. ‘McDreamy.’
His next film is MADE OF HONOR. Looking as handsome in real life as he appears on screen, in a classic navy blue Paul Smith shirt, he sat down for the following interview.

Q: How excited are you by ENCHANTED?
“It is really great. It is rare to make a movie that everyone will enjoy. I think it is wonderful to have a magical Disney film that celebrates the genre and the classic films, but at the same time is also making a little fun of the fairy tale genre. It blows the myth out of the water and in this story, the princess character is very strong. It turns it all upside down in a unique and very clever way.”

Q: Can you talk about the appeal of the film?
“It’s three movies in one - a romantic comedy, with animation and a fantasy, there’s nothing like it. I think it’ll appeal to everyone: guys, kids, teenagers and grandparents. The whole motivation and appeal for me in terms of making this film, was the fact that I have a little girl myself (and I play a father in the movie). With a family of my own, I really wanted to make a family film, so this meant a lot to me. It was something I knew I would enjoy taking my wife to see, and it is also a movie that my daughter can see, with beautiful dancing and costumes and amazing sets and a lovely story. And it is such an interesting approach to a romantic comedy.”

Q: What does your daughter think about the film?
“She was there on the set and she loved it, she got to hang out with the ‘princess’ all day, (Amy). I think she really loved the animation and the chipmunk and the dancing and the musical numbers particularly. I have a doll, a Robert doll and she likes the dolls – my doll and Giselle’s. Actually when I saw the doll I thought ‘I wish I looked that good’.”

Q: How challenging was the role?
“It was challenging, to keep the reality strong and solid because I had to stay centered and I have to make it credible that I really could fall in love with someone like Giselle, from a fairy tale world. That was important because the audience relates to my character. In a way I represent the audience.”

Q: How enjoyable was it making the film?
“I thought the film was a great idea and so unique, as soon as I read the script. But while I was making the movie, to be honest, I wasn’t really comfortable at all and it was very difficult to do. There are all these different styles going on at once and it was extremely challenging. There were times when I wanted to put the scrubs back on and go back to GREY’S ANATOMY, because I kept worrying that I was too serious or not funny enough. I felt profoundly insecure throughout the entire course of the film. But then watching the finished film and seeing it in context, I see how it works. In retrospect I can see (as Kevin kept telling me) that I was hitting the right note. The character is deeply wounded and has been abandoned and he is trying to do the best thing for his daughter, whom he adores. So in hindsight, I was actually in the right space and captured his confusion and I think it worked well. We were capturing the dynamic between the characters, but while I was on set, I didn’t know it was working.”

Q: What aspects were easier – or at least fun?
“I really enjoyed the musical scenes with Amy, because I admire her so much and she was so fascinating to watch, she is so talented. I was constantly blown away by how she brought her character to life. The choreographer, John O’Connell was great, he brought such a passion and sensitivity to the dance number, where each move represented something in that relationship and I really loved that.”

Q: The chemistry between you and Amy is great, what was it like working with her?
“I adore her, she absolutely fabulous – I think she is a phenomenal actress and I would do every movie with her if I could. She is smart and sensitive – an old-fashioned movie star. “

Q: How challenging was that intricate ballroom dancing scene – which comes at a dramatic moment in the plot?
“It was great, but there was a funny moment in the rehearsal when Amy would not let me lead her. She is very experienced at ballet, but that is very different from ballroom dancing and she kept pushing me around. (laughs). I would say: ‘what are you doing? I am the man, I’m leading’, we started working with a dance instructor, but she would not listen and let me lead and she wouldn’t wear shoes. But I was wearing mine and I stepped on her accidentally and she ripped her toenail right off. She was supposed to go back and she went forward. It was quite dramatic. After that, we separated for a while completely and she went off to get a fruit smoothie. And then when we started to dance again and the music came on, everything changed, we started looking at each other for the first time and then emotion came through the dance and it was amazing. I found her vulnerability and had to take care of her and it turned everything around and changed the dynamic. For me, that day was amazing, it was one of the best and most interesting days I had making the movie. That moment developed our chemistry, because it forced me to lead her gently – and respectfully. And she had to surrender to that. I really loved the dancing and that scene is one of my favorite in the movie.”

Q: You don’t sing, are your sorry about that?
“No. We were joking about the possibility and I suppose it would be fun, but I really can’t sing.”

Q: Why do you think the blend of Giselle’s innocence and your realism works so well and is so credible in the film?
“I think the audience starts to believe in the story early on, when the film has moved from animation in Andalasia, to live action in New York and Giselle is baffled as she is quickly discovering that New York is very different from the innocent place she left behind. My character says ironically to her: ‘Welcome to New York’ and she says ‘thank you’ in a very genuine way, which changes the audience. They start to buy in to the story. Then there is a wonderful scene in which she opens the windows of my apartment and starts singing to the animals and people really get affected by the film, from that point onwards.”

Q: There is a wonderful scene in Central Park that is quite delightful, so uplifting – with a fantastic musical number and dancing, what was that like to film?
‘It was unbelievable, I loved it. There were crowds in the park watching and we all felt that we were part of a very special movie moment, it was really magical. I had never experienced anything like it before.”

Q: What was it like working with Susan Sarandon?
“It was a blast, she was lovely, really sweet; not at all self-conscious, and she threw herself into the film and was just like one of the gang. It is so refreshing to see someone like her, who has had so much success in her life, but manages to remain normal and down to earth. She is very friendly and a makes fantastic Queen Narissa.”

Q: Are you still enjoying your TV show GREY’S ANATOMY?
“I am enjoying it a lot, I am grateful for the show, it changed my life. I am happy to have a job, it’s good and hopefully it doesn’t define me either. It has been unbelievable for my career. Before I got the part, there was a period that was very difficult in my career. It was strange to go from that position, to success, almost overnight. Most of the first season making the show, we had no idea what would happen, whether it would be last. So we were all thrilled that the show took off.”

Q: Do you deal with fame and success better at this point in your life do you think?
“Yes, I don’t think I could’ve done so well with this kind of fame earlier in my life. And I think because I have a family and a life outside of all this, it makes it much easier to stay grounded. I worked very hard to get to this point. I am very humble and grateful to be in this position.”

Q: Is it true that you began your entertainment career as a juggler, when you were in your teens?
“As a kid I started off juggling and loved it. I was second in the International Jugglers’ competition in the junior division in 1982. I loved ski racing, I was a big skier and I remember my ski teacher was in a vaudeville troupe and he happened to be juggling and I told him I would like to learn. I was naturally good at it. I went home and practiced all night and he introduced me to some great clowns and jugglers. Then suddenly the town where I lived in Maine had become the hotbed for a new Vaudevillian movement and juggling opened a whole new world for me and started me off as a performer.”

Q: Do you juggle at home for the kids?
“A little bit every now and then, my little girl likes it. I did a little bit for a film coming out next year. The director said: ‘can you juggle plates?’ So I started juggling china plates and did not drop them once. Then we turned around and off camera I dropped five plates and went through the entire china collection.”

Q: What are your dreams and goals?
“I grew up in the country and loved that way of life. I have never liked belonging to big groups and I really dream of the long driveway and living peacefully in a house in the country. I tell my wife, one day we will move to the country. I live in Los Angeles but the older I get the more I want to return to nature, to Maine or maybe the English countryside, the land speaks to me, it is very therapeutic it is like a church to me.”

Q: What has it been like for you becoming a heartthrob on GREY’S ANATOMY. Now with ENCHANTED, that image of the handsome leading man continues of course? Is it fun?
“I always find it funny when people say that I am handsome or I am perceived in that way. It makes me wonder whom are they talking to, it’s interesting. But my character on the show is really a mythical man and a certain archetype that feeds into a lot of fantasies. There are a lot of men out there considered as handsome men: George Clooney is good looking; he is the classical handsome movie star. I am just average looking. But it’s fun and it is certainly nice to have the attention. I was known for being geeky and awkward as a kid. This projection of being sexy or handsome is funny to me; I certainly don’t see myself that way. ENCHANTED does continue that image of course, especially when I am that blue suit dressed as a prince. It is good because being a prince it brings out the better qualities in me. “

Q: Other than acting and family – you have a passion for car racing, what is it about the sport that interests you so much?
“I love the challenge it provides, I enjoy the camaraderie too. I have known a lot of the guys I race with for five or six years, prior to the success I am enjoying now. They keep me very grounded. Racing is a great escape from Hollywood, it’s a great sport and I really love it. It is challenging mentally and physically and it helps me to wind down.”

Q: Have you had a fairy tale moment in your own life?
“Every day now is a fairy tale, quite honestly, I am lucky to be sitting here, and it is great. I have a wonderful family with my daughter and twin sons who are now nine months old. I am very grateful for my career, I have no problems enjoying my life, my career and the success I have been having recently. You never know how long it is going to last, and who really is your friend in Hollywood and who isn’t, what their agendas are. But I don’t get involved in that. I want to continue making interesting, challenging movies that are non violent, I particularly love comedy. I think there is a real need for comedy in the world at the moment. Really, I just want to keep having a good career with interesting roles.”