LOS ANGELES -- Kiefer Sutherland -- funny man? "Not a chance," says the 42-year-old Emmy-winning actor who has made Jack Bauer as much a part of the TV lexicon of lawmen as Marshal Matt Dillon or Lt. Columbo. "All of us can be funny at a dinner," Sutherland continues, "but the gift and the timing with which the great comedians are blessed is not something to be taken lightly."
His last venture at laughs? "Wow, probably 'The Cowboy Way,' " he says, almost wincing at recollection of the 1994 bomb with Woody Harrelson. Before that? Perhaps 1990's zany hippie adventure, "Flashback"? This time, a smile breaks as Sutherland says, "On that, any credit for humor goes to Dennis Hopper."
Thus, when Sutherland needs something light to flee the emotional drain of his ever-popular "24," in its seventh Fox Network season at 9 p.m. Monday on WJW-TV (8), he opts for animation. Latest case in point: his hard-edged but sardonic turn voicing Army Gen. W.R. Monger, riding herd on "Monsters vs. Aliens," now on area screens.Then, to borrow from Steve Martin, your comedy is not pretty?
Growing up in Canada, I'd watch Martin Short do these Black's Cameras commercials and was just amazed at his genius. I was 15 years old and already knew I'd better be very good at drama because I just didn't have that kind of innate ability in me. To my own detriment, I get very self-conscious quickly, another thing that a comedian cannot have. So, it would make perfect sense that any effort to be funny in a movie would be best directed through an animated film because I could leave all that other stuff behind.
Why specifically "Monsters vs. Aliens?"
(DreamWorks Animation president) Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has made some of the very best animated movies. Reese Witherspoon, who I'd worked with before, knowing we could play well off each other's voice. Plus, this is geared toward letting young people know that not only is it all right to be different, but the very thing that might make you feel uncomfortable and weird actually might be your greatest quality.
Did you fashion the gruff Gen. Monger voice?
Things I'd done before, like "The Wild" or "Land Before Time," they almost always want it to sound like your voice so it'd be recognizable. Well, I had an idea for something different, which is what the creators said is exactly what they wanted. I went for the (R. Lee Ermey) sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket," all abrasive and loud and prone to explosive temper, then melded it with a little Yosemite Sam for some humor.
Talk of a "24" feature pops up now and then.
It would be cruel and unusual punishment to go up to these writers, after they've done the equivalent of 12 films in a year, and say, "By the way, how about coming up with an idea so unbelievable, so superb, that we could justify making a feature film, too?" We collectively decided that we wouldn't take on the notion of a theatrical film until the show was finished.
But, there's no desire to finish yet, right?
Well, we're starting on shooting our eighth season in May and, sure, it's been a haul, but we're a really competitive group. We took a bit of a beating in Season 6, but what I loved is that these folks rallied rather than give up. I know we believe we're capable of doing a perfect season, but I also know that, even in this seventh one that's now airing, there are things we are seeing that we believe we can do better next time around. We'll keep going until we believe we've made that perfect season -- or until the viewers say, "Stop!"
Any hints on the balance of this Day 7?
This "24" season is not going to end because someone cuts two wires and the clock on the bomb stops. It's going to end because a few of the characters go through a very difficult and emotional dilemma. It's going to end on a much more dramatic level, rather than a physical or action-oriented sequence. I also believe it's the most powerful ending we've ever had.
How would Jack Bauer fare against these "Aliens"?
If they were smart, he'd be the first guy they take out.