We’re a little over a month away from Tom Hooper‘s live-action musical Cats hitting theaters. The cast that includes Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, and Ian McKellen. But, as we saw in the first Cats trailer over the summer, all the actors’ handsome faces and bodies have been covered in what’s become (infamously) known as “digital fur technology” to make them look like, well, cats.
The look of actors covered in digital fur has sparked a wide, wide array of reactions. McKellen, who plays a cat called Gus the Theatre Cat, went on record to defend Cats’ particular brand of CGI by explaining the perfectly natural reason for its existence. Speaking with Entertainment Tonight during an interview for his upcoming film The Good Liar, McKellen began his defense by explaining,
“The stage show, Cats, was not about a lot of people being convincing as cats, but it was about human beings discovering their cat-like nature. And it was hugely successful.”
He continued, telling ET,
“When it was now being done in film, the temptation I think must have been to turn those actors into cats, like Lion King, and make them look like real cats, but they’re not real cats. They’re people playing cats, and that is the notion of the film, and it’s been done very wittingly, I think, and particularly the dancers. To see a young person discovering the cat in them, your jaw just drops with delight. Dame Judi and I and James Corden and all the rest, Taylor Swift, we’re all busy doing our version of cats.”
How is this both the answer I was expecting and entirely not the answer I was expecting at all? McKellen’s defense is a little wild but it does seem to help circle the proverbial square of believability that humans are playing cats on screen. Since it’s long been the conceit of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to put human actors in cat costumes, it makes sense that Hooper would follow the logic and just put his human actors in the digital version of cat costumes rather than having them provide voice performances which are piped into CGI cat character.
Doesn’t make it any less weird to look at, though. Just sayin’.
As mentioned, Cats is adapted from the Webber musical of the same name which is itself adapted from the works of poet T.S. Eliot. Cats follows a tribe of cats known as the Jellicles who spend one night introducing themselves and pleading their case to go to a mystical cat-only world known as the Heaviside Layer. No, the catnip isn’t going to your head — that’s actually the plot.