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WALLACE AND GROMIT:
THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT

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Without question, the least challenging aspect of the making of "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” was the casting of the title roles: Gromit, for the obvious reason that he never speaks; and Wallace because that casting decision had been made more than 20 years ago. Peter Sallis has been the voice of Wallace since the character's inception so, for the feature film, Lord states, "There was never any discussion about it. It had to be Peter.”

Park affirms, "I couldn't imagine Wallace without Peter now. Peter is Wallace and vice versa. Back when I was in college creating these characters, Peter seemed like a natural for Wallace. I knew him from his series, ‘Last of the Summer Wine,' and his voice just stood out to me. I was a shy student with not a lot of money to make the film, but I wrote to him and he very happily obliged me.”

Sallis relates, "Nick Park liked the sound of my character on ‘Last of the Summer Wine,' and that was really what started it all. I went to the Beaconsfield Film School, where Nick was a student—this was back in 1983—and we literally sat side-by-side and recorded ‘A Grand Day Out' with a microphone on the desk in front of us, no fancy glass booth or anything like that. I would say the lines and Nick would interrupt and say things like, ‘I think it would be better this way…' At first, I'll admit, I was just a little bit skeptical. I thought, ‘This guy is a student here, and I've been in the theatre for, how many years?' But it dawned on me, after a very short time, that he was absolutely right…and he's been absolutely right ever since.

"Of course, in 1983, I hadn't any idea what would become of it,” Sallis continues. "For one thing, Nick couldn't even show me the character models; all he had was a storyboard. But six years later the phone rang and it was Nick saying, ‘I've finished it.' I thought, ‘Oh, it's only taken him six years, goodness me.'”

Park offers that Sallis' vocal performance contributed to more than just how the character of Wallace sounds. "Wallace had a very different looking face, at first. It was really the way Peter formed his vowels and said words like ‘cheese and crackers' that suddenly made me picture him differently. I let Peter's voice dictate to me how Wallace looked, and it evolved from there.”

Now, all these years later, Park says, "Peter sounds as young and as bright as ever. He brings so much energy to the part, and we just enjoy working together so much; he just makes us laugh all the time.”

Through all of his adventures, Wallace has had a silent partner at his side: his dog, Gromit. Sallis says, "Wallace & Gromit live and work together and they are quite chummy. People who are familiar with the characters will tell you that Gromit is the brains of the outfit, but,” he counters, "that does not alter the fact that Wallace is a rather clever inventor. I mean, he got them to the moon and back much quicker than the Americans did,” Sallis smiles, referring to the duo's first adventure in "A Grand Day Out.” "You have a man who, on one level, is so brilliant that he can put his hand to making almost anything, but, on another level, is really a bit ‘thick.' And then you have a non-speaking character with the most expressive eyes and ears that have ever been created. Together, they have great chemistry, which is entirely due to Nick Park.”

"Obviously Gromit can't say anything, but that's an important part of Wallace & Gromit's relationship,” Park notes. "They don't have to talk; they have a bond that goes much deeper. Wallace is the daffy inventor who acts first and thinks later. Gromit is the opposite; he is very cautious. Wallace is a doer, but Gromit is a thinker; he is definitely more intelligent—the long-suffering partner who has to get Wallace out of his own self-made scrapes. So much of the comedy relies on Gromit's reactions to Wallace.”

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