Lights, Binoculars, Action!
Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson (above, from left) chat about portraying birders hell-bent on tallying the most species in their new film The Big Year, which hits theaters in October.
Black: I knew there was going to be a test at some point in this interview that I would fail. Can I recognize any birds by hearing them? Yes, but only if I have my iPhone with the app available at my fingertips. I've got a great app.
Martin: Jack, you had to learn to make some sounds, I remember that.
Black: Let me see. Peep-peep-peep-peep-peep-peep-peep. That's the Abert's towhee.
Wilson: I heard that.
Black: Thank you. Okay, that's the app. I did listen to a lot of birds, but it kind of went in one ear and out the other. I would be able to re-create and recognize only for the length of time that it took to shoot one take. Then all of that information and knowledge was like dust in the wind.
Martin: You realize the publicists are going crazy right now.
Q: After making the film, do you have a greater awareness of birds in general?
Martin: I know I definitely do. The other day I was in Sicily and I saw a bird that was red.
Wilson: That was a cardinal!
Q: If you could have any kind of big year, focusing on one thing or experience, what would it be?
Martin: For me, I think I did that in college, and her name was . . .
Wilson: I guess maybe something like going to sporting events around the world. Going to all the Major League Baseball parks and continuing it on to the World Cup and so on. Something like that where you're going around the world.
Martin: I might make mine to see, for example, every painting by a certain artist who had a low output. There's a Russian artist, Malevich, who did maybe 60 paintings. You could probably see every one of them because they're all in museums; there are very few in private hands. And it might take you to Moscow and St. Petersburg and New York and here and there, and it might take you a year to do, or less.
Black: I might go around the world in search of music that I hadn't heard before and
hear it live. Like a modern-day Paul Simon, searching the world for new jams and tunes.
Q: You finished filming the movie last year. Thinking back, what has stayed with you most?
Martin: A lot of my memories come from the camaraderie--I think we had a good time on the movie. But also what sticks with me was the beautiful, beautiful landscape that we found ourselves in, especially in the Yukon. We had not quite the midnight sun, but I remember one day we finished shooting around 11 p.m. and then we had to take a helicopter back to the little town we were staying in. It was midnight, and Owen went to play golf.
Wilson: That's right. It was called the Top of the World Golf Course, a little nine-hole golf course. And on the third hole we could hear wolves howling in the distance. It was really unbelievable.