So naturally, when the time came to cast voices for the new computer-animated movie Ice Age, the filmmakers offered Leguizamo the role of … the sloth?
"It's called miscasting," Leguizamo jokes on a March Friday from a 20th Century Fox conference room in Manhattan. "I am not the picture of slothness. I picture myself more as a he-man type of critter. I
always saw myself as a panther or-probably more realistically-as an ocelot."
But the filmmakers insisted he read the comedic script-about the southern migration of prehistoric creatures during the dawn of the ice age-and study the part of Sid the sloth.
"And I understand why," Leguizamo says. "Sid was the glue of the movie. His was the role that had a big character arc and he had amazing jokes. I dug that right away."
When the time came to create a voice for his character, though, Leguizamo couldn't let Sid sound too slothy. After all, Ray Romano was supplying the voice of the other lead character, Manfred the Mammoth. "Ray has a slow, deep cadence," says Leguizamo, "so I had to pick something that was a little more counterpoint."
After trying out about 30 voices-all rejected by producers- Leguizamo learned that sloths store food in their cheeks. "I imagined myself with food and how I would store it there. And that's how that lispy voice started to come about."
So, rather than make Sid a slow talker, "We put the sloth in the attitude. He wants everything the easy way. He wants to get away with murder all the time. He can't defend himself. He has no skills."
Sid's also a character who depends on others, specifically, Manfred the mammoth. This is something Leguizamo understands from first-hand experience. "When I was younger, my friends used to protect me too. If people would beat me up, my friends would beat them up so they'd learn never to do it again. And that's what I related to: always finagling my way out of situations."
Leguizamo looked up to one friend in particular. "Ray Rodgriguez. He was 14, I was 13. He was from Brooklyn, I was from Queens. Anyone from Brooklyn was much cooler than anyone from Queens. They had all the dance styles first, all the fashion styles. And all the girls loved Ray. They would parade past the classroom to look at him because he was really handsome. He taught me everything: how to fight, how to get girls."
Leguizamo no longer needs training on how to getgirls. Today he is happily "living in sin" with Justine Maurer, the mother of his 2-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.
And this daddy "can't wait" till his kids can see his new animated movie. "It's such a sweet, funny movie," he says. "The whole thing about different species, realizing they have to stick together and take
responsibility for what they do in order to survive-I think that's a great message."
Written By ROB MEDICH