September 12, 2011

Sandler, Stallone, Cher Lead Voice Cast of "Zookeeper" (Opens Sept 21)

Columbia Pictures attracted a truly all-star cast of comedy voices to play the animals in the romantic comedy “Zookeeper.” “We were incredibly fortunate to get the voice cast that we have. Adam Sandler got on board first to play the monkey – and now, I can’t imagine anybody else playing that part,” says director Frank Coraci.

In the film, the animals at the Franklin Park Zoo love their kindhearted caretaker, Griffin (Kevin James). Finding himself more comfortable with a lion than a lady, Griffin decides the only way to get a girl in his life is to leave the zoo and find a more glamorous job. The animals, in a panic, decide to break their time-honored code of silence and reveal their biggest secret: they can talk! To keep Griffin from leaving, they decide to teach him the rules of courtship – animal style.

“Adam is so talented, he could have voiced any animal in this movie, but I can’t think of a better match than the monkey,” says co-screenwriter Nick Bakay. “The monkey is one of our best animal actors – it did incredible faces and exhibits tons of personality, just like Adam.”

Cher joins the film as the zoo’s lovely and loving lioness, with Sylvester Stallone as the king of the jungle himself. Nick Nolte plays Bernie, the gruff gorilla, who becomes an unlikely friend to Griffin. The voice cast also includes Judd Apatow as Barry the elephant; Jim Breuer as a neighborhood crow; Jon Favreau and Faizon Love as Jerome and Bruce, a pair of quarreling grizzly bears; Richie Minervini as an ostrich; Maya Rudolph as a Mollie the giraffe; and UFC fighter Bas Rutten as Sebastian the wolf.

“If the lion is king of the jungle, Janet is the power behind the throne,” says Cher of her character. “But she totally plays it cool. Like all powerful ladies, she can let her man play the big man – it’s enough for her to know that he knows who’s in charge.”

Adam Sandler plays Donald, a Capuchin monkey with a big mouth and big ideas for Griffin on how he can win his lady love. “I was first on board, and I’m a producer on the movie, so I got to pick which animal I wanted to be,” Sandler explains. “The monkey was the only animal smart enough, handsome enough, and funny enough to handle my voice coming out of its mouth.”

Sylvester Stallone brings his unique voice to Joe, the lion. “Joe likes to think he’s the king, but the rest of the animals have other ideas about who’s really in charge,” says the actor.

Though the filmmakers opted to use real animals wherever possible, one instance required movie magic. “Gorillas are endangered,” says producer Mark Forbes. “No private party can own a gorilla. So, we used an animatronic gorilla suit to play the role of Bernie.”

The first step was to capture Bernie’s voice, and the filmmakers turned to Nick Nolte. “Nobody has muscles like Bernie, and nobody has the voice of Nick Nolte,” says Coraci.

How did he capture a gorilla’s distinctive growl? “I kind of have a growl to my voice anyway,” says Nolte. In the movie, Bernie has been isolated from the other animals and most other people, and Nolte was determined to express the character’s loneliness in his vocal performance. “I played that detached feeling,” he says. “That started working right away – ‘Keep going,’ they said – and we decided to do the whole movie in that first session.”

Opening across the Philippines on Sept. 21, “Zookeeper” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Visit to see the latest trailers, get free downloads and play free movie games.

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