“I’ve only sort of grasped what kind of movie it is in the last couple of weeks,” says the 42-year-old, a shyness evident in his voice as he talks about his role in animated blokcbuster Moana.
“Being online and seeing the stuff people send me… I’m like ‘oh wow, this is a big movie’.”
It’s an interesting comment, considering Clement has been in his fair share of big movies: Men In Black 3, The BFG and Rio being just some of the blockbusters that have come knocking following his global breakout as one-half of Flight Of The Conchords with Bret McKenzie.
But there’s something different about joinging the Mighty Mouse, he says.
“Disney is a whole different level of stauration, like 20 or 50 times bigger than anything you could imagine.
“I actually didn’t think about it at all, it only sort of struck me lately. I literally didn’t think it was one of those big Disney princess movies. But now – especially with the art that people do – now I see.”
Clement is part of the largely Polynesian voice cast of Moana, along with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Rachel House, Auli’I Cravalho and Temuera Morrison.
The film – which opens in Australia and New Zealand on Boxing Day – has already been a huge hit in the US where it debuted on Thanksgiving with $81.1M (the second highest Thanksgiving weekend opening of all time).
It has given Disney it’s first Polynesian princess in the title character of Moana, plus one of the most diverse casts in the studio’s nearly 100-year history – something that isn’t lost on Clement, himself of Maori heritage.
“My good friend Taika Waititi was one of the writers so before I knew I was going to involved in it, he said ‘You know I’m going to be writing this Polynesian movie’.
“It’s almost like you’ve got to be there to make sure it goes okay.
“I think it’s going to divide Polyneasian people, well, not divide them – there won’t be wars about it.. There might be some heated Twitter comments about it.
“I think it’s going to be cool for the kids. The Rock is a big role model here, especially for the Samoan kids and him identfying himself as clearly Polyneasian is going to be great for them.”
Clement says he’s looking forward to taking his young son to see it, even though he doesn’t play the most likable character in the movie.
Putting his pipes to the role of Tamatoa – a giant crab with a penchat for bling – he has what’s considered one of the standout moments in the movie with a glam rock solo in Shiny.
“It’s such a catchy song,” he admits.
“I know exactly what people mean when they say ‘I can’t get it out of my head’ because I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since I was in the booth singing it.
“I quite like how it’s a different style of music for a Disney film. It still has that Broadway thing but it’s not quite as Broadway as, say, Frozen.”
And when it comes to famous Disney crabs, a rivalry is already sparking up between Tamatoa and The Little Mermaid’s Sebastian who Clement says “doesn’t have a chance”.
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