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Director Carlos Saldanha Talks RIO 2

Rio 2, starring Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, George Lopez, and Jemaine Clement, hit theaters this weekend and for fans of the first, it certainly won’t disappoint. All of the favorite characters from the first film are back, with new additions voiced by Andy Garcia, Rita Moreno, Kristin Chenoweth and Bruno Mars. Nerdist had the opportunity to listen to director Carlos Saldanha discuss the film, and the Rio de Janeiro native shed some light on why this film is so close to his heart, what’s in store for Blu and Jewel, and working with Bruno Mars.

Sometimes coming back to a cinematic world can be challenging for a director. After the success of the first Rio film, how was the experience of returning to this franchise for director Saldanha? “Rio was a project very close to my heart. I’m from Rio, I’m from Brazil, so it was a story I really wanted to tell… Part of the theme in the movie is about family. What’s the best way to raise your children, whats the best way for the future for your kids?…. Blu is a little hesitant about going to the jungle. If we thought going to Minnesota to Rio was a big change, from Rio to the Amazon is going to be even wilder.”

Among all of the returning talent, Flight of the Conchords and Muppets Most Wanted alum Jemaine Clement is back as Nigel, the dastardly bird who hasn’t given up on his pursuit of Blu and Jewel. What could Saldanha tell us about Clement’s character in the follow up film? “Nigel is back and from the first movie he was defeated by the blue birds in the end, so he lost too many feathers, now he can’t fly anymore.” He also has a love interest in Tony award winning actress Kristin Chenoweth as Clement’s adoring sidekick, and their dynamic is definitely one of the strongest parts of the movie. Another choice scene features a musical number performed by Clement’s character Nigel covering a disco classic. I won’t say any more, except that even Clement’s voice is hilarious and that sequence was a comedy highlight.

In addition to Chenoweth, Rio 2 has added Grammy Award-winning singer Bruno Mars to the cast. Saldanha had nothing but praise for all of the new talent, especially Mars, whose character Roberto, Jewel’s former flame, was originally supposed to be more of a tough guy. Saldanha revealed that all changed when the singer came to the project, saying, “I watched Bruno on Saturday Night Live and I thought that he was really funny and witty and he had a charm to it and I decided just to switch the character to that kind of personality because it felt better to me. It felt not as predictable as if I just get the tough guy.” Saldanha continued, “He added so much more to the character than the page was reflecting… He’s really funny and that’s the best part of it.”

Rio 2, starring Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, George Lopez, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth and Bruno Mars, is in theaters now and features original music by Janelle Monae and Wonderland.

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