From singer to actor to stage performer – Wayne Newton has done it all, and done it well. This is a man who has performed with Jack Benny and Lucille Ball, and done more than 30,000 solo shows in Las Vegas during the course of his career. His voice has made him an entertainment legend- and a very charming man. Seriously, I found myself blushing during our phone interview, and it’s not hard to imagine him running around with the members of the Rat Pack, having a drink with Frank Sinatra or calling someone a “doll.”
But he’s tackling an entirely new demographic with his latest role in “Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil.” Bringing his expertise to an animated film for the first time, Newton voices Jimmy 10-Strings, a harp who plays in The Giants club. He plays a snitch – Jimmy is a secret informant for the Happily Ever After Agency. “As you know, being a snitch is a really tricky thing to do,” he said. “You have to understand, where I come from, a snitch usually gets run out of town on a rail, or buried in a desert.” Newton says he took some inspiration for the character from an old friend: “I’ve known people in my life, like Dean Martin for example, and when Dean was doing a movie or something, and it came to life or death and he had to give up information, he would do it, but not in overkill. He wouldn’t overdo it.”
The film, which was released August 16th, gives Newton a chance to share his vocal stylings with a new (and markedly) younger audience. Obviously, the people who go see an animated version of a fairy tale are a far cry from the normal crowd at one of his Las Vegas nightclub shows. In fact, he says that one reason he took the role was because of his nine-year-old daughter. “This is a film, at the risk of being corny, that I could take her to see,” he said. “Most of the stuff I’ve done, I’ve played bad guys with bad language, and she can’t see those. So it’s a way to maybe connect with a different demographic.”
He also credits the director, Mike Disa, with giving him a little creative freedom with the part. For example, in the song “Living In A Fairy Tale With you,” he added a poignant line at the end, saying “I bet you didn’t think a heartbeat sounds like that.” The ability to ad-lib also shows in one of Newton’s favorite scenes:
“It’s when they pick up Jimmy 10-Strings and carry him out of the nightclub, and he’s objecting strenuously to that. He says ‘Why are you doing this? Stars get treated better than this!’ and I asked if I could add a line, and I threw in, ‘Hey you got the wrong guy! I’m telling you, Frank Jr. is down the street!”
Want to know more about Jimmy 10-Strings? Check out “Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil,” now available on Blu-ray and DVD!