Spoiler alert! The following post details important plot points and the ending of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to know.
There are a few things you should know about Marcel: His bed is a slice of bread. He has a pet lint named Alan. And he’s a “60 Minutes” superfan.
In some of the most endearing scenes of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” (in theaters now), the feature-film debut of the stop-motion animated sensation, Marcel (Jenny Slate) and his ailing grandma, Nana Connie (Isabella Rossellini), sit by the window and watch their neighbors’ TV.
Their favorite show by a landslide is CBS’ “60 Minutes,” primarily because of their admiration for long-running news anchor Lesley Stahl. (“She blows cases wide open and she’s got class,” Marcel explains.)
Watching the movie initially, you might think Marcel’s Stahl obsession is just a charming character detail. But she actually winds up playing a major role in the film’s plot: After Marcel goes viral with a YouTube short uploaded by his human friend Dean (Dean Fleischer-Camp), he asks his new followers for help finding his missing shell family.
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His online plea eventually makes its way to “60 Minutes” producer Shari Finkelstein (playing herself), who books Marcel and Dean for a TV sitdown with Stahl. The interview – as well as Stahl’s globetrotting investigation to find Marcel’s family – are shown at length in the film, and will surely delight anyone who’s familiar with her phlegmatic delivery and meticulous reporting.
Slate says the idea to use “60 Minutes” came from a brainstorming session with co-writers Fleischer-Camp and Nick Paley, as they tried to decide which TV show made the most sense for Marcel and Nana Connie to watch together.
“I ended up saying ’60 Minutes,’ because I just remember watching that with my grandparents,” Slate says. “And Lesley, she has a lot of pizazz.”
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There was no backup plan if Stahl said no to a cameo.
“You would think with a scrappy, indie-movie production that we would have come up with a huge, long list of every news anchor that might be willing to do this,” Fleischer-Camp says. “But we didn’t – it was always Lesley Stahl. Luckily, our producer Elisabeth Holm had a friend at ’60 Minutes’ and we were able to get the (project) in front of them and Lesley. They were super-game and open to what we wanted to do.”
To re-create “60 Minutes” for the movie, “Marcel” producers hired a film crew that regularly works with Stahl to shoot her segments. The journalist also filmed her introduction for Marcel on the same stage where the news show normally tapes.
“Nick wrote an intro for that, but then (Stahl) was like, ‘I would never say something like that,’ ” Fleischer-Camp remembers. “Then she did her own version of it and it was great.”
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Slate was most surprised by Stahl’s ability to keep a straight face and play off her as she voiced Marcel in the interview scene, despite not coming from the improv comedy world.
“I was sitting on the floor, so her eyeline and Dean’s eyeline would be down to where Marcel was (supposed to be) on the stool,” Slate recalls. “Never once was she like, ‘This is weird!’ or ‘Am I doing this OK?’ She was just like, ‘I interview you? This is the story? All right.’ And then she completely got in there.”