When it comes to former child stars, few have reinvented themselves as wildly as Neil Patrick Harris has. Getting his start in showbiz at 16 on the TV series "Doogie Howser, M.D." before a brief hiatus from the public eye, Harris now soaks up acclaim on the small screen, big screen AND the stage.
He's won raves for hosting the Tonys and performing on Broadway, helped spin CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" into a hit as ladies' man Barney Stinson, and showed just how potent (and hilarious) a mere cameo can be in two "Harold and Kumar" movies.
Now he's doing one for the kiddies, playing the lead human role in "The Smurfs," a mixture of live action and CGI that finds the actor starring alongside lovable tiny blue creatures. We got his Smurf name and more.
Were you a Smurfs fan growing up?
... -ish. I only knew of the Saturday morning Hanna-Barbera cartoon. But back when I was growing up, that's kind of what all kids did on Saturday morning, is sit there and watch "The Wonder Twins" and "Captain Caveman" and "The Smurfs." So that's all I really know of them.
They're really cute in 3-D.
I thought so, too. I love their eyes.
You must have been hugging air a lot on this shoot. Was that your first time doing a movie with so much CGI?
With such frequency. I was in a movie called "Starship Troopers" that had a lot of CGI in it, but I wasn't in much of that stuff. I mean I never shot with nothing when there was supposed to be a thing there. But it's much, much more intimate, the "Smurfs" stuff. But it's weird, you have to -- it's embarrassing initially, and then you have to get past that very, very quickly, because it's a movie. Weird to have a t-shirt that's got all these monofilament threads attached to it that are moving like this to make it look like they're crawling up and down your shirt while you're hugging and patting nothing. Very random.
If you had to pick a Smurf name for yourself, what would you be?
I don't have any idea. I would say Variety Smurf. I'm drawn to magic and juggling and circuses and talents and live theater and stuff, so I'm an old school vaudevillian. Vaudevillian Smurf! That would be a good one.
That would be a mouthful.
Yeah, kids wouldn't even be able to say it.
Would you do another "Smurfs" if this one takes off?
I believe I'm contractually obligated to do another film if it goes, but the nice thing about that is ... the caveat is that if it's a success I get to do another one, so it doesn't feel like a chore. I'd love to. Obviously, it would be in everyone's best interest for the material to be good, so I would make sure that they weren't just doing a sellout sequel; but I think as you can hear from [producer Jordan Kerner] and [director Raja Gossnell], they care very, very deeply about the franchise and not only wanting it to be successful financially, but successful generationally, too.
What do you think is more likely: a "Doogie Howser" movie or a "How I Met Your Mother" movie?
"How I Met Your Mother" movie, for sure. Well yeah, 'cause Jason Segel's a big movie star. Alyson Hannigan's doing the "American Pie" movie again, she's done tons of movies. Cobie Smulders is in "The Avengers" movie, and I'm in "Smurfs." And Josh Radnor writes and directs his own movies. So that's an easier swing for certain.
What do you think would be the storyline for that movie?
Wow [laughs]. Maybe the bachelor party for Barney Stinson in Bangkok that goes terribly wrong?
So "The Hangover Part II."
Oh wait, yeah, that's already been done.
Where so many child actors have failed, you've survived or flourished. How did you pull that off?
I don't know. I mean, every person's upbringing is so unique to them and so instrumental to their emotional well being there's no way to know, but I had really lovely parents that were very conscientious of there being some kind of longevity in my head regardless of whether there was longevity on a screen. So, I attribute it to them.
[The way] the movie/TV industry is, you get everything you want when you're working. And when you're not, then you're struggling. So when you're a kid and you're getting everything you want from people at work, that's just a real tricky dynamic to have to process when it ends.... when you're Gary Coleman, and everything you want you get, and you're super-duper famous -- and then suddenly it ends, and that's happening to other people but not you, and your life is now not like that and you have to sort of come to terms with the realities of what actual life is, which isn't that all the time. It spins you around.
This was a huge weekend for the gay community of New York, with the legalization of gay marriage. What does it mean to you to see this law go into effect?
It's nice to see so many people that have been together for so long to be able to affirm their vows in a very positive experience. I congratulate all of them.
When are you getting married?
I have no idea.
What can we expect from "A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas"?
It comes out in November, it's in 3-D, and it will be a big stoner fest.
Do you have a bigger role in this one?
Probably about the same size as the last one. It always seems Harold and Kumar go on some kind of adventure and end up crossing paths with lots of various people, so I end up being in one of those chapters. But I think this one's pretty funny. Sort of speaks to my current place in pop culture.
Is there anything you can tell us about "The Muppets"?
I'm in a little cameo scene in it and I hope I'm not on the editing floor, or cutting room floor. I hope not. I hope I'm still in the movie. I had a great time. I mean, I was in awe of the process, I just wanted to be on set watching the puppeteers work.
Did you get to hang out for a while?
For sure. I befriended them and I was like a nerdy stalker that wanted to ask them all the questions about what glue they use and which X-Acto knife blade works the best for cutting foam.