In Aardman Animations ‘The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists,’ Hugh Grant, starring in his first animated role, is the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain – a boundlessly enthusiastic, if somewhat less-than-successful, terror of the High Seas. With a rag-tag crew at his side (Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey, and Ashley Jensen), and seemingly blind to the impossible odds stacked against him, the Captain has one dream: to beat his bitter rivals Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) to the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. It’s a quest that takes our heroes from the shores of exotic Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London. Along the way they battle a diabolical queen (Imelda Staunton) and team up with a haplessly smitten young scientist (David Tennant), but never lose sight of what a pirate loves best: adventure! Aardman are the consistently awesome team behind the likes of ‘Wallace and Gromit,’ ‘Chicken Run’ and ‘Arthur Christmas.’ ’ The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists’ is Aardman’s first 3-D stop-motion film, and Peter Lord’s first film as a director since ‘Chicken Run.’ The film is released in cinemas March 28th in the UK and April 27th in the US.

Pirate Captain is endlessly exuberant, yet slightly hapless….

Hugh Grant: Yes. Pirate Captain is the leader of a gang of Pirates, a band of Pirates, a crew of Pirates….a ship of Pirates (laughs). They’re pretty much the worst Pirates in the world, and this is a source of great sadness to the Pirate Captain. His life’s ambition is to win the Pirate Of The Year Award. He’s entered many times but he always comes last. You win by having the most booty, booty stolen in the year. His booty haul is always tragic. Pirate Captain, he is however infinitely optimistic. The film begins with him announcing that he’s entering the Pirate Of The Year Award again, and his crew are a little bit dubious because its always gone so badly – but they’re with him all the way. He’s perpetually optimistic, he loves his crew, he loves the ships parrot, and he also never fails in having a high opinion of himself – of potentially being a great Pirate. He’s also extremely vain, particularly about his beard, which is pretty luxurious (laughs).

What was it about this film that got you interested?

Hugh Grant: It was an incredibly funny script, that’s always been my main thing with accepting parts. ‘The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists’ was just an absolute diamond, the script was classically funny, and original, and strange. Also, I’ve actually never seen anything of Aardman’s which I didn’t give a triple-A rating too, they’re just brilliant, they’re geniuses.

How did you find the voice-over process for Pirate Captain?

Hugh Grant: It is a strange process. They do film you as well, just in case you do something funny with your gestures – I don’t think I ever did (laughs). Unlike a lot of animation, Aardman don’t model the character around you, they don’t create a Hugh Grant-ish type of Pirate. This character was already 100% created and I had to model myself to him, so that was a bit of a struggle. I always found it useful if I had a model of Pirate Captain there, particularly with his eyes, because whatever else an Aardman character is, they’ve always got a sort of innocence, a wide-eyed innocence. I found that a key.

What was the process like working on his voice?

Hugh Grant: I was a little bit nervous about the voice. I thought I was timing the jokes right, but I kept thinking whether the voice was basso enough to go with this great big Pirate Captain. So we worked on that a bit. Then watching the stuff, in a way it’s soothing because they’re so clever with their animation, so much of the humour is in visual stuff, that the pressure felt slightly off me – it doesn’t all completely pend on whether I land the line or not. That was helpful (laughs).

Pirate Captain’s enemies don’t have much respect for him?

Hugh Grant: Oh yeah. His enemies are people like Black Bellamy, who’s terrifying, Cutlass Liz, who’s sexy – these people really rule the high seas. They make particularly dramatic entries into the Pirate Of The Year Awards, dwarfing the Pirate Captains meagre entry. Poor old Pirate Captain is really a figure of fun to them. In particular because the “Wanted” posters for the Pirate Captain….I think the prize is just a few doubloon and a free pen (laughs), whereas for them it’s gazillions of doubloons. Because of course Queen Victoria, who’s on the throne at the time of this film, she hates Pirate’s beyond anything in the world. She puts a massive bounty on their heads.