By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 13, 2011 at 1:58AM
It's pretty much safe to call Frances McDormand a national treasure at this point. Whether in her reliably fantastic work with husband Joel Coen in films like the Oscar-winning "Fargo" or "The Man Who Wasn't There," or in supporting roles for other filmmakers, like her memorable turns in Curtis Hanson's "Wonder Boys" or Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous," it's basically always a delight to see her on screen, and excluding the occasional "Aeon Flux," she's mostly resisted the temptation to take paycheck gigs.
Mostly. Everybody's got to eat, and McDormand, who hasn't appeared on screen since 2008's "Burn After Reading," signed up last year to play the ironically-named National Intelligence Director in "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon," and now word's come in, via Heat Vision, that she'll play another authority figure in a major tentpole, namely the villain in Dreamworks Animation's "Madagascar 3."
The third film in the hugely popular animated series will feature the four neurotic New York animals, as voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith, as they become involved with a travelling circus in order to make their way home. McDormand will make her animation debut playing a "calculating and goal-oriented animal control officer" who's out to capture the animals.
A number of other, more ethnically diverse characters will also be appearing, including an Italian sea lion, a Russian tiger and a Latina jaguar, although no other actors have yet been announced for the project, and there's no word if franchise veterans Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric The Entertainer and Andy Richter will also be returning, although it seems likely. Eric Darnell, who co-directed both "Madagascar" and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," is going solo this time in the director's chair.
While by no means the worst of the Dreamworks Animation pictures to date ("Shark Tale" pretty much waltzes off with that honor), the "Madagascar" films are no great shakes, however we're interested to see the third for one reason in particular: it features a script from Noah Baumbach (who, if Heat Vision are correct, may even receive solo credit). Between hiring Charlie Kaufman to punch up "Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom Of Doom," and Guillermo Del Toro to consult on all their projects, it's clear that Dreamworks are endeavoring to improve the quality of their output, so hopefully we'll see more along the lines of the superb "How To Train Your Dragon," and less along the lines of "Monsters Vs. Aliens."
Of course, McDormand's not moving exclusively into the blockbuster world: she's currently filming Paolo Sorrentino's "This Must Be The Place," opposite Sean Penn, circling Wes Anderson's "Moon Rise Kingdom" and Fernando Mereilles' "360," moving into producing on a Nicole Holofcener-penned crime picture, "Every Secret Thing," and a HBO series, "Olive Kitteredge," in the works.
"Madagascar 3," which is likely buying her the freedom to do many of the above, hits theaters on May 18th, 2012.