In the mid-1980s, actor and stand-up comedian Charles Fleischer, who had appeared on “Welcome Back Kotter” in the 1970s, landed a job as the voice of a cartoon character in a major motion picture.
He became synonymous with Roger Rabbit, the character that interacted so effortlessly with Bob Hoskins in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” The groundbreaking movie is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a new Disney Blu-ray Disc release.
In a recent phone interview, Fleischer — who also lent his voice to other characters in the movie, including Benny the Cab and two of the weasel henchmen — says he was on the set all the time, doing his lines from behind the camera.
“I called it trans-projectional acting,” he says. “If Bob Hoskins grabbed me, I could react.”
A man capable of many sounds, he describes the technique used to achieve Roger’s stammering “P-p-please!” catchphrase. He stumbled upon the “cheek flutter” while performing the voice of the robot B.B. in Wes Craven’s “Deadly Friend.”
It also came in handy when performing the Roger voice in France: “S’il vous p-p-p-p-plait!” he demonstrates.
These days, however, Fleischer is more interested in science. Or, as he puts it, Blu-rays are one thing, but gamma rays are another.
“When I went to college, I wanted to be a doctor, but I started acting,” he says. “I’ve always been fascinated by science and felt that scientists are the coolest rock stars of all.”
Last year, he submitted a paper to Cornell University titled “Can Sequentially Linked Gamma-Ray Bursts Nullify Randomness?”
He has also given TED talks, mainly about “moleeds,” which are “something akin to the DNA of the universe.”
Better still, he has found ways to combine the worlds of art and science.
“Years ago I did a CD-ROM that taught science to kids,” he says. “One of my goals is to leave a body of work and inspire kids, and passing on information.”
With a career so varied and unique, his relationship with Roger Rabbit, after 25 years, remains pivotal.
“I’m closer to Roger than any character I’ve ever portrayed,” he says. “It’s been like a dream. Do the words ‘major blessing’ ring a bell?”