Danny DeVito’s life is rosy and the diminutive star doesn’t care who knows it.
“I have a ball from the moment I get up until the moment I go to bed, and I think I dream funny too,” says the 67-year-old star of Cheers, Twins and Get Shorty.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t immune to bemoaning the price of petrol...
“I have an electric car that I’ve had about eight months, so I haven’t been to the gas station in the States. The prices are astronomical,” he sighs.
“It’s not so much to save the pennies but to give a message to people because it says zero emissions on it,” he adds with pride.
It’s a fitting statement given the actor’s latest incarnation as the title character in Dr Seuss’s The Lorax.
A unique species, the Lorax is a forest guardian, an acerbic yet charming character who fights to protect his world in a story that highlights the importance of balance between nature and progress.
“There’s a Lorax in every one of us,” says the now white-haired Danny, his 5ft frame propped atop a chair, hands resting on a rotund belly. He’s the spirit inside of us that says, ‘Don’t throw that on the ground. Put that in the recycling bin’.”
The father of three (his wife of 30 years is the former Cheers actress Reah Perlman) is a lifelong fan of Dr Seuss’s books.
“One of the great things about having kids is you get to re-live all the stuff you either did or missed as a kid,” he says.
Danny’s recognisable New Jersey accent made him number one choice to voice the grouchy yet lovable Lorax.
“I just figured this gruff normal delivery that I’ve developed, or was born with, would be perfect. I mean look at him, he’s a gem,” he says, pointing to a promotional poster of the “fluffy peanut” (as The Lorax is described) by his side.
Given his immense success over the last four decades, it’s easy to imagine Danny dreamed of becoming an actor from an early age, but that’s not the case.
“I had a lot of jobs – putting kids on the rides at the beach when I was 14, then I got a job as a gardener. I really liked outdoor work,” he says.
Then, aged 18, he found himself out of work. His sister Angie had a beauty parlour and asked if he wanted to work for her, offering to put him through school.
“Bottom line is I went to this beauty school, and I was dragging my feet all the way thinking it was going to be terrible.”
Instead, he turned out to be a natural. When his sister decided to branch out into make-up, Danny took off in search of tutelage. He was put in touch with a woman who told him the only way she could teach him was if he enrolled at the American Academy Of Dramatic Arts in New York.
“The idea was to go through all the classes to get to the make-up class.”
It didn’t take him long to realise his true vocation. “I had to break the news to my sister: ‘I’m not so interested in the make-up, I’m going to be an actor’.”
Following graduation, he did “a lot of off, off Broadway summer stock”.
One of those productions was One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and, following critical acclaim, he was asked to reprise his role in the 1975 movie starring Jack Nicholson.
Three years later he was propelled into national prominence when cast as Louie De Palma in the TV show Taxi, for which he received Emmy and Golden Globe awards.
“What a character! Louie’s just the lowest of the low,” he says. “Born with a nugget of brass instead of a heart of gold.”
During the last 30 years he’s starred in numerous highly acclaimed movies characterised by dark comedic themes, including Ruthless People, Tin Men and Batman Returns, in which he played the sociopathic Penguin. He’s produced movies too, including Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and he’s also taken control behind the lens, directing films such as Matilda, Hoffa and The War Of The Roses, starring former flatmate Michael Douglas.
“I sent Michael the script for his opinion but was hoping for what happened. He said, ‘If you don’t give me this job I’m going to kill you’,” Danny recalls, laughing.
But there’s really only one reason to become a director: “Because the position of God is already filled. I just tell everybody what to do.”
In 1988’s Twins, he starred opposite former Mr Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger as two unlikely brothers.
“Arnold’s a giant jester, he just wants to have fun,” says Danny, surprisingly.
He announced recently that they were considering a sequel “now he’s finished with this insanity of being Governor of California”.
Shortly before arriving in the UK for his current West End stint in The Sunshine Boys (which ends on Saturday) they met for several dinners.
“We talked about the possibility of doing a new movie and decided we wanted to call it Triplets and reached out to Eddie Murphy to see if he’ll be our third brother.”
* Dr Seuss’s The Lorax is released on Friday.