Ellen DeGeneres: family is not about blood relations

Ellen DeGeneres Oscars Selfie

Her new film may chart the obsession of a memory-challenged blue tang fish looking to be reunited with her parents, but actor and talkshow host Ellen DeGeneres says family is not “about blood relations” but about a place of “support”.

DeGeneres was speaking to journalists after the London launch of Finding Dory, Pixar’s animated sequel to its smash hit 2003 release Finding Nemo. DeGeneres reprises her role of the optimistic fish with a short-term memory disorder, with the character taking centre stage as she tries to recall her early life and how she became separated from her family.

“Dory is looking for what any child would: where are my mother and father, who are they?” DeGeneres said: “But [family] is not about mother and father, it’s not about blood relations; it’s about who makes you feel good, who gets you and supports you, for all that you are. To me, that’s what family and home is: it’s wherever you are supported.”

Director and co-scriptwriter Andrew Stanton confirmed that ideas of family were central to the new film. Saying he was inspired by a screening of Finding Nemo – “the first time I had watched the film in seven years” – Stanton said he had come away “so worried about Dory”. “She still hasn’t found her family, she could lose the family she has. As a writer I was ashamed at how unresolved she was. Dory creates families – that’s what she does. In the new film, there are three: the family she’s made with Marlin and Nemo, the family she’s looking for, and then [the family with] everyone she meets along the way. It’s very inspiring.”

DeGeneres also talked about how grateful she was to have received the offer of the role in the original film. “I had no job offers at the time. I hadn’t worked for three years ... I couldn’t believe I was being offered anything, much less a part in a Pixar movie.” Stanton explained he had written the Dory role in Finding Nemo with DeGeneres in mind, after watching an episode of her top-rated sitcom Ellen. However, Ellen was cancelled in 1998 – just over a year after the actor had come out on The Oprah Winfrey Show – and her successful talk show was only to debut in 2003, four months after Finding Nemo went on release.

“[Finding Nemo] certainly saved my life ... [Stanton] probably didn’t realise I wasn’t working, that I wasn’t desirable. If he had known, he probably wouldn’t have asked me.”

DeGeneres started a not-entirely serious campaign on her talkshow to get a Nemo sequel off the ground. “If I didn’t have a talkshow we wouldn’t be here today. It became content for the show, a running joke. Every sequel that came out for every other movie, it was like: ‘Oh my God, are you kidding me?’ Then my joke was over, because he did the movie. Now I have no more jokes.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Andrew Pulver, for theguardian.com on Monday 11th July 2016 18.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010