McConaughey and Theron are switching things up for the upcoming film Kubo and the Two Strings – their first step away from live-action filmmaking. But their decision to do the film wasn’t solely based on expanding their already impressive résumés – they liked the idea of making a film their kids could see.
In fact, when McConaughey, 46, first received the script for Kubo and the Two Strings, he used it as bedtime story for his three children.
“He would read them little sections each night,” director Travis Knight tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, as he gives readers a glimpse at the trailer and several stills from the film.
“That was his way of bringing the story to life and connecting with his children – it essentially became a bedtime story for the McConaughey family.”
Theron, 40, shared a similar sentiment. “She found that this was not only something that she could show her child, but it was a beautiful story that she could be a part of,” added Knight.
Kubo and the Two Strings tells the story of Kubo, a young boy who accidentally summons a vengeful spirit and goes on a magical quest to find a suit of armor once worn by his samurai father and necessary for his survival. Along the way he meets an odd assortment of allies including Monkey (Theron), a sword-wielding monkey, and Beetle (McConaughey), a big, brawny man-bug.
“Monkey and Beetle become a makeshift family for Kubo as they go on this journey, and they bond together as this family,” says Knight of Theron and McConaughey’s characters.
And while both McConaughey and Theron are veteran actors, making the switch from live-action filmmaking to animation wasn’t all that easy.
When McConaughey was approached with the project, he was concerned that his voice would stand out in a film meant to be set in a mythical version of Japan.
“He was actually concerned about what he called his Texas twang,” says Knight. “So he essentially just got rid of it. It’s interesting because you tend to associate Matthew with a certain accent or twang, and he stripped that away.”
Knight adds that Theron, a South African-born actress, had to do the same with her own voice.
“They modified their natural accents accordingly.”
But even Knight admits he was impressed with how seamlessly the two stars adapted to working as voice actors.
“Not a whole lot of actors can do it,” he says. “But these are some of the best actors in the entire world, and from my perspective they seemed like they breezed through it.”
“There were times that I was listening to them [record] and I was really moved. It’s quite amazing.”