Patrick Dempsey gets his fairy tale dream with “Disenchanted.”
The actor, forever known as McDreamy for his 11 seasons on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” lets out his even-dreamier inner swashbuckling hero in the sequel to Disney’s 2007 classic “Enchanted” (streaming Friday on Disney+).
His once-cynical New York divorce lawyer Robert Philip wore natty suits in the original film. But in “Disenchanted,” Dempsey, 56, dons an Elizabethan leather jerkin, a tweed cape and handmade leather boots, and packs a gold sword.
Even he was charmed by the first gaze. “I have to say, at the final wardrobe fitting when everything came together, it was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be fun!’ Dempsey says. “It was great to let loose and throw caution to the wind.”
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When the animated fairy-tale character Giselle (Amy Adams in her breakout role) got stuck in live-action New York City in “Enchanted,” it was her valiant fiance, Prince Edward (James Marsden), who lived large – attempting to slay a city bus with his sword and breaking into song about true love’s kiss.
Even after Philip won the princess’ hand in the end, Dempsey couldn’t help feeling a little derring-do envy.
“I’d always watched James, running around having a great time,” Dempsey says. “It’s really challenging being the straight man with all of these larger-than-life characters.”
“Disenchanted” opens new doors when Giselle becomes frustrated that her suburban happily-ever-after isn’t working out. She accidentally wishes for real life to become a fairy-tale land, and even Philip, her commuting lawyer husband, is transformed.
Dempsey went full throttle, belting lines like “Cease, evil witch!” to emerging local villain Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph), with sword drawn.
He checked in with director Adam Shankman before proclaiming the words. “I was like, ‘Are we OK with this line? Is this going to work?’ And he goes: ‘Don’t worry, there are going to be so many special effects going on. We’ll be lucky to hear you.’ But with a line like that, you really have to commit to it.”
He also committed to heroic singing and dancing numbers, an energetic step up from the first film, which featured solidly romantic waltz scenes. Dempsey joins Adams in a buoyant kitchen number, “Fairytale Life (After The Spell).”
“I was jumping into this territory,” says Dempsey, who used his COVID-19 lockdown to focus on his dance moves. “There was a lot of downtime for rehearsals.”
Dempsey even shot a lusty “No Time For a Hero” song on tavern table tops, Shankman says. While the scene had to be cut for story reasons, Shankman vows to release the song. “Patrick was so committed to the fairy-tale life, singing and dancing,” Shankman says. “He dove in like a champion.”
Dempsey was already named a Disney Legend at September’s D23 fan expo, where he shocked fans with a new platinum-blond hairdo. The internet went nuts. Dempsey, a motorsports enthusiast, dyed his hair to play Italian racing legend Piero Taruffi in director Michael Mann’s upcoming drama “Ferrari” (due in 2023).
“It was interesting to see how disruptive that color was for people,” Dempsey says. He was fine drawing attention to the film and the racing legend. “It was fun to get people talking about the great Piero Taruffi.”
Far less fun was the process to find the exact Taruffi shade, which was “agonizing. We would have been better off just doing a wig and matching the color,” says Dempsey, whose famed locks have recovered. “I dyed my hair back to its normal color. Actually, it has a little less gray in it now. But it will cycle through. I already have the gray roots.”
Dempsey is chill with the emerging gray and “Grey’s Anatomy,” the show he left in 2015. He was surprised to see Ellen Pompeo featured in a preview of the show’s next episode, on Feb. 23, saying farewell to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Dempsey wishes his former screen love interest well as she reduces her role.
“She’s had a really good long run on that show,” he says, shooting down any suggestion of his own return for another guest-star visit, like he did in a dream sequence in 2020. (McDreamy was killed in a truck accident.) Filming “Ferrari” has stoked plans for a return to professional racing after retiring in 2016. Dempsey vows to get behind the wheel again in 2023.
“The film has sort of jump-started being behind the wheel again,” he says, adding that it’s fine with his wife of 23 years, Jillian. Their marriage has endured, and Dempsey doesn’t fret about living happily ever after. “When you stop worrying about being happy ever after, you’re much happier,” he says. “You don’t say this is good or bad. You just deal with what’s presented and move forward. Life is much easier to deal with.”
That doesn’t mean the budding screen swashbuckler doesn’t have new goals. “I’m hoping to be on a lunchbox. I’ve never been on one before. Not that anyone uses lunchboxes anymore. But that still would be cool.”