29 October 2012 1850 Views

“Wreck-It Ralph” Interview: John C. Reilly Talks Games, Favorite Disney Films, Porn Stars, and “Walk Hard”

by Michael Lee

On the outside John C. Reilly looks like a goofy character, but on the inside, he is a very hilarious and intellectual man, whose career spans over 30 years.  Reilly voices the titular character, Ralph, a video game character who grows tired of his mundane life of wrecking and being defeated by his nemesis and best friend Felix (Jack McBrayer).  Ralph comes to the realization that he can jump games to become a true hero.  Along the way Ralph battles cybernetic bugs, tiny tots who race candy-coated cars, and an evil king bent on ruling the game.

At the film’s press day, Reilly talked about some of his favorite games and movies, fans coming up to him about Wreck-It Ralph, Walk Hard, and rubbing elbows with porn stars.  Hit the jump for more.

MovieViral: Which came first the sketch or the voice?

No, I was surprised to learn the way these animation movies work a lot of the times, it’s really fluid in the beginning. So I came in and Rich [Moore] had the idea and the script that was slightly different than it was in the beginning. Actually it was pretty different. The animators make some pretty crazy sketches from the stream of consciousness. At one point I was a monster with a single horn coming out of my head and orange skin, because it had to be a bad guy in a video game. At one point it was that same horned monster with my hair photoshopped on top of it. But the process of making the movie was really collaborative, Rich brought me in for story meetings, which is unheard of for an actor. It was sort of a process of me becoming the character and the character becoming me, and more and more of my own expressions kind of seeped into the character and my own facial gestures, because they are filming you when they do it, so it is this kind of synthesis that happens.

Were there any special challenges for the tone you brought in for your character?

Well it was a challenge in the beginning for wrong headed he is, because really feeling for the character, because he means well, he has a big heart, so doing things like smashing the cake at the party on accident. He starts out in a self pitying, negative, the world owes me kind of attitude. So that was hard to play, but to his credit, Jim Reden, the story editor was like ‘You got to start out in a place that’s a little bit dysfunctional in order to find the path of the hero later on in the movie.’ The other challenge for the movie is that you overcome quickly when you do live action, because you don’t have to memorize anything when you are doing voiceover. So there is always a challenge to make it sound like you are speaking instead of reading, which is something that goes away in live action when you memorize the dialogue. So yeah, there was a couple of challenges there, but overall it was a dream job, which by the way is the longest job I’ve ever had my whole life. Yeah, the longest term of employment I’ve ever had, and I got real used to it.

How long did it take?

It was a little under two years. They’ve been working together for four years I think. Check your notes.

How much improv did you get to do in this film?

We did a lot. We used the Will Ferrell model. The way that Will and I work together on Talledega Nights and Step Brothers, which is sort of a comedy democracy, which is the funniest idea at the moment wins. So you do the written material a few times until you are like ‘Alright, we did that and now its starting to feel flat, and now we have some time left so let’s just throw everything out the window and see what happens.’ So yeah we did that. How much of that ends up in the movie, I don’t know, a certain amount of it did I know for a fact. But when you do that it also ends up giving a sense of ownership about the material that you didn’t come up with. If you have the feel of freedom to change things however you want in the moment, you feel less constrained with the material that was written for you.

What were your favorite kids movies know or looking back?

I would say the big three were: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the original Planet of the Apes, and The Great Escape, which is really an awesome movie if you are into G.I. Joes.

And are those still your favorites now?

I still love all three of those. I think they stand the test of time. Animated movies it’s like people don’t know, at least younger people, don’t know how limited kid’s entertainment was when I was a kid. I grew up in the late, well I don’t want to… let’s just say the child of the 70s. Around then there was no home video, there’s no computers, no internet, so anything you that saw was either first run in the theater, although later in my childhood, the second run phenomena started to happen in movie theaters, but for the most part it was first run in the movie theaters or maybe once a year Wizard of Oz would be on TV on Thanksgiving or something, and you made damn sure you were sitting in front of the TV at that time. So the movies that affected me as a kid were experienced in a movie theater or the Disney movies when dane to release them, it was much more rare special occasion like Dumbo, Snow White. When you can’t watch it four times a week, you really are paying attention in a different way, you really are soaking it up. In such an intense way, I just can’t believe that I am a lead character in a Disney movie. You think about all those dreamy nights sitting in front of the TV, watching Tinkerbell go over the castle. Not even animated movies, but different Disney shows that would be on TV, I think all of us were shaken by that. Then I found out I was standing in the same room, when we did the recording for this, as the Jungle Book. Because Ralph started to remind me of the bear character in the Jungle Book. The bear’s name is Baloo right?

It is Baloo.

Yeah, I was getting kind of a Baloo vibe today. The engineer who knows the history of the building was like ‘Actually, that guy recoreded where you were standing, same spot,’ and I was like whoa. And then they had this TV display showing some archived photos and sure enough there was the actor who did it, whose name I should know by now.

Phil Harris

Thank you, saved me the annoying task for looking for it on my phone.

You and Sarah [Silverman] are known for pretty adult humor, when you were dong the improve was there anything that didn’t make the cut?

Yeah, but you will never hear it. It’s gone into the Disney Vault, deep underground. I mean, for Sarah for sure, she’s pretty R rated in her standup, me I don’t know, am I known for my R-rated stuff, I don’t know, I feel like I am more harmlessly goofy than some of the comedy stuff that I have done. But what surprised me the most about Sarah’s work is how sweet and sentimental she is as a person, she’s really into musical theater, I mean she channeled into that little girl so easily and the dramatic scenes that we did, I mean I was really impressed like wow ‘you should do this more often Sarah. It turns out you do have a heart.’

Do you get a lot more love for Walk Hard than you did before?

Oh yeah, my friend of mine who worked on that was like ‘Look John, you can either have a blockbuster or a cult movie, you can’t have both at the same time,’ so if I had to pick one I am pretty happy that we have a cult movie. Musicians especially come up to me, they think of that movie as a documentary. All these different musicians walk up to me and say ‘Walk Hard man.’ But as big and as satirical we were trying to be, a true life of a rock star is even more ridiculous than the movie.

You can say that about Ralph, it’s the ultimate hero’s journey story.

I guess so, that’s what we were kinda making fun of, that every musician is a hero.

Have you had that same experience with porn stars in Boogie Nights?

Don’t rub elbows or anything else with porn stars very often. But that is a beloved movie for a lot of reasons, not just in the porn world. But really, that movie is in the porn world, but the movie is really about a family. It’s great family entertainment, that’s my story and I am sticking by it.

With this movie, do you find that I can relate to real life where actors are typecast?

Yes. I was definitely attracted to the part for that reason. I mean this guy was having a midlife crisis, how awesome, so am I. Not that I have to do the same character over and over, but doing the same job. I’ve been doing moves for over 30 years, you get to be a certain age, I am not going to reveal what that is, but a quick check of you phone will tell you. But you get into your 40s and just start to think ‘Is that it, is that all there is to life?’ You’re younger, you’re used to feeling that the book for your life is unwritten, you know, ‘here I am chapter two.’ And then you get into your 40s, deep into a career, and everybody has to do something for a living and you get to be further down the line and start to think ‘is that all there is? Wait the book of my life is unwritten, there’s a couple of more chapters. Is this it? I thought I had a shot a being an astronaunt or a doctor, I guess there is no way I will be able to remember all that information now.’ So yeah I think that is something that actors or anyone who does a job for 30 years goes through. And I think that’s one of the many reasons that audiences, not just young audiences, the movie is like a marketer’s dream, because all different age groups are really responding to the movie and I think older people are responding to it for that reason. ‘What does it feel like to put in work of all this time and be just standing down a short road in front of you.

Were you a video game fanatic?

Yeah, I was the test audience for space invaders. I was of the age when those games came out, my quarters there the ones they wanted. I just will never forget when space invaders landed in the bowling alley where I used to hang out, it went from pinball machines to that. I was like ‘what, you can manipulate the TV.’ We are so used to computers and being able to interact with media in the way that we do now that people forget that at that time that was outrageous. And even to control that sound effect ‘pew, pew, pew,’ it was like getting to be in Star Wars, which also came out around the same time. Can’t say I play a lot of them now, it’s just not enough hours in the day.

What is the most surprising thing about this movie?

Well, lately, it’s having little kids recognize me by my voice. They’re like ‘You’re Ralph.’ And then they start quoting lines from the trailer, it’s bizarre how aware kids are, and I am talking even little kids. They have the trailer memorized and I open my mouth and they like ‘Ralph, say it like you do in the movie.’ ‘I’M GONNA WRECK IT.’ ‘No no, like you do in the movie.’ like ‘I’m trying.’

Wreck-It Ralph opens in theaters on November 2nd. 



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