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'Wreck-It Ralph' Star John C. Reilly, on His First Animated Role, His $50 Action Figure and Space Invaders

John C. Reilly has an impressive resume of acting jobs, and has worked with plenty of talented directors. But feature animation is a first for him, and now he finds himself in unfamiliar territory: playing the lead role in an animated Disney movie.

It’s not something he ever thought he’d be doing, let alone hear his voice issue from an action figure at the push of a button. But with so much of him in Wreck-It Ralph, it’s impossible to imagine the film with anyone else providing the voice. Read on for our full interview with John C. Reilly, and find out how everything he thought he knew about animated films changed while working on this movie.

Fandango: John C. Reilly playing a video game character in an animated Disney film is probably not something that we ever thought we would see.

John C. Reilly: Me either.

Fandango: So how did Wreck-It Ralph come to you?

Reilly: Well, I first heard about it through Phil Johnston who wrote this movie Cedar Rapids. Phil and I became friends on that one and I really like his comedic voice.

I had to be convinced at first. I mean like you said, it's not really something I saw myself doing. I've been offered animation in the past and it always just seemed like a real marionette job. Just come in and say these words and then beat it. I'm used to being much more involved creatively in movies that I've done.

Fandango: There is now a $50 Wreck-It Ralph talking figure with your voice. Is that a trip?

John C. Reilly: Fifty bucks! Wow. Yeah, I guess so. I mean, I knew that would be part of the thing but it is strange. I mean, everyone wants to live forever, right? So, I'll live as long as the batteries last.

Fandango: Does having kids make an impact on a decision to do a movie like this?

Reilly: When I meet people in public, it can be fun to meet adults, depending on how obnoxious they are or how nice they are. But kids, 100 percent of the time, it's really fun to meet kids who are fans. Because there's something really sweet and innocent about them. But I don't choose stuff based on the audience. I choose it based on the character or if I think it's going to be something new or a challenge.

Fandango: How was Rich Moore as a director?

Reilly: I did a lot of different stuff in the studio and sometimes they would take the bits that they liked and they would string them together. Then, late in the process I was like, "Rich, I know no one else will be able to hear it but I can tell that is four different takes put together. Let me go in and re-do the whole sentence as one and give you what it was you were looking for." And he was great about it.

He's one of the more kind people I think I've ever met in the business and I think he's got a big future.

Fandango: Originally this movie was going to be called Reboot Ralph. Did Ralph’s look evolve too?

Reilly: Yeah, I've got a script that still says Reboot Ralph on it somewhere. Ralph’s look was one of the strange things for me. For some reason I thought they made the decision about what characters looked like fairly early on and stuck to them.

In fact, it was this crazy evolving thing where…there would be all these crazy drawings and experimental things -- like an Edvard Munch version of Ralph. Or the animators would say "I was thinking about Dracula so I made a Dracula version of Fix-It Felix." So my guy went from like being this weird caveman to an orange-skinned, one-horned beast, because it was never a given that he was human.

But at a certain point I had to say to Rich, I kind of need to know what form that character is going to take in order to start recording the voice.   

Fandango: A lot of your dialogue is with Sarah Silverman's Vanellope von Schweetz character. Did you guys get to record together at all?

Reilly: Yeah. That was another thing that we talked about early on. I said to Rich, "We should all try to be in the room as much as we can, especially with the other actors." Because I always thought that was odd. I'd heard that about other animated movies where you're all isolated and you record your lines and then you react to someone else's recorded lines and it all gets put together. I always thought that's just weird. You know, good actors are good improvisers and why wouldn't you want to see what you could find in the room?

So, Sarah and I found a lot of stuff. That first scene when we meet, the whole thing about me lying about being from the candy tree department, that was improvised. So, yeah, that and a lot of the one-upsmanship that we have, it was stuff that we found just as a result of being together.

Fandango: I'm assuming you must have played video games growing up.

Reilly: Yeah. Space Invaders, that was the first one. That was literally like a spaceship landing in the bowling alley, right? It was far out. We went from pinball machines to that, and I don't think people can really appreciate now what a shock that was. Because there were no computers then, no cell phones. I didn't even have a VCR at that point. There was no way to manipulate anything on a screen. And all of a sudden, you could not only make these thing move on a screen, you could make sounds, cool sounds like so much of the sounds you've heard from Star Wars and stuff, so. Yeah, that was a game changer.

Fandango: It's almost a lost experience. What does Dr. Steve Brule say about people who play video games?

Reilly: You'd have to ask him. Oh yeah. If you find him and ask him, let me know.

Wreck-It Ralph opens November 2. Tickets are on sale now!

Follow along on Twitter @kevinkelly, @wreckitralph and @Fandango!

 

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