Interview: John C. Reilly of 'Wreck-It Ralph'
'Ralph is based somewhat ... on a lot of my uncles.'
As the title hero of 'Wreck-It Ralph," John C. Reilly is both id and superego, the blunt-fisted berserker and the soul inside the 9-foot tall 943-pound protagonist. It's the perfect role for Reilly, a broad-shouldered son of Chicago with wit and charm that lives in every sinew of his frame. We spoke with Reilly in Los Angeles about voice acting, embracing your inner big guy and the pleasures of Pac-man.
MSN Movies: What was it like for you doing animation voiceover for pretty much the first time? I know you've done stuff with Tim and Eric …
John C. Reilly: Well, I did a movie called "Nine" actually… which was the big, animated, post-apocalyptic kind of movie. This was a different animal altogether really from even the live action films I've done, or animated things that I've done before because I was really drawn to the process of coming up with the character, improvising, dialogue, and stuff like that. And Rich Moore, the director, really drew me into the creative process of the building of the story. Of course, legions of other people were also involved but it also felt really good to be empowered in the way, to say like, "No, John, we want to know what you think Ralph would do in a given moment."
I also like the fact that you were able to record a lot of your dialogue with, say, Miss Silverman in the booth with her, which is rare in animation.
Did that give it a nice Ping-Pong effect?
I think it's going to become less rare because it's such an obvious thing to me, but when I started the movie they were like, "Okay, so you'll record on this day and then once we have the dialogue from Sarah…" I was like, "What? No!" Like Sarah Silverman, she's one of the funniest improvisers in the world right now. Put me in the same room as her 'cause, you know, if I do something and then she reacts to it later it's not going to be as good as if we have some "frisson" let's say.
I like your use of the word "frisson."
You and I are roughly the same height, and in normal life, I can't wear overalls 'cause I just look like a hillbilly serial killer.
Yeah, you've got to get big ones.
Get the big ones.
Was it nice to embrace your inner and outer big guy to play Ralph?
I did not wear overalls to the recording sessions, but I was tempted to just wear my pajamas one day.
It's just a liberating thing like, oh, no one has to touch my hair or like…
Put anything on my face.
But yeah, it was just liberating in general to like, move through the world in your mind anyway as this 943-pound giant of a man with ham- fists. He actually reminded me a lot of, and we actually did a movement studies for the animators where they videotape me moving around doing the dialogue and stuff. The character ended up reminding me of being based somewhat on a lot of my uncles.
My older uncles, you know, guys from Chicago who are like…
… pulling up at the bar, you know like…
… walking through the world with large shoulders…
They look like they're always in a football stance, you know?
(Laughs) My dad's side of the family all look like the Notre Dame logo. They all look like…
There you go.
Let me ask you this, this movie really speaks to the esthetic of video gaming, which is now a medium that's been going on for some 30, 40 years.
Do you have a favorite? Did you grow up playing anything? Is there anything you enjoy now that you care to admit?
Well, you know, it's funny 'cause the things every once in awhile I'll play a game on iPad or something and the stuff I'm drawn to are not the immersive worlds ...
I like games where you have to be more imaginative like Space Invaders or those kinds of early games because you bring so much of the detail yourself. These games where you're kind of immersed in a whole world that's created and you have to learn all these rules and like this power button and this exchange, you know. I like the simpler stuff so if I do play stuff, and I'm a family guy so I don’t have a ton of time for this stuff.
But when I do, I tend to play games that are similar to the ones I played back in my childhood like Tank Battle.
It's the simple ones of like ... you move around, you blow up the other guy, try to blow them up a bunch of times.
There's a lot to be said for the simplicity of Pac-man.
Yeah, exactly. And that sound: "Woc, woc, woc, wocka."
For more from "Wreck-It Ralph," check out our 4.5/5-star review and our on-camera interview with the voice cast: