Bill Hader voices “Flint Lockwood” © Columbia Pictures

A regular cast member on the popular TV series Saturday Night Live, Bill Hader just appeared in Night at the Museum II: Battle of the Smithsonian, playing General Custer. In Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, he voices the character of Flint Lockwood, a wannabe inventor who yearns to invent something that will make people happy.

In his town the sardine-canning factory has closed down, and all they have to eat are the gross leftover sardines, so Flint invents a machine that turns water into clouds and then into any food desirable, which ultimately leads to disastrous results.

Was this your first animated film?

No. I had done some animated stuff before, but I’d always done different voices. This was the first thing I had done, where they were like, “No, we want your normal voice,” and I was like, “How do I do that?” We had to scrap my whole first day of work because they were like, “We want your voice.”

That was really tough. And, also, it’s so insanely draining, just doing this work. If you watch it, we’re all at a 10, through the whole movie.

You do that for four hours, just screaming and yelling into a microphone, and then you think you’re done and they’re like, “Give us some running. Okay, now give us some getting hit in the stomach.”

Did you get a chance to ad-lib things at all?

I don’t remember doing a ton of ad-libbing. The script was really funny. You would just do stuff, and then they would say, “Oh, that was good. Do you want to try anything?” And, most of the time, I was like, “No, that was good.”

Both Anna and I thought it was going to be easier than it was.

Do you think about the characters you play in an animated movie the same way you would about any other character?

Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) and Tim Lockwood (James Caan) © Columbia Pictures

There were scenes in it where I would approach it like an actor. It’s not all just going in and yelling and screaming. With other animated movies I’ve done, it was like, “You’re a British guy,” or whatever, and you just do that and it’s a little character.

But, with this, I remember doing the scene when Flint’s in the trash can, and they were really talking me through it. They were like, “You’re really sad.” And then, I saw that scene in the movie and my wife got really sad during it. She was like, “Aw, you’re in a trash can.”

And, the end of the movie really gets people, and the relationship with the dad. You don’t just walk in. You really do have to think about it. For research, I read a couple interviews with Tom Hanks about Toy Story and how he approached that. And, in one of those interviews, he said, “Oh, it’s really hard.

It’s really exhausting.” And, I was like, “Oh, good, I’m not a pussy. I’m not just a wimp.” They were really good at walking you through it and saying, “This isn’t a funny moment. We want this to be a real moment.” They’d be like, “Okay, the spaghetti twister is coming toward you. This is a real moment.” (he laughs)

What food would you order to fall from the sky?

Pork buns and momofuku

What was the biggest thing you learned from doing this project?

I learned that I can gasp for two minutes, for the scene where we all gasp. You have the ability in movies now to make Gollum, and you can make food fall from the sky, but apparently you can’t do a gasp for two minutes.

Phil and Chris were like, “Give it to us for two minutes,” and I was like, “I’ll die.” I had to sit there for awhile and then try to do it for as long as I possibly could.

And then, I’d be done and I’d get all light-headed, and they would say, “No, it’s not what we want. It’s more from the belly. It’s raining burgers.”

Was there anything that you just couldn’t picture, when they tried to explain it to you?

Inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) © Columbia Pictures

The army of roasted chicken, but they would appeal to my movie-nerdness. I’d go, “I don’t get the chicken thing,” and they’d be like, “Dude, it’s that shot in Aliens.”

And, I went, “Oh, right! I know what this scene is. Okay.”

Was there anything in the movie that talks to kids that you specifically liked?

The thing I could relate to the most was that thing of having something that, in your little community, makes you kind of weird and people don’t really get it, and no one is into the thing that you’re into, but that makes you unique and you should just commit to it 100% and enjoy it because that makes you a unique person.

I think that’s a cool message.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.