John C Reilly is an acclaimed actor known for his performances in both dramas and comedies, including God of Carnage, Gangs of New York, Stepbrother, Chicago and Talladega Nights.
You don’t think of Reilly when you think of a Disney animated character, but that has just changed with his new film Wreck-It Ralph. In it he voices the role of Ralph, the bad-guy in a popular 1980s arcade game, but after 30-years of being a destructive force he goes in search across the arcade to earn a medal that will impress everyone that he is truly a hero. On his journey he meets Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) from the action game Hero’s Duty and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) from the cart-racing game Sugar Rush.
What was it about this project or character that interested you?
Let’s face it, it’s not every day someone’s coming to me, saying, ‘Do you want to play the lead in a Disney animated film?’ Just the pedigree of the studio and (director) Rich Moore’s work.
He did The Simpsons and he worked on Futurama, so he was a really talented guy.
It took me a little while to sign on, because I wanted to make sure I was going to really be able to believe in the project. I wanted to be able to really put my heart into it, instead of just plugging in like a hired hand.
A lot of times they don’t even give you the whole script, and they’re like, ‘Just read this page.’ ‘Say it faster.’ ‘Slower.’ ‘Okay, now a funny one.’ And then you go home and all the creative part is done without you there.
I read that you went in early and worked with the animators of Wreck-It Ralph?
Yeah, Rich was really nice that way. He included me in a collaborative way as a director, got me to come into story meetings and solicited my ideas.
He really encouraged me to take a personal approach with the character and improvise a lot.
And I encouraged him to have the other actors in the recording studio, which I guess is not such a common thing with animated movies.
Usually you record separately and then you splice it all together. But Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch are really nimble improvisers and very witty people, so we’d be able to throw some stuff back and forth.
What did you do to prepare for the voice of Ralph?
I just had to go in and be honest every day, and really try to make it seem like I was really meaning what I say. The fun part was just being able to improvise in the studio, fool around, make each other laugh and surprise each other.
Being in a Disney movie, you’re basically immortal now.
That’s a perspective I think I’ll have in a couple of years. Right now, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God! I’m in this movie.’ I just saw it complete for the first time the other night, so I’m really still digesting what it’s all about.
I knew what I was getting into, I knew if it was successful it would be a big thing, but that’s what you want as an actor. You want things that you’re proud of to be seen by people.
John was asked about his thoughts about becoming a Disney action hero. Click below to listen to answer.
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