Directed by Fergal Reilly and Clay Kaytis and written by Jon Vitti, the 3D animated comedy The Angry Birds Movie (due out in theaters on May 20th) is inspired by the popular video game and will take audiences to an island populated almost entirely by happy, flightless birds. In this paradise for birds, there are three outsiders who aren’t as happy as the others, and that includes Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), a bird with a temper problem, speed demon Chuck (voiced by Josh Gad) and the volatile Bomb (voiced by Danny McBride). But when the island is visited by mysterious green piggies (one of which is voiced by Bill Hader), it’s up to the angry bird outcasts to figure out what the pigs are up to.
On February 23rd, Collider (along with a number of other outlets) was invited to a “Sneak Beak” at Sony Studios to get a taste of what the world and movie looks like, and to meet this group of comedically naive characters. Following the preview, members of the voice cast, including Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride and Bill Hader, talked about their trio of angry birds, getting in touch with your inner anger, being obsessed with the video game, the movie’s message, finding their character’s voice, the collaborative process, and whether Josh Gad’s bird will sing in the film.
Question: How would you describe your characters?
JASON SUDEIKIS: Angry, from the jump, from the get-go, and feeling a little bit like the wise man, or at least the angry man on a ship of fools, I would say. He’s a contrarian. He’s a little frustrated. He’s definitely the black sheep. You know who he reminds me a little bit of, is McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
BILL HADER: This movie is a sacrifice. It’s a journey. It’s the beginning of a journey.
SUDEIKIS: You have to take sequels into consideration. He’s one of a kind and he definitely sticks out for what we would assume are the wrong reasons, at the beginning, but by the end, he may have been onto something.
JOSH GAD: Chuck has a much better metabolism than I do. He’s a speed demon. What I was immediately attracted to, aside from the color of his feathers, when I signed on, was this idea that he just can’t stop himself. He’s always going. His mind is going faster than his mouth can keep up with. There was something so fun about that. The very first time we spoke, I saw these amazing visuals of what the animators were thinking. It’s just one of those characters that is so fun to play because he’s out of control and he can’t stop himself. I think that that’s the heart of who he is. He’s such a beautiful little bird.
DANNY McBRIDE: Bomb is also angry. He’s also a bird, too. He has an explosive personality. He explodes when he gets angry and he wants to improve that. He wants to be able to focus his anger. He’s embarrassed that he gets so angry and that he can’t control his anger. That’s a lot like me, and that’s why I took this role. I explode. It was therapy.
HADER: I play Leonard. My agent called me and said, “They’re making an Angry Birds movie and they want you to play a pig.” You guys draw your own conclusions. That’s some David Lynch shit, right there. You guys have to go see the movie to make sense out of that.
Jason, you’re known as one of the nicest guys around.
SUDEIKIS: I don’t know about that.
Has playing Red put you in touch with your inner anger, and have you learned to let it out?
SUDEIKIS: It has put me in touch with my inner anger, yeah, as does waking up. There’s just a ton in my world that makes me really angry and ticked off. It’s one thing after another, from the person that I get to sleep next to and my child to my supportive family and cool sisters and great friends. There’s one thing after another. My anger Bingo card is full. Something will turn. It’s peaks and valleys. When wanting to access anger, it does help, going through these sessions. Five hours at a time of pretending to be an action hero, or yelling and screaming, does exercise or exorcise those demons, as does a really long, late, drunken night of karaoke.
Danny, what was the draw for you to do this film?
McBRIDE: These guys were in it, and I was familiar with the franchise. And it was the chance to say that I’m in another movie with Josh Gad. It just seemed like it would be fun.
Josh and Danny, what makes you angry in life?
GAD: I don’t know. Hypothetical things, like how a reality TV star could be the next President of the United States. Just things like that, I guess. What makes me angry is being woken up on my birthday, when I am supposed to be able to sleep, with my wife giving me the news that, “Oh, I have to volunteer at school in an hour. Can you watch the kids and let Time Warner Cable in, and also make coffee and make egg white omelettes for everybody? Happy birthday, love.” That makes me angry.
HADER: That would be a great morning for some people. To have someone that you love and an offspring and a kitchen would be great.
McBRIDE: I rarely get angry, except for when I drove here this morning. Waze, when it makes me take a left in four lanes of traffic, makes me furious.
Bill, how did you find the voice of Leonard?
HADER: The directors (Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly) said, “He’s like The Music Man, like Robert Preston.” So, we did a version like that, for a full session. And then, when I came back for the second session and they said, “Well, do you have something else?” So, we found the Hee-Haw Music Man. That was where he came from, just very jolly and excited. It basically is my dad. I’m doing an impression of my father.
Did any of you become obsessed with the game, at any point?
HADER: I got obsessive with the game on a lay-over on a plane. That’s when I discovered Angry Birds and it was wonderful.
GAD: I became obsessed with Star Wars Angry Birds. I was on set and I would literally not speak to anybody, in between takes. I would just play, obsessively, as Darth Bird, or whatever it was. It’s such a great game.
McBRIDE: I just buy my way to victory.
SUDEIKIS: I played the old version where you just throw birds at things.
Do your kids play Angry Birds?
HADER: They love it.
SUDEIKIS: [My kid] only plays Beyonce videos right now.
Josh, does your bird sing in the movie?
GAD: Well, I guess it’s time to announce the sequel today. It’s a full-on Angry Birds musical, styled after The Music Man, which I think we’re all familiar with. There’s a little singing in Angry Birds. It’s part of my contract, at this point, for every film that I do, to just sing a little bit. Chuck will give you a little of his vocal glory in this movie.
What is the message of the movie, that it’s a good thing to be angry?
HADER: This is very much a hero’s journey.
SUDEIKIS: No, that is one of the things that I liked about it. We’ve gotten better at acting like anger doesn’t exist, but it clearly still does. Letting it out, every now and then, actually is a healthy thing. May it never go too far, one way or the other. Don’t hold it all the way in and don’t let it all the way out, but a little toot of anger, every now and then, is a nice thing.
Did they copy any of your physical mannerisms for your characters?
GAD: With my character, I definitely see a lot of me. That’s the beauty of this process. You go in so early, they’re really working in sync with your performance and matching what you’re doing.
HADER: There’s always a video camera. When you’re recording, there’s a video camera right there that some poor animator has to watch, over and over.
GAD: You’ll notice that the one character they didn’t capture, looks-wise, was McBride because he did all of his stuff over a payphone.
SUDEIKIS: My kids don’t even look like me. I have weak genes.
Did the voice come to you, as soon as you saw the character?
SUDEIKIS: Mine is an amped of version of myself. It’s not too dissimilar. We toyed with the idea of maybe making a big swing or a medium swing, but it just felt like, in order to play the sarcasm, the frustration, the cynicism and the anger, I should just do it in my own voice, for one reason or another.
GAD: I have a friend, who I grew up with, who talks a mile a minute. We called him Motormouth, growing up. That put him in therapy for a couple of years and I feel bad about that, in retrospect. But, I based the character on his mannerisms and that idea of never being able to shut down with the words coming out faster than you can compute them.
McBRIDE: I just tried to find the bass in my voice and get it gravelly. You know you got it if you can’t talk after a three-hour session. You’re in the sweet spot.
HADER: After all these sessions, people go, “Isn’t it so easy and fun, doing it?” I’m so braindead after ‘cause you’re just yelling for five hours, and saying the same line, over and over and over again.
SUDEIKIS: It’s like being in a [David] Fincher movie. It’s just 70 takes, and they beat the acting out of you.
How do you bring your brand and style of comedy, just by using your voice when we can’t see what you’re doing?
HADER: You’re moving around a lot. The directors on the movie really allowed us to own it and act things, which was great.
SUDEIKIS: I ended up doing a lot of it with the gestures. I ended up doing a lot of it with my eyes closed, as crazy as that may seem, just to picture what’s going on. You’re being catapulted in the sky and you’re whipping by a bunch of things, so to be in a little room in Manhattan, it does help when you go for it. You’ve just gotta put your trust in the visuals. That’s another good thing about having a background of SNL. You just put your trust in the people that know what they’re doing versus second-guessing it. You’re not going to get that much done, that way.
Were you able to improvise with the story, or was the story a bit more set because it grew out of a game?
HADER: I thought they did a great job, putting a story together with the game. A lot of these animated movies take years and years and years. These guys are constantly improving things. They never settle on something. It’s not like we show up and there’s an Angry Birds script, and we record it and go home. You’re constantly redoing scenes because they’re working so hard.
SUDEIKIS: You don’t have to know [the game]. It’s like Life of Brian. If you have an understanding of the Bible and the history of religions, you love the movie on that level. Otherwise, it’s just a very fun, funny movie. I didn’t play the game that much. I’m more of a New York Times crossword puzzle guy. I liked the story. A big part of it, for me, was what is the story? When you have people that wrote for The Simpsons coming up with it, they’ve come up with and forgotten so many good stories, having worked on that show for 20 years, that you put your trust in that. But I liked the overall theme of the film, that anger is sometimes necessary. They carved out a nice little origin story about the frustration between the birds and the pigs, which is something I know that every time someone plays that game, they’re concerned with.
Would you say that anger has any relation to bullying?
SUDEIKIS: I think speaking for yourself and standing up for yourself is a good thing to learn, as a human being, regardless of your age or your height. Our two-year-old says no, constantly.
Since you guys are all parents, do your children want you to do animated movies?
HADER: Yeah, sometimes. It was funny, my daughters didn’t understand I was Fear in Inside Out until they watched it. They like it. I take them to recording sessions sometimes, but they just get bored.
GAD: My oldest daughter figured it out the very first time I took her to a movie, which was Monsters University, and they showed a teaser for Frozen. My daughter, who had just turned two, looked at me when my character laughed and went, “Dada? More dada!” My baby doesn’t quite get it yet.
SUDEIKIS: My kid thinks I’m Ed Helms.
HADER: My kids think I’m Rainn Wilson.
GAD: My daughter thinks I’m El Chapo.
The Angry Birds Movie opens in theaters on May 20th.