Over the last week, we’ve been posting parts of my exclusive interview with Bill Hader (how he’s a writer on South Park, updates on The Hand Job and other future projects, and SNL). The reason I got to speak with this very talented comedian is that he has a supporting role in director Greg Mottola’s Paul – which stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. In the film, Hader plays a Federal Agent who is tasked with helping to locate Paul.
During our extended interview, Hader talked about working with Pegg and Frost, how much was in the script and how much was improv, how Mottola told him to prepare for the film, filming on a very famous street in New Mexico, and a lot more on making Paul. Hit the jump for the interview and remember to see Paul this weekend!
Bill Hader: We did a Paul commentary track yesterday. Your little shot came up and I was like…I’m apologizing right now because in my head I was like, “There is Frosty.” and then I was like, “Wait. His name is Steve, right?” and I go. “There’s…the dude from Collider!” [laughs] and they were like, “Yeah, it’s Steve.” It was like, “Fuck. Yeah, that’s right. Shit.” So, you’re mentioned in the commentary track.
That’s awesome. Although, I got to tell you that seeing the movie I had all of the people around me screaming at me once I came on at the beginning.
Hader: Yeah. So you’re mentioned in the commentary track but I’m apologizing for not….It wasn’t like I blanked on your name. I just got confused because I was like, “Wait. Am I saying that right? Shit. His name is Steve, but is it Frosty?” You know what I mean? It was like this crazy moment of like, “His email says Frosty, but his name is Steve. Wait. What do I call him?” and then it came out as “there’s that dude.” I know your name. So I apologize when you get the Blu-ray.
It’s fine. How are you enjoying this junket weekend?
Hader: It’s a day. The junket day is pretty good. Its been a good day. So, yeah. It’s been fine, you know? Just been running around a lot.
I was going to say that you had SNL this weekend.
Hader: Yeah, we did.
Hader: Yeah. It was an immediate yes. I was actually oddly enough friends with Greg, Simon, and Nick beforehand. We were friendly beforehand and then they flew me out to London in August of 2008 to do a test as Paul. It wasn’t like, “Hey, you have the part” or anything like that. It was like, “we want to show the studio what Paul will look like.” So I went out and did that and then the script was top secret and I got to read the script. I was like, “Oh, this is great” and we did a scene from the movie. Then, we did this table read. This kind of small, intimate table read and I played a couple of characters in that. Then, after that happened, I think it was the day after Adventureland came out, Greg called me and said, “Would you like to play Haggard?” and I said, “Absolutely.” and he said “I need you to get into shape…kind of. I don’t want you to look like you do in any of the other movies that we have done together.” Let’s face it, I look pretty out of shape. So he was like, “Let’s try to get into shape and I want you to cut all of your hair off” and I said, “You got it!”. He goes, “Also, you’re going to be evil in this.” He was very upfront like, “This isn’t going to maybe be as funny as the other characters, but I want you to kind of turn legitimately bad.” and I was like “Awesome. I’m in.”
You mentioned how you’ve been working or helping out on this thing for years. I know Simon has been talking about this project for years. I think he mentioned it to me I think before Hot Fuzz even came out. He’s been writing this thing for a long time. How has it changed since you’ve been involved in it or has it been pretty much been the same thing?
Hader: Pretty much. There are little moments here and there in the movies where I am like, “Oh, that changed. They took that out.” You know? Should I talk about the movie like as if people have seen it or should I not say any spoilers?
Yeah, I don’t think we should ruin anything.
Hader: Yeah. There are certain things in the movie that ended up being different that when I read it in the script. Then, from like a studio note, or the guys themselves figuring out that “Maybe it’s better this way?” – they changed it.
You have a lot of scenes with Joe and Jason, but really not that many scenes with Simon and Nick.
Hader: Yeah, we have one scene together where we pull them over. Then, we have a scene where Simon hits me in the face when I’m like. “Give me that alien.” and he hits me in the face. That’s about it.
I was going to say that it’s funny that you are doing a movie with Simon and Nick, but you aren’t really doing a movie with Simon and Nick.
Hader: Yeah, we don’t really get the chance to hang out. But we hung out the whole time we made the movie. So that was good. And you know when we were doing our scenes Simon and Nick were on set pretty much all the time every time we were doing our scenes. So they could throw a line or say, “That was good. We like this.” You know what I mean?
Totally. Obviously Simon and Nick are very good at improv. You’re obviously very good at improv. How did it change on set? Did you guys always do it scripted and then did you throw things in there?
Hader: There wasn’t a lot of improv actually on the set. There’s a line here or there that I can watch and go, “Oh, we did that in rehearsal” and they are like, “Keep that. That’s good.” or where Greg will come out and say. “You said this.” or whatever. I think the difference between the U.K. and U.S. is that those guys write a really strong, tight script and then you act it like…the acting is so good that it feels improvised. It’s like you write it to where it almost feels improvised. I was surprised to find out that so much…Spaced was just perfectly written to the button, you know what I mean? It felt so fluid. Even all of those other shows like Alan Partridge, and The Office. Where in the U.S. it’s like you start with a great script and then on set – not everybody, but definitely in the Apatow group – you go off and you’re improvising on camera. So while you’re on camera you’re saying things that no one else has ever heard before during the actual take. We didn’t do any of that on this movie. It was like you would rehearse and people would say “Oh, I like that. Keep that in. Let’s try saying that or instead of saying some of this what if it’s that?” It was very collaborative.
I know Simon and I know that he is very protective of his commas and words.
Bill Hader: Yeah. [laughs]
How was it like filming on location because that seems like it must have been a blast.
Hader: It was fun. It was fun just hanging out with everybody. It’s just all friends. It was like a perfect situation, you know? When we were leaving to go to Santa Fe it was just like. “Wow. This is like a vacation.“ All of these people that I love and we are good friends. We get to hang out in this beautiful place and go on hikes and stuff. It was great. It was a blast. It was just a fun time and it was cool. We went to Las Vegas, Nevada where they shot No Country for Old Men. We stayed in the hotel from No Country for Old Men where Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin gets chased. The scene in the room where he goes out the window and that street, you know? That is the street where they have their gun battle at night is the street where they are walking down the street with Paul where he is dressed as a cowboy. It ‘s also the same street where they did the parade in Easy Rider. That is why there is a marquee behind us that says “Easy Rider” and “Duel”.
That’s a pretty famous street.
Hader: It’s a very famous street. On the other street over from there is where Javier Bardem blows up the car. It was one street over. On that street is where a lot of Red Dawn was shot. Las Vegas, New Mexico has had a lot of great movies shot there.
You’ve talked about this slasher-horror film that you might be doing with Judd Apatow. How are things shaping up with the stuff that you have been developing?
Hader: There’s a lot of stuff. I mean, everything is kind of like…scripts have been turned in. We are rewriting, and just notes, and things like that. They all have, as they say, traction or whatever. It seems they all have momentum. The slasher movie we are kind of just figuring out what we want to do with it. Even if we want to do it or what it is. It’s a really funny script. Judd basically was like, “What if you were dating a girl and you found out that she was Laurie Strode 15 years ago.” You know what I mean? Like, she was the girl who was the survivor of a slasher movie. That was his kind of take. He was like, “Go write that.” So we are working out that idea. Then there is a movie, Henchman, that Akiva Schaffer and I are working on at 21 Laps. They came to us with it. That would be me and someone else – we don’t know who – basically playing two guys who realize that they are working for the villain in like a Jason Bourne movie. We are working on that. Then, me and Vernon Chatman, who is a South Park writer who writes for Delocated and is the creator of Wonder Showzen and Xavier: Renegade Angel. He and I are writing something for Scott Rudin that is going really well. Then, there is this movie called Vaughn Meader that Ben Stiller’s company, Red Hour, came to me with. Vaughn Meader was this guy who did this JFK impression. He had this comedy album called “The First Family” and it’s still one of the top selling comedy albums of all time. He just did this killer JFK impression and became world famous for it. Then, of course, JFK gets assassinated and his career just went nowhere after that.
I remember hearing about that guy.
Hader: Yeah. Ben Stiller brought on Rob Siegel to do a draft of it. So that is really exciting. That is another thing that is in the works.
Yeah, you have nothing going on outside of SNL.
Hader: Yeah, I know. [laughs] It’s a lot of fun, though – each of these things and working with all of these producers and how everybody works. Getting to work with all of these people you just pick up so much stuff. You learn so much. So its been really helpful for me in figuring out projects and things like that and what you want to do.
Have you figured out what you want to do during your hiatus from SNL? Could it be one of these projects?
Hader: No. I doubt one of these projects would happen because we are still getting the scripts into shape. But there is this movie called The Skeleton Twins that is trying to find funding that me, Anna Farris, and Mark Duplass are attached to. This guy, Craig Johnson, is going to direct it. Mark Heyman, who wrote Black Swan, wrote it. It’s more of a drama with me and Anna Farris playing twins. It’s really interesting. Then my wife, Maggie Carey, wrote a movie that was on the Black List called The Handjob for Aubrey Plaza that she plans to write and direct. That movie is kind of in the same place as Skeleton Twins. They are kind of trying to get their funding together. It’s a really cool movie. The cast for that is great. It’s got Aubrey Plaza, me, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, Connie Britton, Alia Shawkat, Mae Whitman, and Johnny Simmons is attached to it. It’s a really cool movie that is insanely funny. We did a reading of it at the Austin Film Festival and it just blew the roof off of the place. People went nuts for it. I really hope that happens.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have talked about how difficult it is to get financing on a lot of pictures now.
Hader: Yeah, it really is. It’s interesting. I’ve talked to other people who are like, “Yeah.” Even two or three years ago it was easier. It’s just become really, really difficult just to get under a million dollars to make a movie. Then Sundance comes around and you see all of those movies that got made and you’re like, “Wow. Who financed that?” You know?
Especially because some of those movies are just not good.
Hader: Yeah. Well, that is the thing. We watched the making of Winter’s Bone and it was like, “Yeah, that is the kind of crew you need.” In Winter’s Bone it’s literally the director and the camera operator. That’s it. Just a super small Kubrick crew. You know what I mean? Like 8 people. That is kind of whatever you can do to get your movie made. It obviously worked out great for them. I thought that was the best movie of the year for me. I loved Winter’s Bone.
Is this your last season of SNL?
Hader: Oh, no. Not at all. I’m back next season.
Hader: 100 percent. Yeah.
You’ve been in a lot of great films and you’ve done some awesome characters on SNL. When you walk into a Starbucks, what is the one thing everyone wants to talk to you about?
Hader: Stefan. Without a doubt. [laughs] People go up to me and they are like, “What is the best club in New York to go to?” and I’m like “Oh, very…” [laughs] Every once and awhile someone will say Vinny Vedecci or something like that. My favorite character that me and John Mulaney work on is Herb Welch, the newscaster that keeps hitting people in the face with his microphone. That is the character that me and John find really funny. John also writes stuff with me as well. He is an amazing writer and an amazing comedian too. He is just phenomenal. The Herb Welch character is the one that really makes us laugh.
Stefan has really taken off. I saw you on Letterman or somebody talking about it and I’ve seen a lot of people ask you about it. Are the days of SNL characters getting their own spin off movie over? Or do you think this is the kind of character that you would even be willing to play?
Hader: Yeah, I don’t know. That is an interesting thing. I don’t know, you know? I really don’t know. I mean, no one has asked me to do a Stefan movie. Yeah, I don’t know. It doesn’t seem…Wayne’s World went really well. I thought MacGruber was funny.
MacGruber is great.
Hader: Especially if you grew up watching Chuck Norris movies and stuff like I did. It was like “Oh my god. I so get the joke of this.” It was like what if Chuck Norris really was insane? What if he just was an insane person? [laughs] But, yeah, I don’t know. All I know is that they haven’t…no one is knocking on our door for a Stefan movie. That is for sure.
Hader: I’m good friends with Trey and Matt. They asked me to come in on their South Park retreat. They have these retreats where you go to Seattle. One year we went to Boston. You just go and it’s like a dream. You go to an awesome place and stay in an awesome hotel and just for a couple of hours a day you swim around in South Park ideas. The first retreat I went on they seem to like…it just seemed to gel. It’s mostly those guys. I kind of hang out in the room. That is where I met Vernon Chatman and we started writing stuff together and now we are writing that movie for Scott Rudin. It’s very chill and then in the 13th season they actually brought me in as a writer and I actually wrote on the show for part of that season. I’m doing it again this season too. In April I’m going out there for three weeks. It’s just awesome. You hang out for a couple of hours just working out these ideas. It’s very peaceful. Just a couple of people in a room with Trey and Matt. It’s like a dream come true. But it really is those guys. It’s like they are working out their idea and you are saying, “Oh, that is funny.” Or maybe it’s this or that, you know what I mean? You kind of throw out ideas, they run with it, and make it insanely funny.