In Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow, Amy (Amy Schumer) and Kim (Brie Larson) grew up with their father (Colin Quinn) telling them not to believe in monogamy, turning Amy into something of a commitment-phobic career woman. After having spent so much time living her life without apologies, even when she probably should have apologized, Amy suddenly has to face her fears when she meets a good guy (Bill Hader), who just happens to be the subject of the latest article that she’s writing for her work.
At the film’s press day, actor Bill Hader spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview, in which he talked about the casting process for Trainwreck, why he thought he was being considered for a different role than the one he ended up playing, how hard it is to play the romantic lead, the fun of getting to improvise, playing one-on-one basketball with LeBron James, and the scene where Amy Schumer made him cry. He also talked about doing an IFC parody series, Documentary Now!, with Fred Armisen and Seth Meyers, and his desire to keep doing different and layered roles.
Collider: First of all, great work in Inside Out.
BILL HADER: Oh, thank you!
It must be so exciting to not only voice a character in a Pixar movie, but to do so in one that’s so original and different.
HADER: Thank you very much. I really appreciate that. It was fun. I just felt very lucky to get to work with all those guys. It was unreal to get to work with everybody. They did an amazing job.
What made you want to get involved with Trainwreck?
HADER: I had just finished SNL and I had moved back to L.A. with my family. I was writing at South Park because I had no jobs coming in. I’m friends with those guys, and they said, “Why don’t you come and write this season.” And then, I got a phone call from Judd saying, “I’m doing this movie with Amy Schumer. Are you familiar with her?” I said, “I know her stand-up and her show.” So, he said, “Come in and you’re going to read with her.” They sent me the script, and I thought the script was unreal. It was so solid and so moving. Along with being incredibly funny, it was deeply personal. We haven’t seen this character be the lead of a movie before, and I thought that was really interesting. So, that sucked ‘cause then I wanted it.
And then, I went and met Amy and we did a couple of scenes. I left and thought, “Well, I just blew that.” I called my manager and said, “I wasn’t prepared enough. I’ll do better next time.” I just felt that I blew it. And then, a couple of weeks later, Judd called me and said, “Do you want to come up to New York and do a screen test with Amy?” So, I went and tested with Amy. And then, Judd took us to a restaurant in New York, and sat and watched us eat. He took us on a date and took pictures of us eating, and that was weird. It was very strange, but it was fun. We had a lot of fun. And then, a couple weeks later, Amy texted me saying, “Yay!” I wrote, “Yay, what?” And she wrote, “Oh, shit!” And then, two days later, Judd called me and said, “We’d like you to play Aaron in the movie.”
This is a very different type of role for you.
HADER: I’ve never been offered anything like this before. I thought I was going to play the brother-in-law. I thought that was the part I was reading for.
So, what was it like to play the romantic lead?
HADER: It was hard. You want to get the balance right. I couldn’t be funny, in the way that I am on SNL. You just can’t be that funny, in this movie. I have to see a side in her that she doesn’t even see in herself. I’m in love with her, and I’m accepting of her, in some ways, and not accepting in others. There’s this balance that you have to have. It’s very easy to try to put in a lot of jokes, but it would have ruined the relationship. I feel like, even on the set, Judd probably thought I was going to be funnier. He was like, “Don’t you want to try something?,” and I was like, “No, I’m good with just that.” And I think it works. When I watched the movie, it feels very real. The problem that I have with a lot of romantic comedies is that nothing feels very earned. I don’t buy that people like each other, and I don’t want them to end up together. The movie ends, and I’m like, “I don’t want those two people together.” I wanted to make sure that people really want these two people to be together, and really sell it that we’re in love with each other.
Some of the funniest moments in this movie come from some of the interactions you have with the people making cameos. Was any of that hard to keep a straight face during?
HADER: It was all really funny, but it’s just improv. You just listen to each other, and it’s like a game of tennis. You’re supporting everybody and you’re listening. You’re not waiting to say a joke. You’re just in the moment with them. Something funny will happen and, a lot of times, the thing on set that you think is the funniest thing is not. There’s a scene in the film where we get in a taxi and I say, “Two stops,” and she goes, “One stop, give him your address,” and I have this look on my face because I’ve never had anybody be that forward with me. We shot that three or four times, and no one laughed or was like, “That was great!” Everybody just went, “Okay, next set up! Let’s go!” But then, when you see it cut into the movie, there’s a giant laugh. That’s so satisfying when that happens. You just have to trust in it. There were also laughs where I didn’t even think there would be laughs. There’s a scene in the movie where Amy says, “I don’t want you to touch me. I don’t like being touched while I’m sleeping.” So, I back off of her. That wasn’t said as a joke. It was just being honest in the scene. But, it got a laugh. It was nice that Judd had confidence in that.
Before this, could you ever have imagined any scenario in your life where you’d be playing one-on-one basketball with LeBron James?
HADER: No, not at all. I’m not the biggest sports person, so all of my friends will laugh and be like, “Why did Hader get to play basketball with LeBron James?” I played basketball growing up, but I’ve never followed it that closely. But, LeBron was so nice and we had such a fun time. The thing that I said was, “In all of these movies, there’s a scene where the main character and his friend play one-on-one while they talk about the relationship. What if we do that with LeBron James and he doesn’t hold back on me, and we never bring it up?” So, Judd shot it that way, and I think it came out really great. It’s such a slow build. They never call it out, but he’s kicking the shit out of me. Of course, that’s how he’s going to play.
This movie has a real blend of funny moments and emotional moments. The last time I spoke to you, you said that there was one scene in the film where Amy Schumer made you and everyone else cry. Which scene was that?
HADER: That was the eulogy. She was unreal in that scene. That was early on in the schedule, and I didn’t know that she was capable of that. We were just really blown away. It was so genuine and deep and honest. I just thought it was great. You can do that in a big-budget comedy, and it’s okay. It felt very gratifying.
Now that you’re doing so many different types of projects and roles, what’s next for you?
HADER: I really like that. It’s nice to do different things. Those were always my favorite actors. Like with Julianne Moore, you see Safe and Boogie Nights and The Big Lebowski and Far From Heaven, and everything is so different and layered. Those are the people I get excited about, and those are the kind of parts I would like to do. I never thought I could do something like this. I’m never sent these types of scripts. It was such a surprise when I got sent this script. Up next, I’m doing the show Documentary Now! for IFC, with Fred Armisen and Seth Meyers. It’s a parody of a lot of different documentaries. We parody Grey Gardens and The Thin Blue Line, and some of these other films. That was a lot of fun. And then, I have The BFG, which is a Steven Spielberg adaptation of a Roald Dahl book. I worked with Steven Spielberg. That was really exciting. And I’m in this Rebecca Miller movie called Maggie’s Plan. That was really great.
Trainwreck opens in theaters on July 17th.