Will Arnett Interview – MONSTERS vs. ALIENS

     March 23, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

Opening this Friday is DreamWorks new animated movie “Monsters vs. Aliens”. But unlike the previous films the company has released, this one is in 3-D. In fact, this marks the beginning of a whole new direction for the company as all their future animated films will be in 3-D.

For those that haven’t seen a commercial or heard of the film yet, “Monsters vs. Aliens” features the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Kiefer Sutherland and Paul Rudd and it’s about monsters invading Earth. Here’s the synopsis:

When California girl Susan Murphy is unwittingly clobbered by a meteor full of outer space gunk on her wedding day, she mysteriously grows to 49-feet-11-inches tall. Alerted to the threat of this new monster, the military jumps into action and Susan is captured and secreted away to a covert government compound. There, she is renamed Ginormica and placed in confinement with a ragtag group of other monsters: the brilliant but insect-headed Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D.; the macho half-ape, half-fish The Missing Link; the gelatinous and indestructible B.O.B.; and the 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus. Their confinement is cut short, however, when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins storming the country. In a moment of desperation, The President is persuaded by General W.R. Monger to enlist the motley crew of Monsters to combat the Alien Robot and save the world from imminent destruction.

Anyway, a few days ago I got to participate in a small press conference with Will Arnett and the transcript is below. Will talks about his history doing voiceovers, “30 Rock”, “Arrested Developmen”, “Sit Down, Shut Up”, and a lot more. Finally, if you’d like to watch some movie clips from “MVA”, click here.

Arnett: Thank you very much. Let me begin by saying that all of the funds that were allocated to AIG, as far as we know, were to help it recover in a time of financial instability. The bonuses were obviously buried. This is – ? Oh, it’s not this? Okay.

Question: What did you think the first time you saw the missing link? It’s a great performance.

Arnett: Thank you. I guess the first thing is that I was a little alarmed that potentially, that’s what I looked like in some people’s eyes – sort of a half ape, half fish. That gets you. That gets you in the core. Truthfully, I was so impressed with the art right from moment one, how great it looked before we even got into the script and the story. As you know, you go over and talk with the folks, with Rob [Letterman] and Lisa [Stewart] and Conrad [Vernon] and everybody at DreamWorks. The first thing they do is walk you through all these images and all this art work and you’re blown away by the quality of it and how great it is. I’m not sure that I knew exactly what I was going to do, voice-wise. They said, ‘Well this guy’s kind of a macho, or he thinks he’s macho, idiot. So just talk in your normal stuff.’ That hurt. I’m not going to lie.

Question: How many voices did you go through before you chose the right one?

Arnett: I usually keep at my ready anywhere between twenty and thirty stock voices that I do. I have them all catalogued. There is a fine tuning process that goes on as you kind of get to know the character. Of course the people who write it and develop it have a firm understanding of where this guys fits in the picture, so you come in with your own thoughts and they say, ‘Well, maybe pull back on that.’ It’s just like directing in a live action movie or TV show or whatever. It’s still a collaborative process. Thank God, because left to my own devices I could ruin it.

Question: After the first fight sequence all the characters get on your case for not doing anything. Don’t you think that it’s important that every team or ensemble have one character than can trash talk really well?

Arnett: Yeah, I do. You need to have one person who can keep their wits about them, who’s not going to get his hands dirty. What if everybody else perishes? Then you need a guy to be held over. Plus, while trash talking can on the surface appear to be demoralizing, it actually works as a diversion so that people don’t get too down about the circumstances. Just like on any sports team. You need a guy who’s a real lightning rod to take a lot of that. I’m like the Manny Ramirez of ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’.

Question: Do you have any favorite monster movies? Do you think there are aliens out in the universe or do you think we are alone?

Arnett: Let me just say this [make a noise]. ‘Take me to your least powerful person!’ I don’t know necessarily that monster movies had a big effect on me. I think the first scary movie that I went and saw in the theatre was ‘The Fog’, and that’s actually remarkably devoid of any creatures. It’s just rolling steam. I remember being profoundly affected by ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’ It was such a great movie, and I remember really buying into all of it and the idea that there is something else out there. To answer your Question, I don’t know. Obviously. I mean, I might know. I have read with a certain amount of interest that last year there were some sightings of, I guess you’d call them UFOs, in Texas. There were a lot of fairly credible seeming members of the community who all had independent accounts of having seen these lights move in similar ways. It’s hard not to be kind of compelled by that a little bit, because it just allows you to appreciate that maybe we’re not just here on our own. Maybe there’s other stuff out there. I’m not a conspiracy theorist or anything.

Question: You talk about being left to your own devices, how easy or difficult was it to acclimate to the project being locked into a recording room by yourself, and being given direction?

Arnett: Look, anytime you’ve got an open mike in front of me, I’m psyched. I actually spent many years making my living primarily doing voice-overs for commercials and various things before I ever did any kind of character work in a film or a TV show voice-wise. I do think that I maybe had an advantage of having a relationship with the booth and understanding what that is. There are, I don’t want to say ‘tricks of the trade’, but there are certain things that you know and that make you more comfortable. So I felt okay about it. It’s always difficult, no matter how much experience you have, going into a booth by yourself and doing just your side. Especially when it’s comedy, which is about give and take and reacting to the other people around you. You don’t get to necessarily feed off that as much, and that’s hard. However, you do have the advantage of it being a long drawn out process over a couple of years, so you can kind of go back and fine tune. Thank God, in my case.

Question: Now that you’re a father do you start to think about doing projects that your kids can see when they’re young? Also, how is the whole dad thing going?

Arnett: I don’t know if it’s really affected me in any kind of conscious way. It’s going great, thank you.

Question: Did you have a favorite action sequence in the film?

Arnett: There were so many. I love when Susan is running along the tops of the roofs, and then she finally grabs on to the gutter and then falls an inch. I thought that was pretty amazing. So much of it was really mesmerizing, and of course when the alien first lands and the military decides to unleash everything they’ve got, that was – for me anyways – watching that in 3-D was such an incredible experience visually. You truly are in the action. That was pretty amazing.

Question: As your son gets old enough to watch and enjoy this movie will you maintain the secret that it’s you and let him figure it out for himself, or will you say, ‘no, this is dad doing this’?

Arnett: [Laughs] I don’t know. I think good parenting is about keeping secrets.

Question: Did you have any input with the script at all?

Arnett: They do give you a certain amount of room to try stuff. They did a great job writing the movie, so I wouldn’t even want to suggest that I needed to because there was something lacking. It would maybe be just to enhance things. They gave us quite a bit of latitude, yeah. It was great. It’s fun to be able to improvise when you’re doing an animated project, because there’s not a lot of resetting and you’re not throwing a wrench into the works and then they’ve got to go back and figure it out. No, they just have to keep the tape rolling. Digital tape is not that expensive these days, I don’t think.

Question: What gesture do you recognize when you see it that looks like something you did, or you?

Arnett: Probably that stupid smile. [Laughs] Yeah. Unfortunately there are moments when Link has kind of a dumb grin on his face. Unfortunately I recognize that.

Question: Have we seen the last of Devon Banks on ’30 Rock’, and how much fun did you have with Alec Baldwin?

Arnett: Alec is such an amazing actor and a super funny guy. It was really, really fun to do that. As to whether or not they want Devon to come back on the show, I’m not sure. I would love to do it. I have such an amazing time working on it. Tina’s [Fey] a great writer, and she’s got a great show there. I not only enjoy doing it, I’m such a fan of the show, so at any time if they want to pay me a million dollars an episode I’ll do it. Oh gosh, I shouldn’t have said that. Any time. I don’t know what their plans are, but any time.

Question: You said you did a lot of voice overs at the beginning of your career.

Arnett: It was mostly for commercials. Let me take you through a couple. ‘GMC. We are professional grade.’ [Laughter] No? You don’t live in America?

Question: I’m not American.

Arnett: It’s great here. You should think about it. We’ve made a lot of changes. We’ve made a lot of improvements here. I think you’d like it.

Question: Can you do any of your lines?

Arnett: Okay, how about, ‘Do you have thick, discolored or flaky nails?’ No? Okay. Lamisil’s a great product. What about, ‘T. Rowe Price. Invest with confidence?’ No? It’s a great company.

Question: Do they have to pay you for every time you promote it?

Arnett: Yes. So let’s run this a lot. Let’s run the audio.

Question: Obviously we’ve talked in the past about a lot that you have in

development. What’s the status of the long ‘In Development’ film?

Arnett: I hate to kind of give the same answer like, ‘It’s happening!’ But, it’s happening. It is something that hopefully we will get to by the end of this year, start shooting. Mitch Hurwitz is actively working on a script. It really comes down to Mitch and his comfort level with the script, whether or not he wants to get going on it. But the goal is to get going on it by the end of the year. We’re all really excited about it.

Question: Have you actually read the script yet, and what were your thoughts?

Arnett: I have not read the script yet. There’s not an actual completed document. I don’t even know if there’s a started document. [Laughs] There may be like a blank word or final draft document on Mitch’s desktop. It is something that he’s actively developing right now. I don’t know the exact status of it, in terms of the script, but it signs are pointing to us getting rolling on that by the end of the year.

Question: Since there are so many of you and you have your own TV series in the works, is it actually do-able to get it done by the end of the year?

Arnett: [Laughs] I don’t know. We hope so. That’s going to be, obviously, one of the potential stumbling blocks. It is something that everybody’s got on their radar now. Everybody in the cast, and everybody who was working on the show. One of the reasons that it’s not starting in July, I guess, is probably because everybody has got to get on the same page, schedule-wise.

Question: Do you have a couple TV projects with Mitch going on?

Arnett: Yeah, we’re working on ‘Sit Down, Shut Up’. It’s a new animated show on FOX that starts April 19th on FOX. Then Mitch and I are developing a live action comedy, a half hour show to debut sometime I think twenty Question mark. [Laughs] It is something that we’re working on, and I’m not entirely sure when. It’s a little early to talk about what exactly it is, but it is something that we are currently writing.

Question: Are we going to see you on Amy’s [Poehler] new show?

Arnett: I hope so. That would be fun to come on there. Look if they need a really dumb character, I’m a phone call away. We do all the negotiation by phone. I do.

Question: Are you the romantic lead in ‘When in Rome’, or is that a misprint?

Arnett: No, listen, feel free to write that. That was really fun. I play one of Kristen Bell’s suitors who kind of fall under her spell. I, along with Danny DeVito and Dax Shepard and Jon Heder and Josh Duhamel, amongst others. That was a really fun movie, very sweet. We shot in New York and we got to shoot in Rome, Italy last year as well. It’s a really fun movie.

Question: Is the show ‘sit down, shut up’ a reference to the Dixie Chicks ‘shut up and sing’?

Arnett: There is a lot of Dixie Chicks in there. No. I don’t now. Is that the name of their album?

Question: Yeah. It’s about Bush.

Arnett: Oh right. When they said that thing and then everybody got mad at them, right? It’s not. We ought to rethink it though. I remember they got in a lot of hot water for that, for just voicing an opinion at a time when it was kind of unpopular to say stuff. Then now they’d get lost in the noise of everybody who ended up getting mad. It’s not about that. Our show is about really awful high school teachers in Florida. [Laughs] It’s based on an Australian series. It’s not too esoteric.

Question: On IMDB you’re attached to a whole bunch of stuff.

Arnett: Thank you. Sorry. I take that as a compliment.

Question: What’s actually true? What are you working on right now?

Arnett: Currently I am working on, well ‘When In Rome’ and ‘G-Force’ are coming out this summer. ‘G-Force’ is like a big kid’s movie, 3-D style from Mr. [Jerry] Bruckheimer. And then ‘When In Rome’ which is a rom-com, comes out a few weeks after that, with Kristen Bell. But I’m working on ‘Sit Down, Shut Up’ the animated series. And then I’m working on my own half-hour series as well, and then the ‘Arrested’ movie.

Question: With the state of the economy right now, is it hard to create these projects, and develop new projects? Are you optimistic?

Arnett: I’m very optimistic. Very few people want to hear some dumb actor’s take on what’s going on in the real world. But I will say that I am optimistic and I think that it’s unfortunate that they economy and the country’s not in better shape. We could really see what Mr. Obama could do. I think he’s doing a great job, and I think that ultimately in the end, anybody who bets against this country usually does pretty poorly. I think that everybody will pull their way through. It is a difficult time for everybody I know, and the landscape in entertainment has changed a little bit too. It’s tougher to develop anything, you know? Purse strings are tighter, and people aren’t as willing to part with their hard earned cash, and rightfully so.

Question: Yesterday Obama was on NBC and a lot of people were out there with SAG posters and strike posters. Will you support it? This issue is hanging on and undecided. What do you think about that?

Arnett: There are a lot of people who know a lot more about it than I do probably, but I would say good for them. That’s the great thing about the country that we live in. They can go out there and let their voice be heard and say what they want to say. I can’t imagine that he caught a glimpse of one poster, [Laughs] but maybe he did.

Question: He did.

Arnett: Did he? Did he comment on it?

Question: No. But the car slowed down and he saw the posters.

Arnett: Given what’s going on in the broader scope in America, and in the rest of the world, it does seem like he’s got bigger problems to worry about than the SAG strike. I wouldn’t bear him any grudge if that didn’t make it onto his radar right now. Let me say that.

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