Rainn Wilson Interview MONSTERS VS. ALIENS

     January 11, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

Movie studios are a funny thing. Sometimes they offer the online community almost nothing in terms of interviews and advance screenings for their upcoming projects. Other times, they make their production almost transparent – meaning you get to visit the set, interview all the people involved, and they get you really excited to write about the production.

If you’re thinking it all depends on the quality of the movie…trust me, it doesn’t. I’ve been offered amazing interview opportunities for the worst movies ever made, and when I want to land an interview for some Oscar film, I’m turned down. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I still haven’t figured out why certain things happen.

But for the most part, getting advance interviews or an early look at footage usually means one thing…the film is going to be really good. The studios know when they have a winner, and that’s when they really ramp up the promotional machine.

Which leads us to the next DreamWorks animated movie “Monsters vs. Aliens”. Since before last year’s Comic-Con, the studio has been pushing this film aggressively. As you might remember, I got to see a bunch of footage from the movie and interview Jeffrey Katzenberg last July. Back then, what I saw from the film looked fantastic, and I left the presentation feeling like the studio was sitting on a massive hit.

Recently it’s come out the studio will be airing the first 3D commercial for the movie during this year’s “Super Bowl”. As you all know, those commercials are quite expensive, and you only do it if you are extremely confident in your film.

So you may be asking yourself, what is “Monsters vs. Aliens” about? The first thing you should do is watch this trailer.

As you can see, the premise isthe government has locked up all the various monsters that have been on our planet and hidden them away. But after an alien invader arrives to try and take overthe government is forced to release the monsters to protect our planet. Think 1950’s sci-fiin modern day. Oh, I’ve left out the best part…the President is played by Stephen Colbert!

Anyway…enough of my intro…let’s get to the reason you’re here.

Before Christmas I was invited to a long lead junket for “Monsters vs. Aliens”. While there I got to participate in roundtable interviews with most of the cast and the interview below is with Rainn Wilson. In the film, Rainn plays Gallaxhar – the alien invader and the reason the monsters get released by our government.

During our time with Rainn, he talked about how he got involved in the production, what’s going on with “The Office”, his small part in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, his Ninja movie that’s he’s developing with director Jason Reitman, and “Renaissance Man”, which is a film about Ren Fairs. It’s a great interview and if you’re a fan of Rainn, I think you’ll really enjoy it.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here.

Question: How are you doing, sir?

Rainn Wilson: How are you? Nice to see you again.

Nice to see you, sir.

Rainn: Thanks for calling me sir.

That’s what I do.

Rainn: Does this work with all iPods?


Rainn: Is it a new thing? Because I heard the new ones you can’t do this. I’m always more interested by your recording devices than your questions.

Okay, I saw a brief clip of this.

Rainn: Cool, what’s it like?

You’re the bad guy. You look like some kind of insect or something? I’m not quite sure what you are in this…but you’re the bad guy and how do you pronounce your name in this?

Rainn: Gallaxhar.

Gallaxhar. It has an “x” in it.

Rainn: Yes. I am the bad guy. Thanks for noticing. And I guess you’d say Gallaxhar is a 4-eyed 6-legged part squid/part humanoid and all sexy. All the time.

I’m going to ask the obvious question. Let me actually…have you ever been offered an animated film before? And what made you say yes to this project?

Rainn: I have never been offered an animated film before and b. I needed the money. I’m joking, come on! Freak show. No, this was…Rob Letterman, the director, I knew through the grapevine and we had been trying to work on an indie film together actually a long time ago and Lisa Stewart, who’s the producer of the film, produced my first movie that I was in “Almost Famous”. So I had a nice personal connection and I went in and met with them and got the tour of the….when I saw the art designs and what they were trying to do and the kind of the spin on those great 50’s and 60’s monster movies I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. I grew up watching those movies on weekends in the 70’s when they’d replay The Blob and Godzilla and Them and all those great classic horror movies. So I love it and I’m actually an alien so it worked out well.

Did you have a favorite alien or villain from one of those movies in the 50’s and 60’s?

Rainn: Well there was “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”. Those Martians were pretty bad-ass. I would say-you know-my favorite alien villain is the one from the Warner Brothers cartoon—the Martian.


Rainn: Marvin the Martian. He’s pretty great, although Gallaxhar is much more evil and macabre and seeking universal conquest and domination and annihilation.

So that’s what he wants? Is he after anything else in particular?

Rainn: And he just wants to be understood.

I had read that you said it’s kind of hard for comedians to play evil people and nobody wants to see somebody who’s really funny play somebody really dark and brooding, so is this kind of fun to be able to play an evil guy?

Rainn: Well, I think…I don’t know where I would have said that…I think that it’s an absolute blast to play someone unrepentantly evil. And I’m actually thinking about becoming evil myself. It’s actually kind of influenced my character, so just tossing the moral code completely out the window and going ape-shit, you know? Like just destruction. What do you guys think?

I like it.

Rainn: Are you with me?

Absolutely, yeah.

Have you prepared to make your voice for a character and to make a character so evil like Gallaxhar.

Rainn: Well, the great thing about doing an animated film like this is you’ve got a lot of time. The first time we came in we just played around with it. We just had a couple of scenes and tried different voices and they talked about ideas and we looked at the sketches and some animatronics and stuff like that. And then the next time I came in and they had done a lot more work on the story and they had the movie all cast and at that point in time the 2nd time I came in they were like, “you know we realize that we really need him to be more grounded. More evil and even really there are times when he needs to be really threatening and be a real obstacle for the heroes of the movie. So we went from having this kind of wildly comic idea of the evil alien to be a much more kind of straight and more serious evil alien warlord.

Do you see any of yourself in Gallaxhar’s pictures or movement? You obviously saw some animation, right?

Rainn: Yeah, I definitely see some expressions of myself and I’m not necessarily pleased! I see that they…they film you while you’re doing it just so they can kind of get how you say something. I forget there was something I did and it was kind of like I said some line and I was like that…or something and then I saw them do that and I’m like, “that’s me! I do that”. And it’s like really, really unfortunate. I also have 6 legs. I tuck 3 each into each pant leg.

Is it weird for you to be talking about…obviously doing promotion you get used to it, but is it weird for you to be promoting something when you haven’t seen the final product? Or how much of the film have you seen?

Rainn: I saw about a 40-minute series of clips from throughout the movie. And yeah, I’ve read the script. I know the story, and I had the full 3-D experience which was pretty awesome. It’s a little strange not having seen the whole thing, but I knew it would be this way because animated films are right up until the release they’re being tweaked and played with and stuff like that. I think I’m going in next week to even put down some more lines, so it’s not completely done.

What’s your opinion on the whole 3-D revolution that’s going on in the industry right now especially with animated films and 3-D IMAX and everything?

Rainn: Well, I didn’t really have much of an opinion about 3-D stuff and I think I saw The Rolling Stones on IMAX but other than that I’ve never seen any IMAX films but I went into the DreamWorks studio and saw it on the giant screen with the 3-D glasses and it was absolutely mind-blowing. I can’t believe how cool it was. Because it’s not just about the gimmick of the 3-D like someone throws a spear and it’s like oh, it’s coming out at you. It takes you into the world and you get a kind of a much more visceral sense of the world they’re creating and the way you move through space and into the action and yeah, I could see a big, big future with 3-D. I’m not sure how that’s all going to work but it’s pretty exciting. I mean, there may come a time where people are like, oh 2 dimensional movies. How quaint. It’s like black & white movies or something. I think we’ll have surgically implanted 3-D glasses into our retinas.

It’s difficult for people like you and me because we have to put the glasses over our glasses.

Rainn: That’s right.

Because it was sitting right there when I saw it.

Rainn: Oh, yeah.

So I think Katzenberg said something about someday making prescription 3-D glasses and he’s already talking to somebody like Lenscrafters or somebody about doing that. Do you think that will ever happen because they must be expensive?

Rainn: I don’t’ know. Sure, why not? It’s an investment, you know? Yeah.

Since we last spoke to you, you did a certain Michael Bay movie and I wanted to know what was your experience like doing the movie? Because I heard he’s a little interesting to work for?

Rainn: He’s quite a guy, man. I had a blast. He was really nice and Shia LaBeouf was very nice, too. I had a lot of fun. It was just a small cameo that I’m doing but he’s very involved. I mean he does props and wardrobe and change this and he’ll grab the camera and shoot things and block you on-stage and he’s very involved in every aspect of the process.

I’ve heard he’s almost his own first A.D.

Rainn: Essentially, yeah, yeah.

What is your cameo in that?

Rainn: I play a college professor.

You don’t get squashed or anything.

Rainn: No, I don’t get to turn into a robot and nothing blew up while I was there.

Did you son like have any influence in your picking this part? Like is he ready to see this kind of stuff right now or…

Rainn: It was funny because the first time I had the meeting on this movie must have been like a year and a half ago. Maybe almost 2 years ago was my very first kind of introduction to the movie and my son was only 2-years old and now he’s 4-1/2 and he’s going to love it. It’s going to blow his mind. He’s the perfect age for it.

Does he like monsters and dinosaurs and that stuff right now?

Rainn: Oh yes. Oh, anything. Anything scary. Monsters, dinosaurs, superheroes, aliens, robots. Anything of the milieu he just goes crazy for it.

What about Ninjas? Are you still working on the Ninja movie?

Rainn: I have finished the Ninja script and it is sitting in Jason Reitman’s…on his desk. No, he’s very excited about it and you know just talking about potentially making it next year, so we’ll see what happens.

“The Office” is as good as it’s ever been. What can fans look forward to for the rest of the season? Do you know like where the arcs are going and what do you think the secret is of the success of the show because you think maybe you’d get a little bit—not stale…but it could be difficult to keep on writing for these characters yet the characters keep on going. So I’m just curious what your take is on all of that.

Rainn: Gosh, I wish I knew better how to describe what kind of works about this show and why but they just keep writing interesting stuff. I can just speak for me, they just keep writing interesting stuff for Dwight. No two episodes are the same. A lesser show you would just see Dwight be like the annoying nerdy guy in the same way over and over again, you know with the plastic pocket pen protectors and stuff like that. But in “The Office” every episode I get some new adventure, some new color comes out or some new scheme or some new way to kiss ass or be the top salesman or more family life is revealed. And I think that’s what makes the show great is that they’re always striving to dig deeper every episode with all the characters.

Is the Angela romance—did that come as a surprise to you the way that kind of is playing out? Because with a lesser show they might not have let Dwight do something like that, but in this incarnation of “The Office” they’re making Dwight almost a much deeper character – as you were saying.

Rainn: Yeah. Yeah. Well, no when Angela…when the romance…it started with just a little hint of Dwight making out with Angela and like the way it’s gone over two plus seasons has been really great. Yeah, and it’s exactly like you say like on a lesser show they never would have given Dwight a love life or a passion or a vulnerability or you know any of those really human emotions, so I’m pretty darn lucky.

Speaking of nerds, what’s going on with “Renaissance Man”?

Rainn: We’re working away on it. We’re almost done with our 3rd draft for Jay Roach. And then when we’re happy with that one we’ll turn it in to the studio and see if they like it.

How many Ren Fairs did you have to go to for research?

Rainn: I went to so many. I went to like four different ones. Yeah, but I grew up going to Ren Fairs too and I used to go when I lived in New York to the Sterling…? Sterling one in New York. Yeah, yeah. It’s pretty awesome. But I’m very excited about it. It’s a world that’s never seen in a movie before.

Your hiatus is coming up in a few months and I’ve heard that Hollywood is gearing up—assuming a strike doesn’t happen—is gearing up to make a lot of projects in February and March. Have you already started thinking about or putting yourself in position to maybe go after some of this?

Rainn: I’ve had a lot of meetings on scripts that are out there and projects. Some have been greenlit, some they’re kind of thinking about green-lighting but nothing’s been locked up specifically yet.

You were at Sundance a year or two ago. What was your take looking back now on the festival? What do you think about the festival and is it something you’d go to if you didn’t have a movie there just to experience the films?

Rainn: You know if I wanted to experience films I’d probably go to another more low-key festival. One that didn’t have as many gift suites because I think it’s become pretty commercialized over there, although they do really do get cream of the crop films. But yeah, I can’t…people always compare it but I never went to it in the early years, but it was kind of a madhouse. It’s definitely not any place I’d go to ever relax but if I was going to go watch films I’d probably go to some really remote…I’d go to the Guam International Film Festival or something like that.

I guess getting back onto “Monsters vs. Aliens”, when you first got the script how close is it to what is actually coming out? I mean can you see…because obviously the directors have talked about how much they change in the process of bringing it to the screen. But what was it when you first got it pitched vs. what it is now? Were there a lot of differences?

Rainn: No. I guess I didn’t really realize…yeah, it’s better than I thought it was going to be, because I didn’t really realize how insanely great those action sequences were going to be. And those action sequences are like nail-biter, it’s like a roller coaster ride that you go on. I thought it was funny and these monsters and the aliens and the funny dialogue and the jokes. I knew it was going to be a great comedy, but it needs to work on a character level and an action movie level, too. And I think it works really well.

Did they give you any leeway to ad-lib at all?

Rainn: Oh sure. Yeah, probably maybe a third of what I say in that is ad-libbed.


Rainn: Yeah. It’s a lot.

So your audience for it was the directors to see if they laughed?

Rainn: Yeah, yeah. We just play. It’s a great collaboration. They’re over in the booth and try it this way. Oh, I have an idea and try it. It’s a lot like I would do in “The Office”. There’s a lot of give and take. Oh, try it this way. You know, on “The Office” everything is decided in the editing room. You can kind of shoot whatever you want however you want to shoot it. They’ll figure out in the editing room what works the best and it’s the same for an animated film like this. Just don’t talk about it, just try it a thousand different ways and they’ll shape it accordingly.

They recently started producer cuts of “The Office” on NBC.com. Have you checked out any of those? Have you seen any more of your performance? Are you paying attention to that?

Rainn: I haven’t really. There’s been some good stuff that I’ve done that’s been cut out of episodes, as there always is, because we have the first cut is usually around 30 minutes and what airs has to be 21 minutes and 30 seconds, so a lot of stuff gets on the cutting room floor. I haven’t watched the full producer’s cut episodes, no but I’ve seen a few little deleted scenes here and there.

I’ve got a question about…it’s stupid but I want to picture it in my head. How big is your character in comparison to the monsters, I mean…

Rainn: I think they had a size chart when I started working and I think I’m like seventeen feet tall. I think I’m like…I’m very big. Maybe not quite that tall but I’m much taller than a normal human.

Because Gynormica is almost 50 feet tall.

Rainn: Yeah she kicks my ass.

Listening to your voice, how freaky is it listening to your voice in this character?

Rainn: Yeah, it’s pretty freaky to see a giant weird-like alien going across the screen and then hearing my voice come out of him. It’s kind of like wow, that’s disturbing, but a lot of people think of me as a big weird freaky alien so I guess I don’t think it will come as any big shock to anyone.

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