From director Rich Moore (The Simpsons, Futurama), the animated movie Wreck-It Ralph is an equal parts hilarious and adorable arcade adventure. For 30 years, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) has been stuck in the role of bad guy while the good-guy star of Fix-It Felix Jr. (voiced by Jack McBrayer) always gets to save the day. When Ralph leaves his game, he embarks on a hero’s journey that leads him to the candy-coated cart-racing game Sugar Rush, where he meets feisty misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), who not only becomes his first real friend, but who also gives him his chance to finally save the day. The voice cast also includes Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Ed O’Neill, Dennis Haysbert, Joe Lo Truglio and Adam Carolla.
At the film’s press day, Collider spoke to actress/comedienne Sarah Silverman, in both a 1-on-1 and a roundtable interview, about what brought her to the film, what her reaction was when the idea was pitched to her, how into video games she was growing up, actually getting to record with co-star John C. Reilly, what makes her laugh, how she would love to do more voice-over work, and how she’s currently working on a stand-up special. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
SARAH SILVERMAN: It was a great script. They flew us to Pixar to have a table read, and I got to see Pixar and was like, “Oh, my god, this is a utopia!” The script was awesome, but it’s such a process with Disney. That’s what makes their movies so great. They spend two years, honing, re-jiggering, tweaking, rewriting and sketching. Slowly, Vanellope started looking a little like me. Sergeant Calhoun looks exactly like Jane [Lynch]. The ending is different. I love how it ended up. I love that Vanellope is in a hoodie. She makes what’s important, important. It was cool. I was super psyched! I still am. I’m so happy to get to be this little girl.
How was this idea about this life inside the chords of arcade games pitched to you?
SILVERMAN: It was as simple as that. They said it was about an arcade, after closing hours, and you can see all the video game characters come to life. It’s such a no-brainer, in that way. It’s crazy it hasn’t been done before. I feel like it’s this latent fantasy that’s probably been in all of us. We respond to things that are familiar and that we can relate to, and this is a movie that’s filled with things for people of all ages, except for maybe the very old. You see characters you know from your childhood. You see these characters that were a part of your life, at a key time. Video games are 30 years old, which in technological years is 100 because it develops so fast. There’s a real history there. You see all of these familiar faces. Even with Sugar Rush, the candy spans from old timey candy to new candy. So, you see all these things that you know from you life and that are familiar, and yet the movie is so totally unique and not done before.
How familiar were you with video games, when you were a kid?
SILVERMAN: I would say I was really into them. We had Atari. There was Joust in our Dairy Queen in New Hampshire and I mastered it. I spent so much time with that Joust. I loved it! All you’re doing is flapping this really odd, long bird that has tiny wings. I loved Frogger, Astroids, Paperboy and Centipede. On Atari, there was the regular joystick and a new joystick with a dial. And then, this game called Pitfall came out that, for the time, had incredible graphics. Now, you would laugh, but I was blown away by it. And then, when I moved out to L.A., as an adult in my early 20’s, we had gotten Nintendo 64 at Mr. Show, and whenever anyone wasn’t shooting, they were playing Goldeneye. It became my world. I dreamt about it.
How much energy did it take to bring this character to life?
SILVERMAN: It took a lot of energy and movement. It’s just my voice, but you can’t do that without moving your whole body. Just even if you’re talking on the phone, you’re walking around and moving.
SILVERMAN: It was huge, yeah! It was so cool that they let us do that. With animation, they always need the lines clean, but we did it so many times that we were able to record together. All of my scenes were with John, and we could look at each other and play the scenes fully, and overlap and improvise and go on totally weird, bizarre digressions. They were really encouraging. Rich Moore, the director, is the nicest, warmest, most encouraging person. He let us feel a certain amount of ownership in these roles.
Do you feel hampered by the voice recording process, at all?
SILVERMAN: I don’t feel hampered because I’m still moving and doing everything that I would do, if it was a live-action, but I’m just in sweats and there’s a bun on the top of my head. It didn’t feel constricting. They’re taking my voice, but I’m giving my whole body. We all were. Watching John [C. Reilly] record was so fun. You forget that you have to record the running and the sounds when you’re running or gasping or stopping. We make so many little subtle noises that come out of our nose and mouth, and all of that has to be recorded. Those were the things that were most awkward for me. I can’t actually run a distance. You have to stay in place. And watching John do it was hilarious and inspiring. He’s this real actor, and you feel very odd doing those things, but he was just going, 100%. He made so many great noises.
SILVERMAN: You can’t even imagine the work it must take. There’s so many people and so many cogs, with us just being one of them. It ends up being that every moment is so layered and detailed and rich. I was blown away! When I saw it, my jaw was on the floor. My expectations were high because their movies are always cool, but I loved it.
Vanellope von Schweetz is a character that could have easily been overdone and over-the-top. Did you have a process for finding the balance of sweetness without going overboard?
SILVERMAN: I think so much of it was in the writing. You meet her and she’s obnoxious and precocious, but then you pull back the veil. Just like with Ralph, you see that she’s tough because she’s protecting this scared, rejected kid. Everyone can have empathy for that and relate to that. I think the writing really leant itself to making this character, and all the characters, more than just, ironically, two-dimensional.
SILVERMAN: They butt heads, and then, as soon as they start getting to know each other, they realize that they’re on the same path. They both just want a chance to be heroes.
How does it feel to know that so many people will love Vanellope, for generations to come?
SILVERMAN: I love it! It’s such a gift. John Lasseter gave me a huge gift with this part and I’m so grateful, especially that they would let me be in this.
Do you share a lot of characteristics with Vanellope?
SILVERMAN: I think so. I think she’s an every girl. She’s obnoxious, precocious, scrappy and tough, but like any tough kid, she’s scared. She’s tough because she’s scared inside. I think that’s very relatable.
What scares you?
SILVERMAN: As a kid, I was terrified. I was a bed wetter and I had to go to sleepaway camp every summer, which was humiliating and terrifying. I had lots of insecurities and scaredness. I covered it with being funny and tough, but it’s hard to be tough when you’re making your cot in your bunk over soaking wet sheets and acting like nobody can smell anything.
What were your favorite kid’s movies, either growing up or now?
SILVERMAN: I loved Finding Nemo, which came out when I was an adult. Growing up, I always loved Disney movies, but the first movie I remember seeing is Sleepers, so I wasn’t really taken to children’s movies.
Were you always a comedy nerd?
SILVERMAN: Well, I was raised by television. I don’t know that I was into it, but I knew All in the Family was Norman Lear. I can picture the font in my head. Watching The Simpsons, I knew it’s Al Jean and Mike Reiss. I was really into comedy. I was into all kinds of comedy. My mom was, too. She had the Woody Allen double album and a lot of musicals, as well. We watched everything, like Taxi, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Barney Miller and MASH. My growing up years, we watched Happy Days, every night. I don’t know what was reruns and what was new. Today, they watch The Fresh Prince of Bel Air like it’s new.
SILVERMAN: That’s a big question. There are so many great comedies, right now. I like how comedies, right now, are really mixing. They’re not just one thing. I watch Louie, and there can be whole episodes where there are no jokes, except for his stand-up portions. It can be very moving and dramatic, and yet hilarious. Girls, also in the comedy category, is so raw and real. They’re both so singular. I also think Parks & Rec is a beautiful comedy. In terms of television and movies, I’ve been really interested in seeing the partnership of comedy and beauty and heart. I think they can go together really well and really thoughtfully. But, I’m a total one-hour drama addict. I think when you’re a comedian, you tend towards dramas because that’s the less stressful thing to watch. There’s that anxiety of influence, watching something that is what you do. But, when I catch those shows, I’m in awe, especially with Parks & Rec, which is on a network. It doesn’t need to be edgier. It’s just beautiful. You care about these people and it’s very well done. I like it a lot. I’m excited about the comedy that’s happening now. I think it’s a great time for comedy.
Did you ever want to be a Disney princess?
SILVERMAN: Well, I was Minnie Mouse for Halloween, every year when I was little. Then, I had the Cinderella nightgown, when I was really little, that I begged my mother to wear to school. I was also Snow White a lot.
Would you like to do more voice-over work?
SILVERMAN: I loved it! It was so fun. Every couple of weeks, they’d call on me and be like, “It’s time to come in.” It would be four-hour sessions that just went by so fast. They were just the coolest group of people.
What’s next for you?
SILVERMAN: Wreck-It Ralph 2: Vanellope’s Choice. No. I’m doing a special, so I’m back working on stand-up. I’ve got a few things. I’ve got an app coming out that you won’t believe. It’s for babies and toddlers. I am obsessed with kids, I just don’t have any. I have a whole other bag of material that is for kids. I even have material for infants. They love the sound of rich, appalled old ladies. I don’t know how I discovered that, but I did. I have a whole bunch of bits that I do with friends’ kids, so I thought, “I’m going to make an app where I can babysit your kids.” I think it’s going to be called “Uncle Sarah.”
Wreck-It Ralph opens in theaters on November 2nd.