By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Sarah Silverman is always on. The stand up comedienne begins an interview with a bit.
“I heard an NPR thing with a woman who was like 108 and they said, “How did you do it?” and she said, (in a creaky granny voice), “I never had kids and I eat ice cream every day.” Ba dum bum.
The joke is somewhat tame for the edgy actress-comic, who most recently starred in the third season of “The Sarah Silverman Program” on Comedy Central.
But the 41-year-old knows how and when to rein it in, and is about to draw a whole new audience as the voice of the cute and feisty Vanellope von Schweetz in Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” animated feature.
Addressing a room comprised mostly of blogger moms, Silverman quickly wins over the crowd with her (mostly) G-rated responses to questions about the new film—and her unlikely new affiliation with Disney. She also discusses working with Oscar nominated John C. Reilly, who provides the voice of the title character, an arcade game villain who wants to change the routine. After crash landing in another arcade game, he befriends the scrappy Vanellope (Silverman), and the two embark on a wild adventure.
Q: Where did you find that wonderful, feisty little kid voice?
Silverman: It just came to me. There was very little searching for that voice. It happened in, like, a minute. I just looked at (a drawing of) her. I just kind of sped up my voice as if I was a record player. (She imitates the high-pitched Vanellope voice.) She talks like this. I gave her a kind of a permanent cold.
Q: What was your favorite part about playing this character?
Silverman: Her strength and perseverance and her scrappiness. Especially in the beginning, she’s obnoxious and she’s precocious, and she’s tough, but like any tough kid, she’s tough because she’s protecting this scared little girl, this rejected kid who just wants to play with everyone else. It’s a survival skill and I think that kind of makes her an everyman/woman/girl.
Q: So how does Sarah Silverman end up doing a Disney movie?
Silverman: They just cut out all the ****. There’s probably an audio blooper reel that would be rather funny to hear in that voice. On the one hand, when Disney wanted me, it was like, “Are you sure?” But I’ve always been a huge Disney fan. I’m a baby and kids person and even though I have none, I’m obsessed. I was really happy that they could see beyond those things, or I was like, “Do they only know me from ‘Monk’ and ‘Yo Gabba Gabba?’” At the same time, the filthiest comedian for me growing up was Eddie Murphy, and he’s made quite a home with Disney and children’s films. It’s not like I can’t control my mouth. That’s only one side of me that people seem to know so well and it’s very planned out, provocative and with a purpose. I am not everybody’s cup of tea but Disney was willing to risk it by hiring me. Unfortunately for them, this is coming out in an election year, when I am at my most polarizing, but gee whiz, if Disney can’t bring Republicans and Democrats together, I don’t know what can.
Q: Did they show you a picture of your character or did she evolve a lot, because she looks like you?
Silverman: She does. It was really cool because I think she had like red hair in the beginning. But as the sketches came in and each time I came in, I saw her eyebrows and I was like, “Oh!” Then she had this little black ponytail and I was like, “Oh!” It was really cool.
Q: So what gestures or particular moves that you make did you see in the animated character?
Silverman: It’s hard to peg. I’ve only seen the movie once, and it was so overwhelming. They have cameras on us (while recording), so I guess they kind of do take down our little (gestures). You are moving (around) and everything, so it will be interesting when I watch it again.
Q: Did you like the way they dressed her?
Silverman: Yes, that was another thing, I was like, “They put her in a hoodie.” I’m in my fancy jeans and blazer now, but I loved her hoodie. l loved her like upside down Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup skirt and all the candy. I think candy is poison, and I don’t think it’s healthy for kids, but I do love it.
Q: Are you a gamer? Did you have to do any research or preparation for your role?
Silverman: I didn’t do any research in terms of videogames, because (the characters) aren’t playing videogames, they are within them. But yeah, I probably got deepest into Nintendo 64, “007 GoldenEye.” I know every room. I know the bathrooms. I know everywhere to look. I know where the guns are hidden. I love it. There was an arcade by my house in New Hampshire and it was called Space Center. The Dairy Queen had a game called “Joust,” that I mastered between dipped cones. Do you remember “Joust?”
Q: Yeah, it was hard.
Silverman: It was hard because it’s this really weird, gawky, long awkward bird that you have never seen but it has tiny wings, so how can it fly?
Q: Is there a lot of your personality in Vanellope?
Silverman: I think so. I mean, obviously the voice and the interpretation of the lines, but I also feel so connected to this character. She’s so scrappy and so aggressive. People are aggressive so that no one else can get to them first. And I just related to her, her insecurities and her strengths that come from those ways that you survive, because you are scared.
Q: What was it like for you to work with John C. Reilly?
Silverman: Awesome. We got to record together which is unique. Just to be able to look at each other, and improvise and talk over each other, was great. They need every line clean, but to be able to overlap and digress, and improvise and go in a completely bizarre direction, helped what they took from it. It gave it kind of the dynamic between us a little, the subtle nuance you wouldn’t get if we were just alone in a booth.
Q: What kind of relationship do you think they have? Is it a father-daughter or brother-sister relationship?
Silverman: A combination of those. I think of it as family in that way where when you grow up and move out of your home and you are alone and have to make a new family. They are both loners, and we find our own family as adults, and they found each other. They found family in each other, and I think in lots of ways it’s paternal, and a lot of ways it’s sibling-ish.
Q: What’s next? Are you recording any new music?
Silverman: I have an App coming out at the end of this month that I have been working on for a year. It’s for infants and toddlers. I think it’s going to be called Uncle Sarah. All of my friends have kids and babies and I have a whole other world of material for kids, that kills with kids, so I decided to make an App and I could just be babysitting people’s kids on their iPad. There’s a song in it and a lot of interactive stuff that I think it’s really cool.
Q: Will you be writing any more books?
Silverman: I’ve only written one book “The Bedwetter.” I remember when I finished it, I was so proud of it—and I still am—but I remember thinking, “Oh, I can’t wait to never write another book,” because it just took so much out of me. It’s so lonely, and it took so much. The first bunch of months of writing I threw away because it took me that long to realize I was writing the way I thought a writer wrote, instead of just being me.
Q: What’s up with your stand up comedy career?
Silverman: I’m working on a special, so it will be my first special in seven years. So I am really excited because I’ve changed so much comedically. I’m still me, but I’ve changed so much comedically. I’m going to do that for HBO probably in the spring.