By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Comedian Bill Hader is the voice of Fear in the new Disney Pixar animated feature “Inside Out.”
The former “Saturday Night Live” cast member joins fellow alum Amy Poehler as one of five core emotions inside an 11-year-old girl’s head. Hader and Poehler, who plays Joy, are joined by other noted comedians Lewis Black (Anger), Mindy Kaling (Disgust) and Phyllis Smith (Sadness), in the adventure comedy directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen, who both worked on “Up.” (Docter was that film’s director and Del Carmen was the story supervisor.)
Hader, 37, who created a number of memorable characters on “SNL” for eight seasons, has also made audiences in laugh in supporting roles in “Tropic Thunder,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Men in Black 3.” He makes his Pixar debut with “Inside Out.”
A married father with three young daughters, signing on for the emotion of Fear was a no-brainer for the actor.
“I’m a big wimp,” the rubber-faced funnyman explained during a recent interview. “ I guess I needed to play Fear.”
Hader, a native of Oklahoma with a booming voice, is no stranger to portraying animated characters. He was lead voice Flint Lockwood in “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” and its sequel, Hansel in “Hoodwinked 2: The Hood vs. Evil” and The Voice in “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” He also netted positive notices with his heartfelt turn in the live-action dramedy “The Skeleton Twins,” co-starring another “SNL” cast mate Kristen Wiig.
Q: When you read the screenplay, how did you wrap your head around the scope of what was going on in this movie?
Hader: It was great. I kind of stalked them—Pixar. I went to them and said, “I want to take a tour of Pixar.” This was back in 2010.
Q: Because you’re a fan?
Hader: Yes, I’m a giant fan, so I just said, “Can I please take a tour?” And I went around their (Emeryville, California) studio and I met Pete and Jonas and they were working on this scene in the movie that deals with a live television element. They said to me, “We’d like to come to ‘SNL,’ and I said, ‘Come to ‘SNL.’” And they hung out at “SNL” for a week for reference of that sequence, and so they let me come and hang out at Pixar as a thank you, and that kind of really started it. They said, “Do you want to play Fear?” and I said, “Sure!” It worked.
Q: What impressed you when you visited the Pixar studios?
Hader: They act like it’s a real privilege that they get to do their jobs. It’s like they can’t believe they get to do what they do, which is really nice.
Q: You’re fun as Fear, but if you could play another emotion, what would it be and why?
Hader: I would say Anger is the fun one. Yes, I would like to play Anger. It’s just very therapeutic, you know? I just felt like when I was watching Lewis (Black perform), I’m like, “God it would be nice just to go into work and be like (screaming) ‘Aaaahhh.’” Sometimes, when you do a take in a movie, you then do it and then you get some breathing room and time to relax and then you go back to work, but in this they do a series of the same line over and over but said in different tones. So it’s like (in various tones), “Open the door! Open the door? Open the door.” And you just start to go crazy. So it would be nice to be Anger.
Q: What Pixar movies have resonated with you?
Hader: “Up,” the other movie that Pete (Docter) and Jonas (Rivera) did. That, by far, was just unreal. I thought it was really great.
Q: How was it working with Pete Docter?
Hader: He’s a real artist. It’s not a pander-y kind of thing. His “Up” is about an old man who ties balloons to his house and is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. It’s an expression of him. And, with “Inside Out,” he saw his daughter going through (adolescence) and thought, “So what’s going on with that?” And it just came out of him in this way. That’s what so great about Pixar is that they trust their vision.
Q: What Disney movies resonated with you as a child?
Hader: Do you remember “The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad?” I dressed up like Ichabod Crane for Halloween for four years in a row because I was obsessed with that. It was great. (deadpan) This was a couple of years ago.
Q: You are known for your improvisation ability, so I was wondering if you had the opportunity in the recording booth to improvise some lines for your character and, if so, how much of that made it into the final cut?
Hader: We all recorded our characters by ourselves. We’re just alone (in the recording booth with the director delivering the lines of the other characters). Actually, Mindy (Kaling, who voices Disgust) and I figured out that we’re all actually reading with Pete so, in the movie, we’re all just responding to Pete. All our characters were basically talking to Pete. I remember there was a part in the movie where I said, “I’m taking the coward’s way out,” and I am sucked up into a tube.
(Co-director) Ronnie del Carmen, who’s a genius, was looking at me as I was moving around and drawing what I was describing, and he goes “So, like that?” And he just drew it out the way you see it in the film. It was unreal. I was like, “Yes! Something like that,” and he just did it.
Q: Do you have a favorite moment in the film? It doesn’t have to be a scene you’re character is in?
Hader: Amy (as Joy) looking at Riley’s memories and (her imaginary friend) Big Bong. She’s just so good in that. That’s the thing that’s so hard with these movies. You’re channeling everything just through your voice. A lot of times you’re just screaming. I’m just screaming for four hours. But Amy did such a nuanced, beautiful performance in that scene, I thought. It was really, really unreal.
Q: Did you have an imaginary friend growing up? Can you share any of those memories?
Hader: (deadpan) My father. I’m joking. I feel like I was someone else’s imaginary friend.
Q: In Riley’s brain there are five islands of cherished memories in her mind. I think all of us have probably the Friendship island or the Family island, but I was wondering what other fun islands are in your mind?
Hader: Treasure island, Sleep island.
Q: There’s a ditty that Riley can’t forget. Do you ever get a song or jingle stuck in your head?
Hader: I have “Hot Cross Buns” stuck in my head. My daughter (Hannah, 5) is learning it on the piano right now so at 6 a.m. and when she gets up, she goes over to the piano and says, “I’m the Phantom of the Opera.” (He mimics her playing dramatically.)
Q: As the father of three daughters, if you had to describe to them what will make “Inside Out” a classic film that they must see, how would you describe it?
Hader: What’s so great about this movie is that they chose to make a film about a time in your life that we all have to go through. It’s when you go from being young and then you’re an adolescent. Things start to change and things start to get a little hard for you. A lot of normal movies don’t talk about that.
I wish I had (a movie like “Inside Out”) growing up because then I could have watched it and looked for answers. When you’re that age, you think you’re the only one going through this thing and they explored that isolation in this film in such a beautiful, fantastical way. That’s why you have to see it. It’s a movie I wish existed when I was younger. My life would have been a little easier.