CS Interview: Inside Out’s Fear Himself, Bill Hader

This summer may very well belong to Bill Hader. On Friday, the “Saturday Night Live” alum will be in theaters, lending his voice to Fear, one of five emotions running the show in Disney•Pixar’s animated adventure Inside Out. Then, next month, he’s starring opposite Amy Schumer in the Judd Apatow-directed comedy Trainwreck. It was at the press junket for the former that Hader sat down to chat with ComingSoon.net about how his relationship with Pixar formed and how Inside Out was once a very different story.

Directed by Academy Award winner Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up) and Pixar story artist Ronaldo Del Carmen (Ratatouille, Brave), Inside Out takes place inside the mind of eleven-year-old Riley Anderson and is driven by the allegorical representations of Riley’s emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black) and Hader’s Fear. All five emotions tend to work together well, but after a family move disrupts Riley’s entire life, Joy and Sadness wind up getting lost inside her subconscious, leaving Disgust, Anger and Fear to run things as best they can.

Hader was also, at one point, attached to star in Disney•Pixar’s Thanksgiving release, The Good Dinosaur, but, as you can tell from his response below, a lot has changed since then. Since this interview was conducted, however, the new voice cast has been revealed.

CS: How did you come their way? Was it for this movie specifically and you just wound up working on other films as well?

Hader: I went because I just wanted to meet the people at Pixar. I asked my agent, “Can I take a tour?” They said, “Sure!” I went and I took this tour where a nice assistant showed me around Pixar. Then I got to have lunch with Jonas [Rivera] and Pete Docter and a couple of other people. Bob Peterson. I was just geeking out to be there. They said, “We’re working on this project and we can’t tell you what it is, but it has this aspect that has to do with live television.” They were talking about dream production. The class with her in her underwear. They were asking a bunch of questions about “SNL.” I said, “Well, you guys should just come to ‘SNL.’ Come and hang out for a week.” So they did. They came and hung out and took a bunch of notes and stuff. It was Ronnie Del Carmen and Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera and they were just hanging out. To kind of return the favor, they said, “Do you want to come to Pixar and hang out in the story department? We can pitch you what we’re working on.” So I went there and they pitched me this movie, which was “Inside Out,” but also wasn’t. The elements were there. It was about a little girl going through change and these voices in her head. It wasn’t what it is now. So then they said, “Will you come in and record and just improvise all these characters just so we can hear them? To see if there’s something we can latch onto?” I did all the emotions and it was bad. But fear they liked! He’s kind of a middle management guy. They thought that was funny.

CS: Where did the middle-management idea for Fear come from?

Hader: I just liked that idea. Pete talked about that and drew him and drew this little bow tie on him. That’s where it kind of came from.

CS: There’s an aspect to the film that I really liked that reminds me of “Star Trek.” They’re both sort of these crews of archetypes navigating the humanity of the universe.

Hader: Yeah, that’s true. It does look like “Star Trek,” too and it is kind of like Spock and Kirk on another island and the rest of the crew is trying to make do.

CS: Is it strange to play a character and have to distance emotions other than fear?

Hader: The nice thing was that all the emotions have little traces of the others. The middle-management angle was sort of what made him a real person. Mindy [Kaling] was saying this, but it’s nice to see Fear happy about something or angry about something or disgusted with something. He’s watching the dream production and he’s saying, “I’ve seen this before.” He’s digusted by it. Making him middle management kind of made him an archetype. You’ve seen that person, who wants to be in control. They want to be the leader, but they just don’t have the capabilities to do it.

CS: It seems like an exciting time for you with both “Inside Out” and “Trainwreck” about to come out. How are you enjoying voice work as opposed to leading a live-action comedy?

Hader: I don’t know. I like them both. I like live action a lot, but I’m an animation fan. My favorite part of the process, actually, is seeing it for the first time. You’re just in a booth with the page and it doesn’t feel real. It’s just your voice and you don’t really know what you’re doing. Then you go to watch it and it’s just huge and it’s this amazing, epic, super-imaginative world.

CS: Does it require a deeper trust from the director?

Hader: Yeah, but not on this. On this, I was like, “It’s Pete Docter. He’s going to make it better than anything I could ever think of.” And he did!

CS: How did “The Good Dinosaur” stem from that?

Hader: To be honest, I’m not even sure if I’m still in “Good Dinosaur.” I recorded that like two years ago and haven’t heard back. I hear, though, through friends at Pixar that it’s really wonderful. It’s supposed to be a great movie.

CS: What’s a dream project for you?

Hader: Gosh, I don’t know. You know, I can’t say. I feel like I would jinx things. I learned early on to not talk about certain things because I can jinx it. The funny thing, though, is that a lot of the great things that have happened to me have happened totally by accident or happenstance. Or you just get something sent to you. Even on “SNL,” the characters that I did on the show were never something that I came in with or schemed to make happen. It just all happened very organically. Something like “Trainwreck” really came out of nowhere. I had just finished “SNL” and moved back to LA. I did these T-Mobile commercials and I wasn’t sure what I was doing. They said, “Do you want to come in and audition for this movie?” I had seen Amy Schumer’s show and I had seen her do standup. I read her movie script and went, “This is f–ing great!” I read for it and thought I was awful. Then they called me back and I read for her again in New York and got it. I thought I was going to read for the Mike Birbiglia part. They were like, “No, no, no! This is a romantic lead!” “Don’t you want like, James Marsden, or someone? Are you sure you want me to do this?” But Judd [Apatow] was like, “No, you’re going to be great!” I would never in a million years think that would happen to me. Or “Skeleton Twins,” the movie I did with Kristen Wiig. That’s what’s so exciting about the business, but it’s also nerve-wracking. You sometimes don’t know what you’re going to do.

CS: Does improvisation get to play much of a role on a Pixar film?

Hader: Yeah, they’re great with that. There’s the part of the movie where I go, “I say we take the coward’s way out!” and I try to go up the tube and get stuck. That happened in the booth when we were just doing it. Ronnie Del Carmen, who’s a genius, just sketched it out real quick. So we all could visually understand what we were talking about. We got on the same page so everyone was laughing and it was great. I can’t believe that it ended up in the movie. There’s another thing that didn’t end up in the movie that made us laugh where, I forget exactly what happened, but something really awful had happened. I go, “Everything is fine, guys. Everything is great. I’m good. Just give me a second.” Then I walk off camera and you can hear me screaming from behind the door. It just took too long.

(Photo Credit: FayesVision / WENN.com)