Taking time out from guesting in “30 Rock” Will Arnett hits Irish cinemas as the hilarious Missing Link, a weird amphibious creature who
terrorised beach bunnies before being locked up in a secret government
facility in DreamWorks latest 3-D masterpiece “Monsters versus Aliens”.
Arnett is no stranger to voice work. Before turning to the big screen he spent over ten years as a voice over artist – work he’d happily recommend to any alcoholic. Since then he has voiced a variety of big screen characters – including Vlad in Horton Hears a Who! and Horst in Ratatouille. He’s also part of the voice cast of Sit Down, Shut Up, a new animated TV series due to air in the States. Here, the actor fills us in on what it was like to play the Missing Link and he gives us some clues about the much anticipated Arrested Development movie:
Q: What was your approach to playing such a bizarre character? You know, glad you asked that question. I really approach it with (stammers) , I call it showing up. I show up, that works. My God, I’m about to sneeze. One second. Anybody else have allergies right now? It’s kind of an odd thing. When you show up on a animated film, you’re shown a lot of this artwork and so, the physicality is kinda taken away from you a little bit and so they say well, here’s this guy, this is his role, blah, blah, blah and you start from nowhere and you just start talking into this microphone. It really is a collaboration of–and it’s almost like, God this is gonna sound so gross. I would hate to read this interview. I’d be like, this guy’s an idiot, but it’s like sculpting almost. Like you’re just kind of shaving and just kind of modulating this thing. And you get to a place that feels kinda comfortable and feels kinda right and looks like it’s gonna, you know, you’re using your imagination of the artwork that they’ve shown you of what this person looks like and what kind of voice you imagine comes out of that.
Q: Does it take long? That process is like 15 seconds. *Pauses* No, it is–it does take a long time, actually. You know, the whole-the whole start-to-finish time on an animated film is, you know, years. And I first came on to this, I guess a couple of years ago…and so you do a few sessions where, you know, a lot of that stuff might be thrown out. Or they use certain parts that they like, then they come back and that’s one of the luxuries of doing this too, is that you can kinda go back and rework parts that you didn’t like and say, oh, hey, remember that other thing? And then they’ll show you some stuff like rough animation, they’ll say this was that sequence we were talking about. You say, oh, that’s it, and then you go back and say, you know, I got you now
Q: Was it hard for you to listen to your own voice? No. I mean, I love the sound of my own voice and that it’s mesmerizing. I made a living doing voice work prior to doing animated movies for commercials and stuff. So I lived in a recording studio for 10 years before I ever started getting into this kind of stuff. So I already had a relationship with my own voice, in a way. Of course, it is much different than going in and recording a commercial for a candy bar. But there is, the idea of understanding the relationship between projecting your voice and taking a breath and picking up the pace a little bit without sounding like you’re going faster. It used to become a fun game years ago, you record a spot and they say, we need it to be in 7.4.And you’d say, alright I’m gonna give it you in 7.3. And you’d do it and you’d hit the number right on and people are like, wow, that’s kinda cool. Really, they’re not related in any kind of creative way, necessarily. But it just happens to be a ace in the hole.
Q: Did voice overs pay great money? It was incredible. I mean, honestly, especially if you’re in your 20s and, you know, you’re an alcoholic and no… You show up in your flip-flops and put your cigarette out, bang it out, and you’re gone and you’re back at the bar in like 5 minutes, this is research, you know? So it was a great life. I’ve always sorta considered myself a VO guy, a voiceover guy, and it’s a great life.
Q: What was the hardest thing for playing the missing link? The hardest part was knowing that they only had me in mind to play this idiot. They were like, ‘Hey, we want you to do this thing. Isn’t that great?’ I’m like, ‘thanks. Really? I play the dumbest of everybody? Great. I guess’. No, Seth–Seth’s pretty dumb. I will say this, the great news is usually I’m the dumbest. Not this time. I’m second dumbest.
Q: Sometimes the most embarrassing thing for an actor on one of these movies is when the animators approach them to use their likeness or characteristics in the character. Did they ever dare say that to you about the missing link? First of all, they would never dare, just because in my position in Hollywood. God, I hope I have a position in Hollywood. But no, they didn’t, but you do notice stuff when you want-when you start seeing stuff and you’re sort of thinking, did I–are they takin’ their cue from me on that? Or is that, you know? But, luckily…luckily, my character is such a bizarre looking guy that I can convince myself at least that there’s no way. Somebody asked me, ‘what similarities are there between you and the character’? And I’m like, ‘God, I hope none’.
Q: Do you prefer to perform alone or in an ensemble recording? No, I prefer not to have anybody else around. I would say like even in live action, I just tape your head shot to a C stand and take off. Maybe we kinda cut to like some sort of shot of a sweeping vista or something. No, it is a weird thing, actually, when you’re in the recording booth by yourself kind of speaking into a vacuum. Especially when you do something that’s kind of high octane, high energy, freaking out and then-and then you’re done, and you’re kind of looking around there’s nobody and you’re like… ‘That was odd!’. So it is-it is an odd process. But there are some exchanges they’ll have somebody come in and read with you. They’ll bring another actor in. Or you’ll read with the director. Somebody’ll kinda feed you the line so that it won’t be too strange. Just so you can have a little bit of a rhythm.
Q: Were you aware that the movie was going to be in 3D and does it matter to you? This movie’s in 3D? I think I knew pretty early on that it was 3D. I was excited about the prospect of that. And when they explained to me what, you know, that it was gonna be authored in 3D and what that meant and stuff it’s super exciting to be part of.
Q: You have quite a few Hollywood movies on the way, the future looks bright for Will Arnett? Everybody knows that I’m on an Oscar hunt, that’s just known. So I’m excited. I’m already just workin’ on my speech, forget the roles.
Q: What about the Arrested Development film? That is happening. I think it’s gonna happen sooner rather than later, as well. We’re all talking about it quite energetically. I know it seems like I’m being vague ’cause I don’t know exactly when we’re starting. We don’t have an actual start date yet, but I would imagine it’s gonna be sometime this summer. So fairly soon.
Q: What about the other imminent chapter in your life? My new Prius? Oh, okay. *laughs* That’s, yeah, it’s goin’ great! I just got nominated for dad of the year, which is so exciting. So, I’m just-honestly, I’m just thrilled to be-I nominated myself.
Q: Has your sense of humour ever got you in trouble? More often than not. Yeah. What I found is as I’ve gotten older I’ve done a better job of not letting it get me in trouble. I get better at getting to the edge and not going over. But I still do. You know, it’s gotten me punched.
Monsters V Aliens is now showing at Irish cinemas everywhere