Interview: Paul star and Saturday Night Live MVP Bill Hader!
Bill Hader probably knows more about movies than most people who write about movies for a living. He, like us, is a giant film geek who loves watching movies as much as he loves being in movies.
Hader, who's the Leonardo DiCaprio to director Greg Mottola's Scorsese after working together on both SUPERBAD and ADVENTURELAND, is in PAUL this weekend with friends and co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I got some great stories from Hader about how he was the first person to play Paul in the movie before Seth Rogen signed on, who voices the cameo from a very famous director in the film and what movie references from PAUL stumped even him. [Note: there are some spoilers for PAUL in our interview below - fair warning.] Check it out below!
So have you been able to see this movie with an audience yet?
No, I'll experience that in LA.
Are you going to be at the premiere in Austin?
I don't know if I'm going to. [Ed. note: He was not, in fact, at SXSW.] Because of SNL. I think Kristen's going but...
Did Greg bring you on board or had Simon and Nick reached out to you?
Greg, Simon and Nick met and decided well we're going to do this together and I think the three of them thought they should have me in it.
Had they already done the work with Seth as Paul yet when you came on?
I actually was the first person to do the alien as a favor. There were no promises I was gonna be in the movie, it was just a favor to them because they were my friends. They were like, "Would you mind flying out to London for a week and we'll put you up if you do this little test." So I did that and it was a lot of fun.
Was it the whole mocap test with the dots and the suit?
I had dots on my face and I didn't wear a suit but I had dots all over. It was one of the scenes in the RV with the three of us and we shot it. It was just to animate so they could show the studio what Paul would look like. And I just did that and not even thinking anything like I'll ever be in the movie or anything, it was just, "Hey guys, good luck!" And then we did a table read with Rogen doing Paul and me playing a bunch of different parts. I did Haggard, I also did the part that David Koechner ended up playing. It was a small table read as just a favor. Then after that, they said, "Do you want to play Haggard?" And I was like yeah!
Did you get an idea, as you were reading through all these characters, that there was one that you'd really like to play?
I kinda liked them all. It was interesting because Mottola was like, "I want you to look different than any of the other movies." So I got into shape and cut my hair short and he said, "You're actually gonna go bad. You're gonna be a bad guy."
It was interesting that your character in the beginning is just a sidekick for Jason Bateman's character but then we realize there's much more to him.
He wants to be mad with power. He doesn't want to be taken down any longer.
Your character isn't the best agent of the lot, so do you have to do a lot of training to play or do you want to seem naturally bad at it?
It worked perfectly that I didn't do any research because Haggard wants to be that but doesn't really know how to be that. So we can basically relate to each other in that way because we both don't know what we're doing.
Were a lot of the referential nods to past sci-fi/road trip movies written in the script or were some of those improved on set?
Everything was written. Those guys were big nerds. The only thing that I added was, "Smile, you son of a bitch," which is my last line of the movie. I said it to Greg, "Is it OK if I say this?" and he said to go for it.
Are there any references that went past you the first time? Anything you missed?
I didn't get the CAPTURING THE FREIDMANS reference. That was when Nick was with Paul and they're all dressed up. Everything else, I think I got. We did the commentary the other day for the DVD and they were pointing them all out. There was another one, a Han Solo one, that I totally should've gotten.
You hear the voice of Steven Spielberg in the movie and I was wondering if that was you who provided that.
That is Steven Spielberg. They got Steven Spielberg to play himself on the phone and Greg had to direct him and Greg was terrified (laughs). I remember one time we did a "Laser Cats" [on "Saturday Night Live"] and Akiva Schaffer went to LA to work on stuff so we got Jonathan Krisel who does "Tim & Eric" and Krisel, it's his first day shooting the Digital Short, and his first day was directing James Cameron and Lorne Michaels. And he was so calm. He was like, "James, you're talking too fast, can you slow it down a bit?" He was treating him like an actor and he was great (laughs). Cameron was great about it. He was like, "Oh all right, I'll slow it down..." I was so impressed. We were freaking out! It was at the height of AVATAR. That day it had become the biggest movie of all time. And he was doing our dumb "Laser Cats" short.
And Sigourney Weaver was in that as well.
I got to have Ripley throw up on me. One of the things I'd never thought would happen to me in my life.
Do you think you'll ever make the transition to directing?
Yeah. That was been the thing I've kinda wanted to do forever. Before even acting. Doing comedy and impressions, I backed into, in a weird way. When I moved to LA and went to school, it was all about filmmaking.
Did you go to film school?
Not really. I (laughs) went to community college film school. Which actually was great because no one really knew what to do. We had all this great equipment and had no idea what to do with it. I went to school with Nick Jasenovec who did PAPER HEART and he and I and a couple of friends went to that school to get better grades to get into film school and then decided, "Fuck it! Let's just move to LA." I think I had read Sam Raimi who was like, "Learn while you earn," and all that stuff. I listened to the BOOGIE NIGHTS commentary track and Paul Thomas Anderson was a PA and didn't go to film school and I was like, "Yeah fuck it! Let's not go to film school!" It was a good decision, I felt like because I went to LA and hit all those hard bumps when I was 20. That's when you're OK sleeping on the floor and eating mac and cheese every day. When you have a wife, it's a little tougher to get through.
I'm guessing directing will have to wait until you're done with SNL?
Oh yeah that'd be impossible. Jorma and Akiva both directed movies [MACGRUBER and HOT ROD] both pre- and post-production during the SNL season when they still had to be writing and directing the digital shorts. That's the nice thing about sitting and watching people go through that. I remind myself I need to wait.
Do you have time to prep things now so you can hit the ground running?
It just depends. You never know. I'm writing stuff with other people for me to be in but for me to direct. And I have my own personal projects I would love to do that I'd love to direct and not even be in.
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