Reunited a few years after SNL, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell explore old chemistry in a new, animated form. In conversation with Buzzine, the comic actors explain the joys of voicing drawn characters and the spontaneity that can be built upon when not in front of expensive cameras--the appeal of working with friends on a family film, the pleasures of adopting accents, and the shape of a protagonist's head all adding to the allure of Megamind.
Izumi Hasegawa: Can you talk a little bit about when you guys first fell in love, because I really thought you guys were in a relationship and both of you were married before this?
Will Ferrell: We both engaged in what are called staged weddings for publicity purposes, and obviously my marriage of ten years has not been real. So today is our official union.
Tina Fey: We had put ourselves on a waiting list for the Four Seasons like 16 years ago, and yeah, we kind of got married in between, but as long as we came up to get this space, obviously we're just going for it.
WF: I just want to thank Jensen's Tenting Service. They're so hard to get as well, and as you can tell, they're literally the best in the business. That's Jensen's – J-E-N-S-E-N-apostrophe-S. Jensen's. When you want a tent, call Jensen's.
IH: Will, can you talk about what it means for you to be front and center of an animated movie? And what were some of your favorites growing up?
WF: It's very exciting to be. I don't really consider myself front and center of this fine cast, but I guess I am. I really haven't done a lot of this stuff before, so it was just exciting to get to work on a Jeffrey Katzenberg movie, and I love this premise, which I felt was so original, and to get to be in a film with this cast is the most exciting part, in a way, for me.
IH: It seems like you adopted a little bit of a British accent in this. Was that because Brits are traditionally cast as villains?
WF: It's so disappointing, and it's not your fault. I'm actually doing a Lithuanian accent, and it just shows how bad a mimic I am. But no, it's just the accent of someone who thinks they're important. In working with Tom [McGrath, director], we just landed on that and felt like it would be appropriate to this guy who's really, when you get down to it, just completely insecure–so someone who speaks like that who's insecure is a great combination.
IH: Improvisation has played a large role in your careers. Did improvisation play a role in what you did with this film, or did you stay pretty close to script?
TF: Tom really encouraged us to improvise. Will and I were lucky because we got to do sessions together and improvise together. Tom was very welcoming of it.
WF: The animation comes after the voice.
IH: Will, what did your kids think of this movie?
WF: My kids haven't seen it yet. I think they're excited about it. It's the first time they've commented on something I've been in. There's one poster that has the Megamind baby that's featured. My three-year-old is really fascinated with the Megamind baby.
TF: It's really cute.
WF: It's a very adorable baby.
IH: What traits do you share in common with the Megamind character?
WF: I have a lot of tight leather pants that I keep in a vault. I don't wear them, but I just keep them there. And there is a part of my body, that I cannot go into detail on, that is blue. That's just a genetic defect. That's what I share with the character.
IH: There's a scene in the film where Megamind finally has everything he's ever dreamed of, but he is still miserable. Have you ever had an experience like that in real life?
WF: I've always wanted to sail around the world in a handmade boat. I had a boat built for me, and my second day out to sea, I realized that: a) I'm not a sailor, and b) I have no knowledge of basic navigation. I didn't bother with any sort of supplies, and in that moment, I was miserable. I felt like I had everything, and it turns out I didn't. So that would be my one example to illustrate. It was Lake Havasu. Right from the beginning, I screwed up. That's what I'm trying to say.
IH: If you lived in a world where Megamind and Metro Man are real people, which one would Tina go for?
TF: I think I would go for Megamind because he's very smart, and I really do find the purple undertone of this blue skin very attractive. I think he has beautiful skin and he's smaller than me. I like that. He physically dominates.
WF: He's more petite.
IH: Can you talk about the nemeses that you might have had that helped forge your character and made you a better person as a result?
TF: I don't really have a nemesis, but I have a series of hundreds of small enemies that fuel me. Everyone I meet I assume is out to get me, and that fuels my fire on a daily basis.
WF: My nemesis, prior to this working experience, oddly enough, was David Cross. But through this process, we were able to basically hash that out.
IH: How much did your children have to do with your decision to make this movie, and do they recognize anything of the character in you?
WF: This was a decision based pretty much on wanting to try to do another animated movie and getting a chance to work with Tom. DreamWorks solved it. My children were not consulted in this decision, nor are they ever consulted about anything.
TF: They will speak when spoken to.
WF: [Laughs] It's a very strict household. Like I said, they've seen some of the advertisements and some of the trailers and stuff, and I think they're intrigued by the fact that I do the voice of this guy with the blue head.
IH: Do you recognize yourself when you see the character?
WF: No, not really. I don't think he looks like me. Maybe the mouth.
TF: I think when he's moving, he does.
WF: Really? We've got kind of the same watch. I wish I had his waistline. Because it's hard to keep the weight off when you get older.
IH: Tina, you play a reporter, and you have an extensive track record with the SNL skit for "Weekend Update." Is it hard to shake the reporter role, or is it something you enjoy because you're so good at it that this type of role just keeps coming your way?
TF: I am one of America's foremost fake reporters, and I am going to have a fake show on CNN. No, I'm not. It was fun to step into this very archetypal Lois Lane type of character, and I really like that, in this story, she's a modern version of that--she's active and intelligent, and she looks like Sharon Osborne.
IH: Is the Sarah Palin ghost still chasing you in any way?
TF: It was a ghost? [Laughs] That would be terrifying. I don't think of it as a ghost. I think of it as one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me. I'm going to milk that forever. I'm going to be doing that, God willing, when I'm 70 years old. I'll be doing that at an auto show if things go right.
IH: Megamind wants it all. Do you ever feel like that in real life, in terms of your career, because you seem to have it all? Or do you want to retreat into obscurity like Metro Man?
TF: I think I would be escorted back to obscurity pretty soon. I don't think it will be a retreat. It'll be a police escort.
WF: You'll be taken away in plastic handcuffs. I don't really think about those things.
IH: There was some discussion before about the connection with the characters. What about your connection with Mark Twain? You're about to receive the Mark Twain Award and you're the third woman to do so in the history of the award. How do you feel about that?
TF: I would say I'm very, very honored to the point of embarrassment at receiving that award, and I'm very much looking forward to the ceremony in a couple weeks. Mark Twain is a great American humorist who is taught in schools. That is a big deal. I hope that someday Hal Holbrook has a one-man show about me. I would be honored. I can't even quite understand why it's happening.
IH: Have you recovered from the live performance of 30 Rock? How do you think it went, and would you do it again?
TF: I have recovered. We were all very tired the next day. Will always says, when you do SNL, you wake up the next day and you feel like someone hit you with a piece of luggage. I think it was a very big challenge, and I think it went well. I don't know if we'll ever do it again. I think it weirdly costs a lot of money to do, so it'll be up to NBC as to whether we ever try to do it again. It certainly was a very positive experience on my end.
IH: Tina, can you talk a little about the recording process? Is it hard to get used to only having the booth to work with? Also, was there anything that surprised you about how your character looks? Do you like how your character turned out, or would you have liked something different?
TF: No, I really like how she looks. I like her short hair and I like that she's brunette, and I like that she has an ample can. I'm not going to lie to you. I really like how she's drawn. I found the recording sessions very freeing because you can really try things. When you're filming something, if you're improvising a film, you're wasting film and wasting a cameraman's time, but when you're recording stuff first, you can try a bunch of stuff and it doesn't matter how you look while you're doing it. There's a complete absence of vanity during it. I found it really fun.
IH: Can each of you talk about what exciting projects you have coming up next?
TF: I am emptying out a storage unit in New York. That's a project I'm in.
WF: The first thing that comes to mind is I've got to be here until 9:00 tonight to wait for Jensen's tent rentals to come pick up the tent and make sure that happens.
TF: We might collaborate on that.
IH: What would Sarah Palin and George W. Bush say if they ran across Megamind?
TF: He needs to be destroyed. He's a danger to freedom.
WF: Right. I think George Bush would think he looks funny. "That guy looks funny." He'd probably say something like that.
IH: What were some of the pros and cons and likes and dislikes for a voice action role as opposed to a live action role?
WF: As Tina was mentioning, there is a great amount of freedom in terms of getting to come up with stuff on the spot, improvising, that sort of thing. I think, at least from my perspective, what is lost on these projects is how hard it is to articulate any sort of emotional kind of gear shift just with your voice. Those were the hardest parts for me. Playing the comedy is one thing, but I think there's a real skill for any of these actors that can effectively do that consistently. That was the hardest part for me.
IH: Do you enjoy roles like this, and would you consider doing something like this again?
WF: I really enjoyed working with Tom. I've only had one other experience, and that was on Curious George with my main man, David Cross, by the way. We come as a package for any sort of animated property in the future. But I haven't done a ton of this type of work, but this experience was really gratifying to the point where it'd be fun to do another one for sure. The other thing – I didn't show up just in some T-shirt and sweats. I had a three-piece suit on. I did full hair and make-up for every recording session because I view myself as a professional.
IH: You're working on a Spanish movie (Casa de Mi Padre). Was there anything about the romance in Megamind that reminded you of a soap opera in Spanish?
WF: I think the original story of Megamind was taken from a Spanish telenovela. Isn't that correct? Okay. Maybe don't write that, but that is the truth. Yeah, I just finished a movie entirely in Spanish.
IH: Do you speak in Spanish?
WF: No. But was there anything in the romance that's like a...?
TF: The high drama?
WF: Maybe the high drama. But no, I didn't necessarily think of that.
TF: Of course, you had my beautiful curves...
WF: Maybe her beautiful can is very Latina-esque. Possibly.
IH: Will, how did you prepare mentally to hate Brad Pitt, who is clearly unhateable in real life? And what were your interactions with Brad during the filming and recording process, and did he show up professionally in costume?
WF: He makes his own homemade beer which is not that good. It doesn't even taste like beer. I don't even know what it is.
IH: How important was the music?
WF: I don't know if other animation studios do it this way, but in terms of watching how a DreamWorks film is put together, I was amazed at how these guys are constantly... The movie is evolving throughout the entire process, and they're scrutinizing it the whole way and making changes and readjusting and adding different things, so it's never really finished until that final moment, in a way, but always being made to be better.
IH: Will, what was it like working with Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal in Casa de Mi Padre?
WF: Diego and Gael could not have been better. We were so thrilled to even get them to be on the project, and the fact that they committed to this crazy Spanish language movie--they're two of the nicest guys. They're fantastic comedic actors as well as being just regular actors, but it was a thrill for me to get to work with those guys, and they could not have been better in the movie.
IH: Do you speak any Spanish?
Megamind is in theaters now.