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Will Arnett – The Lego Batman Movie

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INTERVIEW WITH WILL ARNET

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The battle between Batman and Robin and The Joker has now been raging in the DC Comics for a number of generations now and that battle has also crossed over to the small screen and the big screen over the years.

On the small screen many of us grew up watching Adam West as Batman fighting against a more comedic version of the The Joker while director Tim Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman to take on his manical version of The Joker played by the legendary Jack Nicholson the 1989 big screen adaption of Batman. Of course then came one of the best comic book movies of all time with The Dark Knight which saw Aussie actor Heath Ledger in his Oscar-winning role as a Joker who menaced Gotham City and could only be brought undone by Christian Bale’s Batman.

Perhaps the most brutal and darkest Joker tale though was in last year’s The Killing Joke which saw the Mark Hamill voiced Joker do the unthinkable to Batgirl. While the Batman vs Joker rivalry seems to have got darker over the years director Chris McKay, a man who has been making us laugh for a number of years now with the hilarious Robot Chicken, tones things back a little with the latest Batman movie to make the big screen – The Batman Lego Movie.

This movie sees Will Arnett (Despicable Me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) voice the Caped Crusader while Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad) plays his sidekick Robin and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Due Date) takes on the role of the spurned Joker.

The trio are only too happy to talk about their experiences on the film.

Hearing Arnett talk about playing one of DC Comics’ most famous heroes and you instantly know that the fact that this is a Lego movie did not stop him from wanting to make the role really his. “It was kind of fun to take an iconic character like Batman and kind of play with the rules that have always been there for him,” he says with a really serious tone. “I could keep it consistent with the fact that he is really good at what he does and having that bravado but at the same time making him a little bit more flawed and a little bit goofier. You know that is the license that we took and it made sense within the Lego world to be able to do that and we’ve tried to expand on that in this movie and really try to get down to what makes Batman tick.”

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Fans of Batman and The Joker are also going to see a very different relationship between the two this time around and Arnett says they went deep into the relationship between the two to see what they could do with them this time around. “Their very existence is very dependent on each other,” explains Arnett. The Joker is only a bad guy as much as Batman exists to allow him to be a bad guy and vice versa. So they are in a relationship in that sense – they do depend on each other and what would happen if they both took a step back and understood that to be the situation?”

Arnett says it was also interesting for him to work with his two co-stars – Zach Galifianakis and Michael Cera. “It was a very experimentative and collaborative process,” he says. “We got to try and lot of things and I had never been in that situation. It is very rare that you get to laugh on a very profound level and especially in this kind of environment where you are sitting in a recording booth, but we had countless times where we had really big laughs and we were making each other laugh and surprising each other. That element of surprise I think came across in the film as well, it made its way into the movie even though we just made it up on the spot. We also have Robin in the film and we have Michael Cera playing Robin and he is super fun. Of course obviously Michael and I worked together years ago on Arrested Development and I was really excited when I heard that they wanted him to do it. I ended up emailing him and saying ‘I know they want you to do the film, please do it. I want you to do it.’ So I was so excited about and he ended up being amazing. Michael brings this great wonderment to Robin. When Dick Grayson turns up in Batman’s life Batman has to take care of him and from there the character of Robin develops and we get to see that – the genesis of that is really, really cool.”

Playing Robin to Arnett’s Batman is Michael Cera who says he was keen to take on the role because he was such a huge fan of The Lego Movie. “I loved the first one which is why I was so excited when I was asked to be involved with this one,” he says with a huge smile on his face. “I went and saw that in my neighbourhood in a theatre that was mainly full of kids and I think I was the only single adult person there and I had such a great time… it was great. I expected to like it but not as much as I did. I loved it, I thought they had such a fun tone and pace to it which is not that common in animation now, and to be that funny… that is rare.”

 

…continued below…

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He goes on to say that the character of Batman lends itself to comedy really well. “He’s a great character to do a comedy about because there’s so many versions of him, so many people have done it but nobody has ever approached it from a comedic stand point and it is very easy to ask a lot of really good questions about him – like why is he so lonely? What is really driving him and he’s on his own and very private so what does that look like? Where does that exterior go? What’s underneath it? Will’s just the really perfect guy to cast for that I think… not just because of his voice which is unbelievable but also his comedic sensibility.”

With so many takes on the Bruce Wayne/Dick Grayson/Batman/Robin storyline in the past Cera says that here the screenwriters have had their meeting become very accidental. “He (Robin) accidentally weasels his way into the fold,” he explains. “He forces himself on Bruce Wayne as an adoption case through a misunderstanding basically, and Bruce Wayne doesn’t quite know what he is saying yes to or what he is signing up for… not in all the confusion. And then he accidentally stumbles upon the Batcave and accidentally stumbles upon the secret that Bruce Wayne is Batman and then he is kind of in because he either has to kill him or make him his side-kick.”

Cera says he also had a great time with the director. “Working with Chris is always a blast,” he says. “He’s encouraging and he’s excited and he’ll just let you explore, and sometimes that can be daunting but with him it wasn’t and you would stumble on new things with him and then really embrace them and that would carve out a whole new thing… sometimes that would even just be for one joke or some kind of line delivery, and so you start to feel really appreciated… and that is really encouraging. It’s a classic thing I think when you have a boss who empowers you by allowing you to feel like you have a voice in what you are doing and I think that always makes people better at each task somehow, and Chris is like that – he’s a good boss.”

On the flipside Zach Galifianakis, one of Hollywood’s funniest men voices The Joker a role it almost seems like he was born to play. “The Joker himself is a great villain because he is unpredictable and wild and somewhat clever and witty but sometimes he’s not. So he’s a great, great villain and the Jack Nicholson version of that was very inspiring obviously.”

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Galifianakis says one of the best things about working on The Lego Batman Movie was the fact that he was working with a team and getting to do more voice acting. “I think on the first day there was Chris and then a bunch of people in the recording session and it was very free-form and I have to say that I went home and I told my wife ‘these guys are good to work with, there is no ego – they are nice.’ So even though I had just met them it was as if friends had got together and we were coming up with this character because they were very gracious and let me do my thing. With the voice stuff you have to exaggerate it enough so it is not a real voice, it’s not how people really talk because it is cartoon or animation it is a little bit more heightened I think. I get to over act even more.”

He says that also helped him get into character with The Joker straight away. “We jumped straight into it. I mean these characters already have history so you have that, these come with a history already so you don’t need too much, but the dynamic Will and I kind of did improv with that on the day – the jealousy stuff, the inter-personal relationship between the two of them that was really born on that day while we were just playing with each other.”
Like Michael Cera Galifianakis says he enjoys working with Arnett. “It was either at the first or seconding recording when Will and I got together and I found that really helpful. I mean I’ve known Will for a long time – strangely our relationship is actually a lot like Batman and Joker when I think about it – but it’s helpful when you can have that back and forth and it is also helpful that I have known Will for many years so we have that built-in repour. “

The Lego Batman Movie is in cinemas now and is reviewed at heavymag.com.au

Written by Dave Griffiths

 

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