Bill Hader On 'Inside Out,' Pixar's Legacy, And The Joy Of Working With Steven Spielberg

Bill Hader has yet to make a bad move. After crushing Saturday Night Live for years, he started with small parts in memorable movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad, Tropic Thunder and Men in Black 3. He graduated to lead voice work with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, then went against type in the dramatic The Skeleton Twins. Later this summer, gets his first romantic lead in Trainwreck. He's also both a credited writer and voice in Pixar's Inside Out, his second film with the studio and will follow that up with some more voice work and a role in Steven Spielberg's The BFG. Not a bad run.

In Inside Out, Hader plays Fear, one of Riley's five emotions that helps her get through the day. Earlier versions of the film had Fear as one of the two leads, but that didn't end up happening. We asked Hader about that change, how he picks projects, working with Spielberg as well as the place he thinks Pixar holds in film history. Read our full Bill Hader Inside Out interview below.

Bill Hader Inside Out Red CarpetYou're a huge movie fan. You follow film and film history. What do you think Pixar's role is in film history and what is it like to work for them?

Oh my God. Well, I mean, just on the one level it's the closest thing to Walt Disney where Cinderella came out and people went "I've never seen anything like this before." And Pixar did that with Toy Story 20 years ago. People had never seen anything like it. What it did to the industry is, I mean, you see it now. How many 3D CG animated movies do you see now? It all started with Toy Story. So anytime someone does anything that you see everybody jump on that bandwagon.

It's like when Star Wars came out and then you had Ice Pirates and everything took place in outer space. It just was that thing. That's Pixar. They did it better than anybody. I feel like they did it so well because they cared about story. Especially someone like Pete Docter. He works from such an intuitive place. He's such a sweet guy. But he's totally intuitive. And he's very curious. Incredibly modest. And just wants to understand, it's like a form of self expression.

Do you think they know sort of how important what they're doing and what they did is? As somebody who's been up there now and worked on two movies?

I think they understand in the bigger scheme of things that people are looking at them. Saying an A minus is bad, you know? It's like they've set the bar so high for themselves that they have to keep fighting. But no. The nice thing about everybody up there is they really act like it's a big privilege to be doing a movie. They all are like students. They just have this attitude of "I don't know why that worked" or "I don't know why that didn't work" or "Let's figure out why that didn't work." They just don't know. You know what I mean? We're watching an interview with Conrad Hall and Visions of Light, do you remember that documentary?


And Conrad Hall is talking about a scene in In Cold Blood where the reflection of the water is going down Robert Blake's face before his character is about to be executed. And everybody says "Well how did you do that?" And he was like "I don't know. It just happened. I don't know." You know what I mean?


People think I'm some genius. Like I don't know. And Pete, there's things that I've made and or been a part of and people go "Did you know?" And you go, "No, you never know." One day is the best thing ever and the next day it's the worst thing ever and you have no idea. You just have to keep moving forward. And you just don't know until it comes out. And then people will tell you what they think.

Inside Out Joy Fear DisgustAnd you've been part of this project for a long time. Were you there when Fear and Joy were the two leads?

Yeah, that was the way it was first pitched to me was Fear and Joy, yeah.

So what was that movie like compared to this one? And was it tough to sort of go from a lead character to secondary one?

No, not at all. It was better for the movie. It made more sense to be honest, 'cause Joy and Sadness are more polar opposite. And they were more interesting to go on the journey together 'cause the movie can't be, "You can have Joy in your life, but you also need to have some Fear in your life." You know what I mean? Sadness and Joy go hand in hand. I don't think Joy and Fear go hand in hand. Joy and Sadness have to work together. Where Fear and Disgust and Anger are kind of these other emotions that really rule you when you're an adolescent. So no, I didn't think twice about [the change]. When they pitched it as Sadness and I went "Oh that's great. That makes so much more sense.". And yeah, no, it was great.

Bill Hader Jonas RiveraNow in addition to the voice, you're also credited as giving additional dialogue. What was that like? How early did you come on? What did you contribute for that?

I came in early before I was even on it as a voice, as an actor. I came in just I just asked to take a tour of Pixar. And I did this tour and had a lot of fun and I met Pete [Docter] and Jonas [Rivera]. And then we hung out. And then as I hung out in the story room with Josh Cooley. Really smart and really talented. And he's head of story on this movie. And Josh and I just hung out and worked. And then it was so sweet that they gave us a credit. I've improvised a lot of stuff that's ended up in a lot of things and I never get any credit.

I bet.

We've sometimes done entire movies and we get no credit. There's some movies I've been in where it should be "Written by the cast." But this one they gave us that credit, which was very sweet. They didn't need to do that.

insideout-fivefeelings-controlI do love that as a film fan, you sort of get to be a film critic in this movie in the scene where Fear's watching the Dream Factory.

Oh yeah.

Was that scene something that they tailored to you or did you just come in and put your voice on it?

No, part of the scene always was that Fear was watching the Dream because the whole thing was they're trying to do a nightmare to wake Riley up. And so Fear was always watching. I know we recorded a couple of different versions of it. But for some reason I remember I had tea for my throat. And as I was doing the thing, I just started [dipping] the teabag. I started doing it. And then when they showed the animation, they had animated it with a teabag, which I thought was funny.

Good Dinosaur DetailsIn addition to this, you're also a voice in The Good Dinosaur, correct?

I don't know if I am.

Oh no?

I don't know. I did that two years ago and I have not been back since.

Well that's a perfect example. My question is these movies are made so early, by the time they come out, they're totally different and Pixar is also very secretive. They're working on movies now that we don't even know about. So what is it like as somebody who loves movies to be able to have to hold the secrets? Is it frustrating?

No, it's easy. Because now I've made things where I'm like "Oh I don't want people [to know about it.]" I've learned very early not to talk too much because things change or just go away. You know, I talked early on about writing a movie for Judd Apatow. I remember doing that and then thinking "I really wish I didn't tell people that." Because Judd and I worked on it and we both agreed "This doesn't work." That was 2009 and I'm still answering questions about it. Today I answered about it twice.

I guess I'll cross that off the list here.

I still get questions about it and I'm like, they didn't announce that in the trades or something. That was my own like big mouth during some thing. So...

Bill Hader Skeleton TwinsYour filmography is very diverse. Skeleton Twins, Sarah Marshall, I can't wait to see Trainwreck. How do you pick roles? 'Cause it seems like every movie you do, even if it's not like a huge success is really, really good.

Oh that's nice of you to say. I don't know, man. I've been very lucky to work with some amazing filmmakers. And there's a lot of stuff I don't get that I would love to be in, you know what I mean? 'Cause that happens a lot too. I'm still going and I go and audition for things and it doesn't happen. I put myself on tape for something and it doesn't happen. I mean, it's not like I cherry pick.

Do you have any kind of criteria?

I think if it's a movie I would go see. If it's a movie I would go see or if it's a character I can do something interesting with. Or it's a character I relate to. Like the guy in Skeleton Twins. I related to that. Some of the feelings he had, especially about moving to L.A. and God, I remember feeling so many nerves moving to L.A. And then "What if I have to move back to my small town?" And some of his insecurities and stuff. And the guy in Trainwreck, loving someone that's like...not hard to love, but is going through issues and working with that. Now I feel like the opposite. My wife is such a calm person. I feel like she's willing to work with me. It's the opposite like I'm more the Amy Schumer character in our relationship.

But no, it's just finding something that you would go see. That's why I like to do commercials or I'm the voice in Mr. Peanut and this thing So I can go and make some money and pay the bills do these things.

Steven Spielberg TintinSure. And the last thing, I just can't imagine what it's like as a film fan to be working with Steven Spielberg.

Oh yeah, it was insane.

What was it like?

It was insane. Just freaking out the entire time. And he is also a giant film fan and he goes to great lengths to make you feel comfortable around him. And he will honestly, man, you'd be like "Jaws, go." And he'll go "All right," and he'll just go into an hour worth of stories. He'll tell you anything you wanna know. He will talk about anything. He'd be excited to tell you. I even asked him, I said, "Okay, in Sugarland Express, the scene with the two cops talking to each other in the cars like this, how did you do that?" He goes, "Okay, here's what we had. Vilmos Zsigmond had put a rig on a..." And he grabs things and plays with. "And he's on a rig and so I'm behind them and I have a little thing I'm hitting and that is when we were supposed to go..." And he gets so excited to talk about it.

But he also gets excited about other movies. When we were shooting in Vancouver, we both watched TCM on our iPad. And it was always like "What are you watching right now?" Or "What were you watching last night?" I was like "I was watching Point Blank." And he was like "Oh cool. I was watching Roman Holiday". One time I got to fly with him and we were waiting and his assistant came in to the plane. And we said "Why are we waiting?" He's like "Steven's in the car, he's watching Roman Holiday. There's five minutes left."

That's so awesome

And so he's just sitting there watching Roman Holiday and he came in and he's like "How terrific is that movie?"

[Laughs] Like it's the first time he's seen it.

He goes, "I've seen it 20 times, how wonderful." But he'll tell you stories. He'll just drop things and he knows how mind blowing it is too. He's like "Yeah, I remember, we were shooting Raiders and I walked onto the set of The Shining. And Kubrick's there and everything." I was like "You went on the set of The Shining?" He's like "Yeah, yeah, you know, the room where he's writing?" And he goes, "I went in and I was like..."

Jaws beach scene

And Jaws is my favorite movie. If you put a gun to my head, "What's your favorite movie?" I'd say Jaws. So I told him that and he just, he literally patiently sat there while I asked him [questions]. I go, "The guy who goes, 'Oh what?' Who's that guy?" And he goes, "That guy his name is blah, blah, blah and I told him 'You say 'What? and..." I mean, I would walk away from every conversation just floating on movie geek air and I would come home and wake my wife up and tell her what happened. And just he's the nicest person in the world. He really is a prime example of how to be as a human being.

Inside Out is now in theaters. The BFG, starring Hader and directed by Steven Spielberg opens July 1, 2016.

Additional Images: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images/Used With Permission of Disney