Thursday afternoon, John C. Reilly brought his new film, Wreck-it Ralph to Comic-Con. Gamers make up a huge chunk of the convention’s population so he was in good company. The actor discussed his history with the medium, as well as the ups and downs of voice acting. Plus, he talked about the drama surrounding some of your favorite video game characters.
What were some of your favorite video games as a kid?
John C. Reilly: Well, I am dating myself by saying this but I was the test audience for Space Invaders. I remember that was the first game that wasn’t a pinball game. I spent a lot of money on some Space Invaders in the form of quarters. But I have a family now, so I don’t have a lot of time to play video games. That’s probably a good thing.
Do you see any similarities between Ralph and other characters you’ve played?
John C. Reilly: The truth is us actors, we all like to believe we reinvent the wheel every time we play a character. But in some ways, we’re human beings and our instruments are not violins. They’re our bodies and our consciousness and our collective life experience. So I suppose, yeah there are certain qualities that I bring to a character. But it certainly wasn’t intentional to make Ralph anything like a porn star from the ’70s [like his character in Boogie Nights] if that’s what you mean.
If you had a choice: would you rather be a good guy or a bad guy?
John C. Reilly: I would like to think I do good things. But everyone else calls me a good guy or a bad guy.
Is it harder or easier to do a performance using just your voice?
John C. Reilly: We used to do these acting exercises when I was in acting school where they would put up a piece of fabric and you’d only be able to see your feet. And they’d say, ‘OK now, improvise a scene without your voice or making a sound and tell everything you need to tell, just through your feet’ which sounds insane. But you’d be amazed with what you can convey with your feet. Or just your hands. And that’s the same way with doing voice over work. You’re taking everything. You’re whole experience that you’d normally do with your body and you’re channeling it all into your voice. I became somewhat good with various sound effects. These guys [would] have to keep reminding me, ‘John, they will provide a sound — you don’t have to go swoosh!’
How hard was it to get licensing to use all those video game properties?
John C. Reilly: I’m surprised at how common that question is today. I think it shows how sensitized we are to the ‘rights’ for things and for marketing and trademarks and all that. I mean the fact is, if you’re the guy that made Frogger — a game about a frog that’s hopping across the road that no one is playing anymore — is it really a difficult negotiation to say, ‘Yes, Frogger can be in the movie?’ I don’t know, maybe it is.
For those who aren’t familiar with video games and these famous characters, how will you introduce them?
John C. Reilly: The main characters of the movie are from games that are made up for the movie. And we explain them, so you don’t need to know anything about video games to appreciate the journey the characters take.
Check out our coverage of the official Wreck-it Ralph Comic-Con panel.
Wreck-it Ralph opens in theaters November 2.