NPR logo

John C. Reilly Wrecks It In 'Ralph'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
John C. Reilly Wrecks It In 'Ralph'

Movie Interviews

John C. Reilly Wrecks It In 'Ralph'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Our next guest is the star of a new film. It is an epic story of good and evil, love and loss, failure and redemption...oh yeah, and it's about a video game. OK. The characters who live in video games. And it's called "Wreck-It Ralph." Ralph is the villain...


JOHN C. REILLY: (as Ralph) I'm gonna wreck it.

MARTIN: ...who runs around smashing windows and destroying buildings. Fix-It Felix...


JACK MCBRAYER: (as Felix) I can fix it.

MARTIN: the good guy with the golden hammer and he cleans up Ralph's mess. After 30 years as a video-game bad guy, Ralph is fed up with his job and his life. Actor John C. Reilly is going to tell us what he decides to do about it. Mr. Reilly is the voice of Wreck-It Ralph, and he joins us from our studios at NPR West. Thanks for being with us.

REILLY: Oh, my pleasure. How are you, Rachel?

MARTIN: Doing just fine. So, we are talking about a video game character here, but what has been going on in Wreck-It Ralph's life?

REILLY: Well, he's been doing the same thing for 30 years, day-in and day-out, exactly the same. Grown up audiences will be happy to hear the movie is actually about a midlife crisis, which I think is one of the chief things that drew me to it. He decides he wants a chance to be the good guy. He wants people to like him. He wants to have a friend. And so he does this forbidden thing, and he leaves his game. He goes out through the power cord into the other arcade games in the arcade. And he's really not prepared for what happens next.

MARTIN: All kinds of shenanigans ensue.


MARTIN: So, we should paint a little picture of Ralph. Ralph is not small.

REILLY: He's about nine feet tall, 643 pounds to be exact.

MARTIN: So, when this role was put to you, did you say to yourself, oh yeah, I can play this meaty, ham-fisted guy?

REILLY: Well, sometimes you feel that way when you're my size, even if you're not quite 600 pounds yet. Actually, that was one of the fascinating and somewhat scary parts of the animation process was that they start out just completely swinging for the fences. So, my character out as just sort of an ape at first, like an orange-skinned, one-horned monster of some kind. And then during that process, I was still kind of meeting with Rich Moore about whether I actually wanted to do the movie. And then...

MARTIN: Rich Moore is the director, right?

REILLY: Yeah, a brilliant director and a super-collaborative partner with me on the movie. And eventually I said, Rich, I need to know what life form this character is taking because the more specific I can be about the details in his life, the more easily I can improvise things and, you know, just kind of take on the character's point of view. And so you have to do a lot of thinking about what it feels like to be that guy. And I thought about all these friends of my dad's in Chicago - I come from a big Irish Catholic family - so all through my childhood, I would come upon these guys at, like, family parties with enormous hands and, like, big guts. And you'd see him getting up from a chair and it would be like a nine-step process to get them into a standing position.

MARTIN: And a lot of sounds along the way.

REILLY: Yeah. (makes sound)

MARTIN: So, Ralph, as we've painted this portrait of this guy, he's this big guy but he has a temper in the inside and he actually belongs to a support group for bad guys in...


MARTIN: games.

REILLY: Well, we see him at the first time he's ever gone to one of these Bad-Anon meetings. After 30 years of people telling him he should go to Bad-Anon, he finally does.


REILLY: (as Ralph) I don't want to be the bad guy anymore.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as character) You can't mess with the program, Ralph.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as character) Ralph, we get it, but we can't change who we are. And the sooner you accept that, the better off your game and your life will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Now, let's close out with the bad guy affirmation.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: I'm bad and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's no one (unintelligible) than me.

MARTIN: There are these other games. Wreck-It Ralph is this kind of retro game and then there are these other really high-definition video games. And one of them is called Sugar Rush, and Ralph ends up in this world on this adventure. And he ends up meeting Vanellope von Schweetz, and she comes across as kind of a brat in the beginning. Let's take a listen.


SARAH SILVERMAN: (as Vanellope von Schweetz) Hey, are you a hobo?

REILLY: (as Ralph) No, I am not a hobo, but I am busy, OK? So you go home.

SILVERMAN: What's that? Didn't hear you. Your breath is so bad, it made my ears numb.

REILLY: Listen, I try to be nice...

SILVERMAN: Try to be nice.

REILLY: You're mimicking me.

SILVERMAN: You're mimicking me.



REILLY: That is rude...

SILVERMAN: That is rude...

REILLY: ...and this conversation is over.

SILVERMAN: ...and this conversation is over.

MARTIN: Vanellope von Schweetz's character is portrayed by Sarah Silverman. And the comic timing is really lovely between Ralph and Vanellope. Were you and Sarah Silverman in the same studio?

REILLY: We were. Yeah, that was one of those things when I was first offered this movie, I'd heard about animated movies. I had done one other thing before. And, you know, I thought it would be kind of an unsatisfying creative experience because, you know, you're just here. You're isolated in the room. You never meet the other actors, you know. I said to Rich, the director, like, you know, we got Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch and Jack McBrayer. Like, these are some of the most nimble improvisers out there right now. Wouldn't it be a shame if we weren't at least in the same room one time. And he said, John, we can make this movie however we want to make it. So, every time there were characters talking to each other, we'd be there in the studio together. And with Sarah and I, it really paid off huge because so much of our relationship is this kind of bickering big brother-little sister back and forth kind of one-upmanship.


SILVERMAN: (as Vanellope) Hey, why are hands so freakishly big?

REILLY: (as Ralph) I don't know. Why are you so freakishly annoying?

I think you get a lot when you put people in the same room and they can actually look at each other when they're communicating.

MARTIN: So, let's talk a little bit about some other work that you've been doing. Your last two starring roles were in a couple of really series adaptations - "Carnage," which was based on a Broadway play - and this was a story about bickering parents on the playground - another film called "We Need to Talk about Kevin," which was based on a novel about a high school student who becomes a mass murderer. How do you approach those different roles?

REILLY: To me, I'm always just...the word that keeps coming back to me when I talk about my work is you're just trying to be honest. It's playing a character and you're creating this fictional universe but you're trying to be honest. And if you take a piece of material like "We Need to Talk about Kevin" and you play it really honestly, then it's heartbreaking and disturbing. And I don't really do all that much differently as an actor. I just try to be as truthful as I can. And if the circumstances are ridiculous, then you're in a comedy, and if they're more serious then you're in a drama, I guess.

MARTIN: John C. Reilly. He is the story of the new film "Wreck-It Ralph." Thanks much, John.

REILLY: Thank you.

MARTIN: "Wreck-It Ralph" opens in theaters on Thursday.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.