Behind the Scenes of MINIONS
Lyndee Fletcher, Contributing Writer
MOVIEGUIDE® had the opportunity to hear from Allison Janney and Jon Hamm, the stars in Universal Pictures’ MINIONS, the third movie and prequel to DESPICABLE ME.
Minions, Kevin, Bob and Stewart are recruited by Scarlett Overkill and husband Herb to help them plan to take over the world.
Q: What was the recording process like? Were you able to work with the other actors?
Allison: That is the one sad thing about doing animated movies, you’re never in the same room with other actors. So this kind of work is very different. The thing that is great about it is I can go without hair and makeup, and I go in my sweatpants. I’m a sweatpants and t-shirt kind of girl, that’s what I’m usually in. I love to be barefoot when I work so I’m in there with no shoes making all these different sounds. I have to be willing to make a complete fool out of myself, and I know they are recording. Maybe the animators get some inspiration watching the actual actors do the voice. I think a lot of Madge’s eye movements came from me. So it’s a strange process, and it’s over a year and you go in for two hour sessions here and there and you don’t have anyone to act with. You just do the same line over and over again many different ways and try to get into the character. It’s very creative work, but very solitary. The director was actually in Paris while he was directing me. I love doing it, and I can’t wait to see it for the first time tomorrow at the premiere. It was so funny, I just saw Jon Hamm earlier who is going to join us in a bit, and he said, “You’re in this?!” I saw Michael Keaton the other day going into a pre-Oscar party, and he said, “Oh there’s my wife!” and I didn’t know what he was talking about. He had to tell me that he was my husband, I didn’t even know he had been cast. So, it’s a very funny process.
Q: I think most of us would like our own minions if we could. If you could, what would you have your minions do for you?
Allison: Oh my gosh I would have my minions pick up the dry cleaning, do the grocery shopping, go find a parking space at Whole Foods, because I can never find one. Have them set up for parties and clean up after parties. Have them walk the dogs. Oh …if I could have minions walk my dogs, I would just be in heaven. Everyone’s lives would run much smoother with minions. I would love to have a little Bob in my pocket everywhere I go. I just love him.
Q: What is the main thing you do to get into character to play a cartoon mom?
Allison: I come in ready to work, take direction, basically be ready to make a fool of myself and make crazy voices. When we found the right voice for Madge, it was just about being playful and bringing my sense of play.
Q: So Jon, Herb has a very odd way about him, did you have any input into his character because he kind of has an odd sense of humor?
Jon: Total. You have total freedom. You’re not constrained by what you look like, or what your hair looks like that day, or what haircut you’re stuck with from whatever movie you just finished. You have total freedom. Part of it for me was getting the artist rendering of the character and being like, “Oh that guy looks so cool I wonder what he sounds like.” Then messing around with voices in your head like a crazy person, or like a child, you’re basically a kid. I remember flashing back to being a little kid and watching cartoons and wondering if I could do that. And, talking to myself. You know, things I do normally in my day to day life, talk to my dog, talk to myself and talk to myself on elevators, and people are like, “Are you going to be okay?” It’s a process. It’s really fun and completely creative, when you’re working with people who are super collaborative and are just like, “Go.”
Q: Your character is very suave, kind of like Don Draper?
Jon: Ehhh Sort of, Herb definitely has his own style, I don’t think it’s very similar to Don’s. I think if anything, if there’s an analogy to be made it’s a little closer to Austin Powers, at least from a sartorial sense. I didn’t want to veer too far into Austin Powers territory, but Herb is very comfortable in who he is, and he loves his wife, and she loves him right back, and I think that’s kind of the lovely part of their relationship.
Allison: I loved that about Herb and Scarlet and Madge and Walter: they were very unconventional for couples in the 60’s; the power was equal. I’m teaching my kids. They all get the same machine guns to rob banks, my daughter and my son, so it’s all progressive in that way.
Jon: Yeah it’s couched in this cartoony evil sense, but it’s all very progressive as you said.
Q: Were you always a fan of the Minions?
Jon: Yes, in fact, when I signed onto the project, the second movie hadn’t come out yet. So I had only seen the first one. So when I came and met with all the powers that determine whether or not I would be chosen, they showed me some of the second, and I was like, “Oh my gosh this is so fun please pick me please pick me please pick me!” Cause it is, it’s just so creative and unique and different, and it’s not based on a toy, it’s not based on something that’s already existed. It’s completely sprung out of this incredible weird genius’s mind. These little agents of chaos, little fascinating things with terrible hair and cute butts, they wear overalls but they don’t have shoulders like how does that work? I think it’s great. It’s the best part of Hollywood’s creativity coming out.
Q: I was asking Allison a few minutes ago, if she had Minions what would you do with them and how would you put them to work. So I’m asking you the same thing, if you could have Minions would you want them first of all?
Jon: YES… I think knowing what I know about how effective they are at doing their jobs, I probably wouldn’t assign them any tasks that need to be done well. They tend to mess up everything that they’re involved with, but it would be great to have one around.
Allison: I just said for dry cleaning and things like that.
Jon: Yeah, but again all your clothes would be ruined. Really, I would say, “Go mow the lawn,” and the lawn would be lit on fire. I just would want to hang out with them and just play. I think that’s Herb’s thing. What happens to Herb is he’s supposed to kind of torture them and do all these things, and then he’s like they’re kind of fun. Maybe, we should just have fun. Oh no I have to be mean, but he really just wants to play.