Will, could you talk about your inspiration for finding the voice of Batman?
WILL ARNETT: Well, sure. Phil, Chris and I talked early on about the idea of looking at all the Batman incarnations that have come before, all the way back to the original Batman…
CHRIS PRATT: Yeah, the Shakespearian Batman. [Laughs]
WILL ARNETT: I feel like Morgan’s really judging my answer here. [Laughs] I think that we were trying to see what would make us laugh and what we liked about all those Batmen, and so the first couple of sessions we spent a lot of time finding that voice and what was working, what wasn’t. And we kept hitting on the fact that the more seriously Batman took himself, the funnier he was. And that’s kind of where we ended up.
MORGAN FREEMAN: I’ve got a question for the writers. Why was there no Robin? Like, ‘Holy fat burgers, Batman.’ [Laughs]
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: That’s a fine question. The movie would have been two hours long, probably.
MORGAN FREEMAN: Well, how long is it now?
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: Yeah, it’s about ninety-some minutes right now. Actually, we thought it was funny that Batman thinks he works alone. It actually was a joke at the very end of the movie that we had where Batman said, ‘You guys should be together. Batman works alone anyway. Come on, Robin and Alfred, let’s go.’ [Laughs]
In the movie, you find out that the bad guy is a bit of a control freak with his hobbies. Do you guys have any hobbies that you’re a little bit of a control freak with and don’t want the kids to get near?
MORGAN FREEMAN: Yeah, I play golf. You ever played golf? [Laughs] You turn into a control freak. Actually, it never succeeds.
PHIL LORD: Super frustrating. [Laughs] You can’t control where that darn ball goes.
CHRIS PRATT: You get like one out of every thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, twenty, thirty shots, at least for me.
MORGAN FREEMAN: Twenty-five or thirty.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: And then finally, you’re like, ‘This ball is reacting to it the way that it’s supposed to. I now know how to golf.’
MORGAN FREEMAN: I know how to do it. [Laughs]
For those of you who have kids, were you excited to make a movie that your kids could see, and if they’ve seen it, what has the response been at home?
PHIL LORD: No kids. I have pets.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: I have two kids. One is just turning five and could not be more excited about this movie and he’s seen it from the very beginning to the end. And he’s at LEGOLAND now for the first time and his head is exploding currently. [Laughs]
MORGAN FREEMAN: My youngest kid is 41 years old.
WILL ARNETT: So he’s not that excited. [Laughs] I have a three year-old and a five year-old and they’re both extremely excited. My youngest keep referring to the movie as The LEGO-Batman Movie. Sorry, guys.
CHRIS PRATT: I’ve got a one-and-a-half year-old, so he’s a little young for LEGO, but I’ve got four nephews that are at the park today, out exploring and having a really good time. They’re ages from ten to fifteen. So they’re big fans of LEGO toys. Their Christmas present was that I flew them all out to come to LEGOLAND and see the movie.
ELIZABETH BANKS: Stop bragging over there, my god! My nearly three year-old son calls my minifigure ‘Mommy LEGO.’ And I don’t say anything. I let him think that. I just let him call it Mommy LEGO.
PHIL LORD: That’s pretty awesome.
DAN LIN: I have two boys, nine and five. They’re LEGO fanatics. Actually, they’re at the theme park now with Chris Miller’s son. And it’s kind of a dream come true for me because now they’re actually with Graham playing The LEGO Movie. They’ve now purchased the minifigures from the movie and they’re telling their own story. I think that’s a dream for us as parents, and even as filmmakers, that you make this movie, but then the kids are now making their own version with the minifigures that we’ve created.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: We could use some help on the sequel, so you’ll have to write some of those ideas down. [Laughs]
Chris? Any kids?
CHRIS McKAY: Yeah. I don’t have any kids. My niece and nephew are very excited to meet Emmet and Wyldstyle in the park though.
For the directors, this movie is combined live action and CGI animation and also stop motion animation. What was most difficult or challenging?
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: I think of all the things, the most difficult thing was actually getting a story that made sense and was entertaining, of all the things. But from a technical standpoint, I think probably getting the CG to look photo-real and be full of thumbprints and scratches and dust, so that it will make you think that it was a real LEGO set that matched up with all the real LEGO things that were in the movie so you couldn’t tell. That was probably the hardest part.
For all of you, what is your earliest memory of LEGO toys in your lives and did that affect you wanting to be involved with the film?
ELIZABETH BANKS: My earliest memory of LEGO toys involves grabbing them from my sisters, like, ‘No, they’re mine. I’m playing with them now.’ And I was very bossy about it. And then, I have two young sons, so I’ve now journeyed back to just playing. I like to build things–I can admit this about myself. I’ll spend time with my sons on the floor and I’ll build something that I think is cool. And then my kids, I present it to them, and they immediately smash it and my heart … [Laughs] That’s part of their process. They destroy it. That’s their play. Mine’s to feel proud of it, and then they just literally smash it, as if it means nothing to them. [Laughs]
CHRIS PRATT: I like to make like swords and weapons and whack people with them. That was my thing. It was to hit my brother with a LEGO sword and try to see how fast you could swing a LEGO sword without it breaking, because the force of swinging it would sometimes break it. So that’s, I guess, my first memory.
ELIZABETH BANKS: You were really strong.
CHRIS PRATT: The point is, even then I was really strong.
Morgan, do you have any memories of LEGO toys as a kid?
MORGAN FREEMAN: My kids were little at one time. [Laughs] And my memory of LEGO toys is just little pieces scattered all over the apartment because I don’t have any creativity around LEGO toys and neither did my kids. So I don’t even know which one of them got the gift for Christmas. [Laughs] But the pieces just wound up on the floor.
CHRIS PRATT: Yeah. Stepping on them with a bare foot is about the worst thing that can happen.
WILL ARNETT: Oh, yeah.
For the actors, the characters are really interesting; did you have a back story to work with? Did anybody develop one?
WILL ARNETT: Well, for me, I had the easiest job in the sense that everybody knows who Batman is, but what was fun was taking that iconic character, a character who’s such a part of the fabric of popular culture, and changing the rules to him a little bit. That was fun and that’s funny to me because he’s not necessarily the Batman that we’ve all become accustomed to. That’s what we tried to do.
MORGAN FREEMAN: I thought he was cool, though.
WILL ARNETT: Well, thank you. I’m never gonna forget you saying that. But, yeah, I think that in the end he ends up redeeming himself and he ultimately appreciates what Emmet does.
CHRIS PRATT: Emmet is kind of a cool guy in the movie, and he kicks a lot of bad guy butt and stuff.
WILL ARNETT: He has a pretty awesome fight with Good Cop/Bad Cop, and, yeah, he gets into a few scrapes. [Laughs]
CHRIS PRATT: This movie is truly Emmet’s journey as a character. It’s a very clear story for him. So, if he was to ever, as an old man, say, ‘Let me tell you a story of my life,’ he would just pop in The LEGO Movie DVD and say, ‘This is the entire story of my life.’ [Laughs] So, there wasn’t a lot of back story because you know exactly who he is when he starts out. He’s this kind of sadly, lonely character who doesn’t feel like anyone thinks that he’s special. And through the course of this movie, he is given an opportunity to do something very extraordinary and test himself and prove that he can believe in himself and also become less lonely by inheriting this family of Master Builders. I didn’t have to have too much of a back story. In terms of just like a doofus with extraordinary things happening around him, I was like, ‘Oh, I know how to do that.’ [Laughs] That’s happening in my real life.
ELIZABETH BANKS: I love that Wyldstyle really wanted to feel special in her life and isn’t quite sure what her place in the world is. Her real name is Lucy. Wyldstyle is, I think, sort of the personality that she takes on so that she can date Batman, basically. [Laughs] You know, dark and brooding and wearing hoodies, like a too cool for school kind of thing. And over the course of the movie, she realises that he’s just a narcissistic jerk, and that she can do better. [Laughs] And I love that. She falls in love. She’s got a lot going on actually, Wyldstyle.
And, also, for anyone who can answer this, there is this song in the movie, ‘Everything is Awesome.’ How did that come about?
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: We did write in the script that there would be a song called ‘Everything is Awesome’ and it would be the most insanely catchy, cheesy pop song of all time. And Chris McKay’s friend Sean Patterson came up with this tune that burrows into your brain and never leaves.
PHIL LORD: It’s kind of Sean’s fault.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: So, yeah, it really does have this quality where it just sits in there and says, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’
DAN LIN: What’s interesting about the song is that so many things changed over our movie over the course of four years. Our characters, our story. The song was actually really developed early on.
CHRIS McKAY: It was in the very first animatic that we did.
PHIL LORD: It wouldn’t leave the movie. [Laughs]
ELIZABETH BANKS: It grew.
CHRIS PRATT: It really set up camp in the movie.
PHIL LORD: It was really like What About Bob?, the house guest that sat in the film.
This is a movie for kids but it’s really smart and funny for adults as well. For Phil and Chris, did you approach the film first from adult perspectives or was the agenda to kind of appeal to kids first?
MORGAN FREEMAN: Listen to these guys!
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: Come on, yeah. We’re clearly not adults … I mean, every movie that we do, whether it’s an R-rated comedy or a family movie, we approach it the same way, and we just try to make each other laugh.
PHIL LORD: It just so happens that our sense of humor is so juvenile that it appeals to children as well.
Elizabeth, what was the best thing about not having to do any type of hair and makeup for this?
ELIZABETH BANKS: That was the best thing. [Laughs]
Also, was there anything that you brought in or wore to help you stay in character or be comfortable in the recording booth?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Well, the best thing, honestly, is that most of the time, the girls on a movie set have to be there two-and-a-half hours before any of the boys show up. And the boys all forget that.
WILL ARNETT: We don’t even know that.
ELIZABETH BANKS: So, yeah, sleeping in was great, and not caring about the hair and makeup and all that. And then in the booth, I do most of the recordings barefoot for two reasons. Partially because you’re not allowed to make any other noise. You can’t even wear a watch that goes tick, tick, tick, because they hear everything. Also, I just like to be really grounded and bounce around and jump around and it’s an action movie. We have to vocalize all the movement, so it’s a good workout, actually. It’s a really good workout.
Morgan, you’re actually learning something, right?
MORGAN FREEMAN: Yeah, I sit here and I’m learning all kinds of stuff. [Laughs] I really did not know that ladies had to be on set two-and-a-half hours before the men. I knew they had to be there earlier, because if they’ve got hair it has to be put up in curlers. [Laughs]
ELIZABETH BANKS: Exactly.
What lessons do you think children should walk away with from this movie?
PHIL LORD: That they should be inspired to be creative and build and try new things and innovate. That’s sort of the message for everybody in the movie.
DAN LIN: The movie’s about somebody who realizes that there’s something within him that’s special and that maybe he didn’t recognize it or that the society that he lived in didn’t recognize it. And that’s something I think everybody identifies with. Everyone, no matter if you’re a titan of industry or if you’re a man on the street, you have that feeling that people don’t recognize your full potential and that there’s something really unique about you. And Emmet, over the course of the movie, discovers that, and that’s just a great message, I think, for kids and for anybody.
When you’re dealing with like a beloved toy brand like this and trying to build a world out of it, what ground rules did you have to start with? Did the LEGO Company give you any limitations about what you could do?
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: They didn’t. We wouldn’t have been interested in it if was sort of like, ‘We want to sell these toys. Come help us sell these toys.’ They’re doing really well as a company themselves, so they didn’t need a movie. So they had the same level of skepticism about a movie that we did. And everybody agreed that it had to be a film that was about something, and it just had to be a film first and then they were there, just really very supportive of us, and let us make the movie we want to make. Suckers! [Laughs]
DAN LIN: Yeah. But we were very thankful, because they all said, ‘Make a bold movie. Take some risks. Don’t be safe.’ And they allowed Chris and Phil to have the freedom to make a bold movie and push the brand a little.
MORGAN FREEMAN: Be bold. Take some risks. Hire Morgan Freeman. [Laughs]
CHRIS PRATT: Which no one’s ever done before! [Laughs]
PHIL LORD: I hear there’s a guy that might actually make it in Hollywood.
CHRIS PRATT: He’s an up and comer named Morgan Freeman.
MORGAN FREEMAN: Like you say, ‘Just keep at it.’
Was it difficult to get Morgan Freeman or were you trying to look for a Morgan Freeman sound-alike?
PHIL LORD: This guy does the best Morgan Freeman impression.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: He’s really good. We did find the best Morgan Freeman sound-alike.
PHIL LORD: I mean, it was our dream and we got super-lucky to have him. And that’s true of everybody; we were blessed with the best cast in the history of movies.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: Yes.
PHIL LORD: Not biased, but… You name me a better movie cast. And I’ll call you a liar. [Laughs]
A lot of people attribute playing with LEGO toys as a kid to the reason why they now work for NASA or in scientific fields. Did playing with LEGO toys help you guys get into filmmaking, specifically making The LEGO Movie?
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: Yeah. Actually, we both played with LEGO toys growing up. I mean, Classic Space was our jam.
PHIL LORD: The Steven Spielberg Movie-maker Kit from the early nineties.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: I made a short film with a bunch of LEGO buildings and a cat, a giant cat. It was like a horror movie about a giant cat. But, look, they’re a really cool toy and one of the reasons is that they’re a left-brained toy and a right-brained toy at the same time. They engage the creative side and an engineering side. And that’s one of the things that inspired us in the first place.
Will, you seem to be having this great parallel career with vocal work, like Surly the Squirrel in The Nut Job. Can you talk about your vocal work?
WILL ARNETT: Yeah. Well, I spent many years paying my rent in New York as a voiceover guy, and then, once I started working much more as an actor, I guess it sort of logically made sense that I would start doing more animated fare and stuff like that. But, like everything in my life, I had zero plan and stuff just happened. And then I think, ‘Oh, yeah, I meant to do that.’ So, it’s just very fortuitous. I consider myself very, very lucky to have been able to do it.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: Morgan, you should look into getting into the voiceover game. [Laughs] You’ve got a lot of talent.
MORGAN FREEMAN: I don’t know.
WILL ARNETT: It should be noted, of course, that Mr. Morgan Freeman has one of the great, iconic voices of all time.
MORGAN FREEMAN: You want to hear me say something?
PHIL LORD: Yeah, yeah. [Laughs]
WILL ARNETT: So, it’s a thrill for me as a voiceover guy to be sitting next to him and being part of this vocally with him, I’ve got to say.
MORGAN FREEMAN: I’m learning to love you too, Will. [Laughs]
Elizabeth, you’ve got a huge audience with Effie Trinket in the Hunger Games films. Do you see any connection between Effie and Lucy?
ELIZABETH BANKS: They both have really great hair.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: That’s true, that’s true. Costume changes. They have costume changes.
ELIZABETH BANKS: They have great hair and cool costume changes. Um-hum. Yeah.
How did the double-decker couch come about?
PHIL LORD: Oh!
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: Oh! How did it all come about? We were trying to think of the worst idea in the world.
PHIL LORD: But that was also great. And I think, was it Todd? I think one of our assistant editors, Todd Hanson, actually built a double-decker couch in his apartment. And then we were like, ‘Wait, hold on. Wait. So if you’re in the top middle, how do you get down without climbing over somebody? And is it structurally sound? And if you’re sitting on the bottom do you watch through a bunch of dangling legs? How does that work?’ And then we were like, ‘Oh, but it is kind of awesome, at the same time.’ And so we put it in. And people seem to like it.
For Morgan, what do your young fans come up and ask you about the most? You have Dolphin Tale and now this. Do you have a whole new generation of fans now?
MORGAN FREEMAN: Now? Now I guess some kids ask, ‘Are you the guy in Dolphin Tale; I saw you on Dolphin Tale. It used to be, ‘Mr. Clark!’ So, yeah, I’ve got a new persona now.
Whose idea was it to make Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum Superman and Green Lantern?
PHIL LORD: I don’t remember. We were definitely trying to figure out a funny way to include those guys.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: Channing had told us that if we didn’t put him in the movie he wasn’t going to talk to us again.
PHIL LORD: That’s true.
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: So we were trying to figure out a way to use him and so then we came up with this idea that Green Lantern would want to hang out with Superman, but Superman wouldn’t want to hang out with Green Lantern. [Laughs] And it was pretty easy from there.
Is that Andy Samberg doing the rap part of the song?
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: Oh, yes, in “Everything is Awesome”.
PHIL LORD: Yeah, Andy and the Lonely Island, yeah, they did a couple verses in the end credits there.
Did you make the cast sing it though as part of the soundtrack?
CHRISTOPHER MILLER: Only for Elizabeth.
PHIL LORD: Chris had a sort of semi sing it a few times. Everybody else was spared having to get it stuck in their head again and again and again. Only Elizabeth was asked to sing it like on key.
ELIZABETH BANKS: A million times.
PHIL LORD: To the beat. Yeah.
Will, I wanted to ask you about the Batman song that you sing, because it’s awesome, and also how you came up with it?
WILL ARNETT: Well, that was Phil and Chris. We just decided that that Batman, again, this character that you all think you know, actually has this crazy dark side where he has all this other stuff going on that you don’t really know about. That was a treat to do that. [Laughs] It was kind of rough. It turns out it was perfect because I have a terrible singing voice. So that was great.
PHIL LORD: Yeah, so we were like of sing/screaming.
WILL ARNETT: Singing/screaming, yeah.
The Lego Movie opens on February 14th