It’s always interesting when actors are grouped together for interviews; you never know how it will turn out ... especially when two of them are comedians. During a webchat from Cancun, Mexico for the film Pixels, Kevin James, Josh Gad and Michelle Monaghan showed us what a fun bunch they are.
Pixels opens in Malaysian cinemas today. In the film, US President Will Cooper (James) grew up playing all the 1980s videogames with his buddies Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Gad) and Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage).
So, when intergalactic aliens attack Earth using classic arcade games stars like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede and Galaga, Cooper recruits his old pals to fight these videogame characters which have come to life and are terrorising the world.
Helping these men is Liutenant Colonel Violet Van Patten (Monaghan), an expert on tactical knowledge and weapons.
Kevin, did you ever think that you would one day play the President of the United States in a film? Who did you look to for inspiration?
James: No, I never thought I would be the President of the United States and, boy, did I stick it in my mum’s face. Just to let her know – look what her son turned out to be.
As far as inspiration, president Lincoln was one of my favourites. Him and John Adams. Not the president, but a guy who lives down the block from me named John Adams. He’s the president of ... I think it was the Hair Club For Men.
I just tried to do something different. I wanted to be a president that was approachable and relatable to the everyday guy and can take guys like his buddies, the unsung heroes and make them true heroes and utilise a skill that they thought was pretty useless and hopefully turn it into something positive.
Are you hearing me, Malaysia?
Yes, loud and clear. Growing up in the 1980s, what were some of your favourite games?
Monaghan: Pac-Man for sure.
Gad: In terms of arcade games, Pac-Man, but I was really into Tetris. I mean, I used to, like, sneak a Game Boy to my maths class and just play Tetris in the middle of school.
James: I was playing sports and doing other things (laughs). A lot of people don’t know this, and Michelle’s heard it for the 50th time, but I played a game called Super Bug and it’s about driving a little VW around. It was a game that a lot of people don’t hear of, but that’s OK, because I take a different path, Malaysia. I go a different way.
Gad: I played a game called Super Bug in which your body got a virus and you had to fight the virus or you lose everything. So it was a weird game (laughs).
James: I like it. It’s good that I don’t look heavier on web chats. That’s good. I’m happy about that.
Gad: I think you look great.
James: Thank you.
Gad: I think it’s actually slimming.
Josh, you were born in 1981. What do you think that kids these days should know about the 1980s?
Gad: Well, you know what? I think that the 1980s were a much less cynical time. It’s funny because in the 1980s, we were being introduced to movie spectacles, right? Like blockbusters really began with Star Wars. So we weren’t jaded.
You would go see movies like Gremlins, Goonies, Back To The Future and the sky was the limit, just in terms of pop culture. And there’s something to say about the simplicity of the games that we had back then.
Like you just had a disembodied yellow head going waa wacka wacka wacka chasing a bunch of ghosts as opposed to the amazing graphics that we have now, but it’s complicated gameplay compared to what we sort of grew up with. So I think it was a simpler time and I think that ...
Monaghan: A more innocent ...
Gad: A much more innocent time and I remember them asking me the question though, Michelle (laughs).
And, so I think that it was definitely a more innocent time if you will.
James: How do you like my John Adams story now? A little better answer now, isn’t it, Malaysia?
Gad: Shorter for sure, Malaysia (laughs).
Monaghan: Oh, Malaysia.
You guys go against CGI arcade characters in the movie. What was it like battling antagonists that you can’t really see during filming?
Gad: My first day on Pixels was literally sitting in a car in front of a green screen with a little tennis ball in front of me, running away from Pac-Man (laughs) and screaming at the top of my lungs at this little bug.
Monaghan: That’s a hysterical scene by the way.
Gad: Yeah, but they’re still figuring out this hydraulic thing on my car.
The guys are like, “Josh, just so you know, we haven’t quite figured how much to drop it yet, so if you hurt yourself, just call for help” and I’m like, “Do we have to get to the point where I have to call for help after I’ve already hurt myself? Can we test it out first?” So it was insane a little bit.
James: I love the calling for help, like they’re not even watching. It’s your responsibility if you get hurt.
Gad: If we see blood, we’re going to think you’re OK unless you call for help. So, you know that was crazy and also running through the streets of Toronto (for the New York scenes) from a large giant green thing that was going to become Pac-Man was very surreal, but after a while you just get used to it, don’t you?
Monaghan: Yeah, you do feel like a fool initially. I mean that was the thing with the Donkey Kong set. It was all green screen of course, and then (director) Chris Columbus is like, “OK, so Donkey Kong is 100ft tall. He’s throwing fiery barrels at you. Jump!” And you’re like, “I am not jumping and making an a** out of myself in front of a hundred people.”
James: It’s amazing how different my jump of a fiery barrel is as compared to just a regular barrel. It’s different. So you need fiery (laughs).