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Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks on 'The Lego Movie'

Morgan Freeman and his "Lego Movie" character Vitruvius
Morgan Freeman and his "Lego Movie" character Vitruvius
Warner Bros. Pictures

“The Lego Movie,” directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, is an original 3-D computer-animated story that follows Emmet Brickowoski (voiced by Chris Pratt), Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average Lego mini-figure who is mistakenly identified as The Special, the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously under-prepared. Chris Pratt is the voice of Emmet. Will Ferrell is the voice of President Business, aka Lord Business, an uptight CEO who has a hard time balancing world domination with micro-managing his own life. Liam Neeson is the voice of Lord Business’s loyal henchman, Bad Cop/Good Cop, who will stop at nothing to catch Emmet.

Pictured from left to right: Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett and Chris Pratt
Getty Images

Voicing the members of Emmet's rebel crew on this heroic mission are Morgan Freeman as the ancient mystic Vitruvius; Elizabeth Banks as tough-as-nails Wyldstyle, who mistakes Emmet for the savior of the world and guides him on his quest; Will Arnett as the mysterious Batman, a Lego mini-figure with whom Wyldstyle shares a history; Nick Offerman as the craggy, swaggering pirate Metal Beard, obsessed with revenge on Lord Business; Alison Brie as the sweet and loveable Unikitty; and Charlie Day as Benny, the 1980s Spaceman. Here is what Pratt, Freeman, Banks, Arnett, Miller, Lord, producer Dan Lin and animation supervisor Chris McKay said at "The Lego Movie" press conference at Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif.

Will, can you talk about the inspiration for the voice of Batman?

Arnett: Well, sure. I read the Old Testament repeatedly. Chris and Phil and I talked early on about the idea of looking at all the Batmen that have come before, and trying to …

Freeman: All the way back to …

Arnett: The original Batman, yeah. Back to the Batman before the dinosaurs. I feel like Morgan’s really judging my answer here. We were trying to see what would make us laugh and at what we liked about all of those Batmen. So, at the first couple of sessions, we spent a lot of time with that voice, finding what was working and what wasn't. We kept hitting on the idea that the more serious Batman took himself, the funnier he was. That's where we ended up.

Freeman: Why was there no Robin in “The LEGO Movie”?

Lord: The movie would’ve been two hours long, probably.

Miller: It’s about 90-some minutes right now. Actually, we think it’s pretty funny that Batman thinks he works alone. It actually was a joke at the very end of the movie, for a minute, when Batman said, “You guys should be together. Batman works alone anyway.”

Do you have any hobbies that you’re a control freak about at all?

Freeman: Yeah, I play golf. You turn into a control freak. It actually never succeeds. Really.

Miller: You can’t control where that darn ball goes!

Pratt: You do like me, at least one every 20, 30 shots. And finally, this ball is reacting to it the way it’s supposed to. I no know how to golf.

Miller: Frustrating for everyone. So that’s what the movie is about: golf.

For those of you who have kids, have your kids seen “The Lego Movie”? And if so, what’s been the response?

Lord: I have no kids.

Miller: I have two kids. One is just turning 5 and could not be more excited about this movie. He’s seen it from the very beginning. He’s here at Legoland for the first time, and his head is exploding currently.

Freeman: My youngest kid is 41 years old.

Arnett: So he’s not that excited. All right, Well, I have a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, and they haven't seen it yet, but they're both extremely excited. They’re also here, and they’re going crazy. I love that my youngest keeps referring to it as "The Lego Batman Movie." Sorry, guys.

Freeman: The way it should be.

Pratt: I’ve got a one-and-a-half-year-old, so he’s a little young, but I’ve got four nephews here at the park today, out exploring and having a really good time. So they’re ages 10 to 15. They’re actually Lego nuts. They’re huge fans. Their Christmas present was I flew them all here to be at Legoland this weekend so they could see the movie. [Other people on the panel say, “Awww…”] The point is that I work a lot in TV. I get to fly people places for Christmas.

Banks: Stop bragging already. My god!

Arnett: That was the point?

Pratt: Yeah, the point is I give good Christmas presents because I have a lot of money. What? I’m on TV!

Banks: My nearly 3-year-old son calls my Wyldstyle mini-fig “Mommy Lego.” I don’t say anything. I just let him call it, “Mommy Lego.”

Miller: That’s pretty awesome.

Lin: Yeah, I have two boys, [who are] 9 and 5; they’re Lego fanatics. They’re actually at the theme park now with Chris Miller’s song Graham. It’s kind of a dream come true for me, because now they’re actually with Graham playing “The Lego Movie.” They’ve now actually purchased the mini-fig from the movie, and they’re telling their own story. That’s a dream for s a parents, and then you make this movie, and the kids are now making their own version with the mini-figs that we’ve created.

Miller: We could use some help on the sequels. I should write some of those ideas down.

McKay: I don’t any kids. My niece and nephew, we’re very excited to meet Wyldstyle in the park.

What was the most difficult or challenging thing about the stop-motion animation?

Miller: I think the most difficult thing was getting a story that made sense and was entertaining. But from a technical standpoint, probably getting the CG to look “photo real” and be full of thumbprints and scratches and dust and dandruff and make you think 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 the hardest part.

Lord: Finding the right exact amount of dandruff was the biggest challenge.

Miller: Too much and it looked snowy.

Freeman: You never see me scratch my head in the movie.

Lord: Morgan, more dandruff, please.

What’s your earliest memory of Lego in your lives? Did that impact you wanting to be involved with the film?

Banks: My earliest memory involves grabbing them from my sisters was like, “No, they’re mine. I’m playing with them now.” And I was very bossy about it.

My journey now, I have two young sons, so I’ve journeyed back. I like to build things. KI can admit this about myself. I’ll spend time with my sons on the floor, and I’ll build something that I think are cool. My kids, I’ll present it to them, and then they'll immediately smash it. That's part of their process: they destroy it. Mine's to feel proud of it, and they just literally smash it, as if it means nothing.

Pratt: I liked to make swords and weapons and whack people with them. That was my thing: 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 would sometimes break it. I guess that’s my first memory.

Banks: You were really strong.

Pratt: Even then, I was really strong. The point is: Even then, I was really strong.

Arnett: And you do a lot of TV.

Pratt: I’m just caring. I give a lot. Expensive gifts is the point, I guess.

Freeman: My kids were little at one time, and my memory of Lego is those little pieces scattered all over the apartment. I don't have any creativity around Lego and neither did my kids so. I don't even know which ones got the gifts for Christmas, but the pieces just wound up being on the floor.

Miller: Yeah, stepping on them with a bare foot is about the worst thing that can happen.

Did you have a back story for your “Lego Movie” characters?

Arnett: I had the easiest job, in the sense that everyone knows who Batman is, but what was fun was taking that kind of iconic character, who's such a part of the fabric of popular culture, and kind of 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.

Freeman: I thought he was cool though.

Arnett: Thank you. I’m never going to forget you saying that. In the end, he ends up redeeming himself … He has a pretty badass fight with Bad Cop/Good Cop. He gets into a few scrapes.

Pratt: This movie is truly Emmet’s journey as a character. It’s really a clear story for him. If he ever, as an old man, says, “Let me tell you the story of my life,” he would just pop in “The Lego Movie” DVD and say, “This is the entire story of my life.” There wasn’t a lot of back story, because you know exactly who he is when he starts out.

He's this sad, lonely character who doesn't feel like anyone thinks that he’s special, and throughout the course of this movie is given the 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 back story, in terms of “Doofus with extraordinary things happening around him. I know how to do that That’s happening in my real life!”

Banks: I loved that Wyldstyle, she wanted to fee special in her life, and isn’t quite sure what her place in the world is. Her real name is Lucy. I think Wyldstyle is her personality that she takes on so she can date Batman — you know, dark and brooding and cool. And over the course of the movie, she realizes that he’s a narcissistic jerk, and she can do better. And I love that! She falls in love. There’s a lot going on with Wyldstyle.

What’s the story behind the song “Everything Is Awesome,” which is big part of “The Lego Movie”?

Miller: We apologize. We did write into the script that there would be a song called “Everything is Awesome,” and it was the most insane, cheesy, catchy pop song of all time. Chris McKay’s friend Sean Patterson came up with this tune that burrows into your brain and never leaves.

Lord: It’s kind of Sean’s fault!

Miller: Yeah, so it really does have this quality where it sits in your brain and says, “I'm not going anywhere!”

Lin: So many changes in a movie over the course of four years. The song developed really early on.

McKay: It was in our very first animatic.

Lin: It wouldn’t leave the movie.

McKay: It was really the “What About Bob,” the unwanted house guest in the film.

“The Lego Movie” has many things that appeal to adults as well as kids. Phil and Chris, did you approach the film from an adult’s perspective or was the idea to have it appeal to kids first and then adults?

Miller: We’re clearly not adults. No, every movie that we do, whether it’s an R-rated comedy or a family movie, we approach the same way: we just try to make each other laugh.

Lord: It just so happens that our sense of humor is so juvenile that it appeals to children as well.

Freeman: Even the triple-X-rated ones.

Lord: Yeah, even the adult films that we make in our spare time. Some of our funniest stuff is in the adult world.

Banks: Anything X-rated, I laugh.

What was the best thing about not having to worry about hair and makeup when you do an animated movie?

Banks: That was the best thing!

Elizabeth, was there anything that you wore in the animation booth that helped you stay in character or be comfortable?

Banks: Well, the best thing, honestly, is that most of the time on a movie set, the girls have to be there two-and-a-half hours before the boys show up. The boys all forget that. Sleeping in was great. And not caring about the hair and makeup. In the booth, I do most of the recordings barefoot for two reasons.

First of all, 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. And also, I also like to be really grounded and bounce around and jump around. It’s an action movie. We have to vocalize all the movements. It’s a good workout, actually. A really good workout.

Morgan, you just learned something, right?

Freeman: I’m learning all kinds of stuff. I really did not know that ladies had to be on set two-and-a-half hours earlier. I know that they had to be there earlier, because if they’ve got hair, it’s got to be put up in curlers.

What lessons should children walk away with after seeing “The Lego Movie”?

Lord: To see it again.

Miller: They should be inspired to be creative and build and try to innovate. That’s the message for anybody in the movie. But also to see it again. That’s really important.

Lin: The movie’s about something within [Emmet] that’s special, and maybe he didn’t recognize it or the society he lived in didn’t recognize it. And I think that’s something everybody identifies with. Everyone, whether you’re a titan of industry or the man on the street, you have that feeling that people don’t recognize your full potential and there’s something really unique about you. And Emmet discovers that and it’s a great message, I think for kids and anybody.

Phil and Chris, when you’re dealing with beloved toys like Lego toys, what kinds of ground rules did you have to star with for the movie?

Lord: We try not to show them “21 Jump Street.”

Miller: Luckily, we wouldn’t have been interested in it if they were like, “We ant 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 that we did.

And everybody agreed that it had to be a film about something. It had to be a film first. They were there and just really supportive of us and let us make the movie we wanted to make. Suckers!

Lin: We were very lucky. Everyone said, “Make a bold movie. Take some risks. Don’t be safe.” They allowed Chris and Phil the freedom to make a bold movie and push the brand.

Freeman: Takes some risks. Hire Morgan Freeman.

Miller: I hear this guy might actually make it in Hollywood.

Lord: This up-and-comer named Morgan Freeman.

Was it difficult to get Morgan Freeman to do “The Lego Movie”? Or were you trying to get a Morgan Freeman sound-alike?

Miller: [He laughs.] He points to Freeman: This guy does the best Morgan Freeman impression.

Lord: We did find the best Morgan Freeman sound-alike.

Miller: It was our dream. We got super-lucky to get him and everybody. We were blessed with the best cast in the history of movies.

What took so long to make “The Lego Movie”?

Freeman: Two things: ideas and money.

For more info: "The Lego Movie" website