Brad Garrett is an unpredictable as he is brilliant. Voicing a dead, French chef in the new Pixar film Ratatouille, and star of another hit sitcom, you don’t just interview the irrepressible Garrett, you often just have to let him go, as Paul Fischer discovered throughout this unpredictable interview.
Question: So you were on Ratatouille before Brad Bird was on as director, weren’t you?
Garrett: I was. I was.
Question: Did the nature of the character change at all?
Garrett: It did. He killed my character actually is right – I started alive. This is true. I was a live chef. I still was the owner of Gusteau and he called me one day and went ‘Brad your character is dead’ and I went, you know, ’cause I’ve been in features where they call you and they say ‘you’re out’. So I thought he was saying ‘You’re dead. You’re done’. And I was like ‘Yeah I didn’t know if I was doing it right’. And he said ‘No, no, no – you’re dead but you’re in it still’. I go ‘Oh OK. That’s better …’He said we thought it would be more interesting and more dimensional, this is what’s kind of wonderful about Brad Bird, if we make Gusteau his conscience and make him the thing that motivates him as opposed to doing it with everyone around him, everyone seeing Gusteau pushing Remy to believe in his dream, if it’s more of ‘Is he really alive? Is it someone that Remy is just fantasising about? Is he really seeing him? Is he really a ghost in the restaurant?’ And he just made it a lot more of a dimensional – he does it with all characters, Brad.
Question: Are you a cook yourself?
Garrett: God no. Do you cook?
Question: Yeah. But not gourmet style.
Garrett: Right. Waffles, right?
Question: Do you think your character sort of came together from Brad’s love of Star Wars and the spirit of Obi Wan?
Garrett: You know we were really talking about that and possibly, because there are a lot of references to that, maybe. I wasn’t a big Star Wars guy myself. I just have trouble following it. I do.
Question: Why is that?
Garrett: I’m not that sharp. And once you bring in characters that are, you know, with too much going on I’m screwed and, you know, I’d play the giant guy that drove with the hair. I felt attacked. I did. I found out I was – I ran into Carrie Fisher and she said ‘You’re bigger than Chewie. And I kind of let it go and she goes ‘No, really. You’re bigger than he was’. And I’ve been in therapy ever since.
Question: How do you get so tall as a Jew?
Garrett: I know. That’s true. Are you a Jew?
Question: I am What happened!?
Question: Welcome to Jew World.
Garrett: It is Jew World, which is the name of my next feature. It’s like Water World but it’s different. My people sit around going ‘Dis is nice. Dis is good’. You know, we’re not swimmers. Jews just like to go ‘This is good. This is water …’ I know you’ll never get it. I don’t know, I am the biggest Jew in captivity, as we say in my family.
Question: Is it an advantage to you in your acting?
Garrett: Being a giant?
Garrett: For the circus, when the circus comes in town I get free seats. I don’t think it has helped. Well it didn’t hurt, but it didn’t help. Most actors are relatively short, you know, but in the early days there was always ‘too tall’. You’d get a lot of ‘He’s too tall’. But this business loves to, they love for you to fit because so very few of them have any vision’.
Question: Now after Raymond went on its merry way, how reticent were you to return to TV comedy?
Garrett: Well I knew it would have to be a very different character and it would have to be something that I really felt was something more in my own voice which I feel that we kind of got that way with ‘Til Death and now we’re tweaking a bit of it writing wise and my character wise I think it was something that was very far from Robert and I really liked the pilot, the one I read. It’s a leap. I mean it’s a leap. But I loved it. I was offered a lot of these Robertesque type of characters in different scenarios and I didn’t want to go back if it wasn’t different enough. And Fox as an amazing support system for their comedy people and they really support them and kind of let you alone and let the creators help the show evolve.
Question: Does television represent security for you as an actor? I mean is it one of the reasons you like returning?
Garrett: Well I love the medium. I’m not a film guy, you know. As I say about my movie career, I’m picky and not in demand.
Question: Pacifier II though right?
Garrett: Is there a 2? I’m still getting over the 1. They showed Pacifier in the plane and four people walked out. ‘Hold me God, hold me!’ So, that’s Jewish, ‘hold me’. ‘Will you hold me?’
Question: After working with Brad Bird did you come away from the process that he could call you up at any point and you’d just be there? Did you find a lot of people think he’s a genius?
Garrett: He is a genius. There’s no question about it. He just has a gift. There are people that just know where things go and how things fit. And not only visually, but he’s a great writer and he can write on the spot. It’s a gift. It’s just like Phil Rosenthal who did Raymond. He would look at his scene that we would be rehearsing all day that maybe wasn’t working and he would come down from the writer’s room and he would say, ‘OK well move that couch and you come in five minutes later and when you talk don’t look at Ray ..’ and he would do it on the spot and the whole scene would come alive. And there are people who are gifted with that and Brad Bird is one of them. You know, Iron Giant was amazing and so was The Incredibles. And it’s just something that’s hard to explain but when it’s happening to be a process of it – I mean the writing from Pixar is better than 90% of the features out there, whether it’s live action or – they just have an amazing group of writers and then every time you seen an animated film they’ve raised the bar again. I mean it’s just astonishing. So I would be there if he called and when he doesn’t call I show up, which is alarming for him.
Question: What about Broadway, you did Broadway recently. Would you like to go back?
Garrett: I would love to go back. I had the best time. I really, really loved it. And I think for an actor, especially an actor that’s stand-up oriented, you know, I came from stand-up. Without sounding corny, you will never do anything as an actor that is more in the moment as Broadway and it scared the hell out of me, because you’re used to being able to take it again or try it another way or, ‘that didn’t work’, you know. It is live. It is right now. And it was different every night. And I loved it. And working with Neil Simon and Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, I mean, I’m pretty darn lucky.
Question: And what about stand-up? Because Ray I guess went back and did a little stand-up after the show ended.
Garrett: I have been doing it, yeah; you’re not really keeping up on my career. I work at the Mirage in Vegas. I’m there about once a month for a weekend. I do a weekend a month. And then I tour as well and I do different theatres. I do about fifty dates a year. I do all the casinos, Atlantic City and Tahoe and I’d be happy to come to your neighbourhood. Where do you live?
Question: Sherman Oaks.
Garrett: Sherman Oaks – a huge comedy hub. And there are many of my people there.
Question: Do they let like you hang out with the tigers and dolphins at the Mirage when you work there?
Garrett: You know, it’s funny you say that because they did. They gotta tell the tigers the show is over. They put them in a glass cage and they’re walking around they’re like, ‘Where is everybody?’ It’s really sad. But my kids swam with the dolphins. Have you ever done that?…
Question: No I’ve always wanted to do that.
Garrett: Well call me and I will set you up – I will be happy to. It’s really an amazing experience. They didn’t want me in there. They thought I would scare the pod. It’s really what they said. They said they don’t the pod is ready. This is what they said to me. Which I didn’t know what that meant. And I said well ‘What does that ..?’ because I want to be in there with my kids and they’re like ‘You know, you’re – you’re bigger than Chewie’.
Question: What do you do in the summer on the hiatus?
Garrett: Usually the industry decides I won’t be working. This is the first hiatus where I actually took it off and I’ve just been hanging with my kids and we’ve been doing a lot of daddy stuff.
Question: Do you travel a lot?
Garrett: We’re travelling a bit, we went back east and went to New York and we went to Orlando and did all of that. I’m just kind of hanging with the kids.
Question: Is there anything you’ve been offered movie wise that you’re thinking about doing?
Garrett: Oh a lot of porn. I’m offered a lot of porn.
Question: Jewish porn?
Garrett: Jewish porn – erectile dysfunction thing is what it is. It’s actually movies that stop after the credits. So it’s about a four minute porno. And I usually play the masturbating peeping tom. That’s why I don’t work. I’m a Disney guy.
Question: When do you go back and start filming your show?
Garrett: We go back July 30th. We’ve got a great timeslot after Kelsey’s new show. We’ve got a new show runner, we’ve got some new writers and I promised I won’t be as angry this year. To be honest with you I want to play the guy a little more flawed and a little less bitter. The only one that really hit the ground running I thought was Joely’s character, which is really, really right on, and I don’t want it to be a bitter take on marriage. I wanted it to be a realistic take on marriage. And I loved that the guy was very adamant and very idealistic but I wanted to make sure that they know that these people love each other. So we’ve done some tweaking and, after they put us after Idol we obviously got a lot of viewers and people started to stay with it and I think we’re off to a good start. But, I mean I never know. I always try to tweak what I do. Like this interview. Which is all your fault. I’m going to send a dolphin to the house.