John Goodman is no stranger to the world of animation, Disney-style, recently stealing the likes of Emperor’s New Groove and now the world of Monsters Inc, from the Academy Award-winning creators of Toy Story. This delightful charmer revolves around Monsters, Inc., the largest scare factory in the monster world and the top kid Scarer is James P. Sullivan (Goodman), a huge, intimidating monster with blue fur, large purple spots and horns, known as “Sulley” to his friends. His Scare Assistant, best friend and roommate is Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), a lime green, opinionated, feisty, one-eyed monster. Scaring children isn’t such an easy job, though — monsters believe children are toxic and that direct contact with them would be catastrophic.
The film’s eclectic cast of characters also includes the factory’s crab-like CEO Henry J. Waternoose (James Coburn), the beguiling serpent-haired receptionist Celia (Jennifer Tilly), and the sarcastic chameleon monster, Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi), who schemes to replace Sulley as Monsters, Inc.’s top Scarer. Making an uninvited visit from the human world is Boo (Mary Gibbs), a tiny girl who turns the monster world upside down. The usually publicity shy Goodman, who also finished shooting the new comedy Dirty Deeds in Australia, talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: What is your attraction to animation?
Answer: Well, I started doing it for my daughter, but in a couple years she’ll probably be too old for this stuff. I listened to a lot of radio theatre when I was a kid and I’ve always been a fan of that stuff.
Question: Did you have a deal with Disney?
Answer: No. They started this about halfway through Emperor’s New Groove and then started doing Jungle Book 2 about three quarters of the way through this.
Question: If animation is for your daughter, what are roles like Coyote Ugly for?
Answer: For the money. Honest to God, that’s the only reason I did it.
Question: How much improv is involved?
Answer: We would read the scripts and they usually don’t let actors read together. They usually read them one at a time with a producer or a director, but this time they brought Billy and I together, I guess to see what would happen. The energy just took off like a rocket. So, Billy, after we’d get done with the script, he’d kind of take over and do whatever he wanted and I’d just try to keep up with him.
Question: Whose idea was it to sing the end song?
Answer: Well, Randy Newman was always doing the score and then he wrote the song and I’ve always been a huge fan of his. I just think he’s the best. We did it pretty much after we wrapped everything else.
Question: Will you take that song on the road now?
Answer: Yeah, I think we ought to do it at the Oscars next year.
Question: Is computer animation a different process for you than traditional?
Answer: No. It’s just you and a microphone, so it’s the same principle. There’s no difference at all.
Question: You were never in the same room?
Answer: No, we were. They did bring us together.
Question: Do you get anything for the dolls?
Answer: I have nothing to do with it. I don’t think I signed any merchandizing deals.
Question: You just finished shooting in Australia?
Answer: Dave Caesar, Mr. MTV Boy. I was breaking his – I was bugging him because every shot’s like this, moving, so I called him MTV Boy.
Question: How was working in Australia?
Answer: It was great. I can’t wait to go back. Unfortunately I had just been away from home for three months and I went home, had a cup of coffee and went to Australia for a month. I loved it. Boy, them people like beer. I can’t wait to go back, but I’d just been away from home too long and I couldn’t wait to get back. Then the unpleasantness happened in September and I just wanted to get back desperately. But outside of that, I kept bugging David about doing the sequel. “Okay, here’s what’s gonna happen in Dirty Deeds 2. We’re gonna shoot it in New Orleans and Sidney and we’ll talk about the outback.” I didn’t realize there would be that many flies.
Question: Where did you shoot?
Answer: Broken Hill.
Question: Why do you think Normal, Ohio didn’t work?
Answer: Oh, I don’t know. People didn’t watch it. Basically, that’s it. The network hated it too. The only thing that I wanted them to do was show the last show that we shot where Danny Aykroyd and I had an affair. We could get two lines and I’d just start laughing. They showed every one of the damn shows except for that one.
Question: Was that a money project?
Answer: You bet. No, I had been wanting to get back on television and Bonnie Turner and Terry, her husband, who I’ve worked with on Saturday Night Live, and it sounded like a good idea at the time. I’m half kidding about the money part, but I really do enjoy doing television shows.
Question: Have you seen the new Ellen show?
Answer: No, I haven’t. I haven’t seen anything. I just got back in town last week.
Question: Do you want to try TV again?
Answer: Sure. It’s gotta be good though because if it’s not brilliant coming out of the box, they’ll pull the plug on you after two weeks. They don’t give you a chance.
Question: Would you want to do a drama?
Answer: No. You work so goddamn hard on them, pulling 16 hour days. The money’s not that much better than a half hour and it’s just a lot of time away from home and then it’s over. It’s gone in one night. I’d rather just do sitcoms. They’re a lot easier and a lot more fun.
Question: Would you do a single camera sitcom or standard audience one?
Answer: I’ll be honest with you. I like doing it in front of an audience. I’m getting old and cranky. I just like the old stuff. Everybody Loves Raymond is great, stuff like that.
Question: Do you miss SNL?
Answer: Yeah. I think I’ve worn out my welcome there. I don’t have anything interesting or hot coming up. You can’t blame them. They want these young kids that actually have a career now to host the show.
Question: Why isn’t this movie hot?
Answer: I mean as an actual actor. I’m very proud of this.
Question: Do you want to work with the Coens again?
Answer: Yup, you bet.
Question: Do you prefer to play the lovable guy for kids or the big asshole?
Answer: I like being a big asshole. I don’t care. As long as it’s good, I’ll pretty much do anything.
Question: Any comedy bits that were left out of the film?
Answer: Probably. I haven’t seen it yet, but Billy would go off on these tangents and a lot of them you don’t want in a Disney film. He’d start and then I’d have to bite my lips and I’d be crying. Then I’d try to get a line out and he had me going so hard. Oh, man. He’s a beast.
Question: Where did your monsters hide?
Answer: Under the bed, not the closet. After a while I got hip and started getting a broom stick, pushing it under there. Yeah, I had all kinds of crap in my closet. There’s no way one could’ve survived in there with my sneakers alone.
Question: Where did the comedian come from in you?
Answer: Desperation. I don’t know, I’ve always looked at the world kind of weird.
Answer: I just always liked to laugh.
Question: Was there one particular monster that was worse than the others?
Answer: Frankenstein. Scared the hell out of me. They used to have a show called This is your Life. One night Boris Karloff was on and I made the mistake of watching it. So, that night, I knew he was coming for me and I got up. I don’t know why, but I could actually see him walk down the hall and I ran into my mom’s room. “What are you doing in here? Oh, no he’s not. Go back to bed.”
Question: Did the broomstick help against him?
Answer: Well, once you went under the bed, through the closet, hit the bed again, and then you were good to go. And I invented bullet proof sheets so they couldn’t kill me.
Question: Do you have to maintain a certain weight?
Answer: Dah. Yeah, I do this on purpose. Dah. It’d be a goddamn shame to lose 100 pounds.
Question: What else are you working on?
Answer: Nothing. I’ve been away from home for too long, so I just want to go fish and play some golf.
Question: Fly fishing?
Answer: No, sir. I’m a lazy boy. I bait fish. We get all kinds of water around us in Louisiana so I need to get the boat out and go for a flounder and red fish, speckle trout, go off a little bit, go out to the oil rigs and get some red snappers.
Question: You live in St. Louis?
Answer: No, I don’t. I live in New Orleans. I was born in St. Louis.
Question: Why New Orleans?
Answer: I wanted to get out of Los Angeles for a while and my wife is from Louisiana. I’m going to be away from home a lot so I wanted her to be with her family when I was gone.
Question: Have you kept in touch with Roseanne?
Answer: Rose called about six months ago, just to check up, see what I was doing. But no, I haven’t talked to her for a while. I hope she’s doing all right. She looks great.
Question: Have you gone on her talk show?
Answer: Yeah. IT was weird. The last time, she was determined to sing the blues so I wound up playing harmonica behind her. She started improvising lyrics and it went on for about a half hour.
Question: Did you see what Sullivan looked like?
Answer: Oh, yeah. From jump street, they had the illustrations and computer stuff. It’s a long process, so it would be maybe two months later I’d come back and they’d have more stuff done and show me how they incorporated – they videotape you when you’re reading so they incorporate some of your gestures and your facial expressions.
Question: Are you Baloo in Jungle Book 2?
Question: Was that fun?
Answer: Yeah. We did a couple pretty good songs. It’s just everybody remembers Phil Harris from it. I try not to imitate him but go along those lines, so it is kind of a challenge.
Question: Any of the same songs?
Answer: Well, there’s a small repetition of The Bear Necessities.
Question: Do you like singing?
Answer: Yeah. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at it anymore, not that I ever really burnt the house down, but I just smoked too many cigarettes. My voice isn’t what it should be.
Question: Do your kids have monsters they hide from?
Answer: My daughter, I have an 11 year old daughter and we had just gotten her out of my bedroom when the big earthquake hit. So, that was a big monster there. She was afraid of that for a while.
Question: Are you wary of travelling now?
Answer: No. This is the second trip I’ve made. I got home last Sunday from Australia, so that was a big airplane ride. Then, this is the first trip. They’re checking everything really, really well. Plus the passengers now aren’t going to take any crap. None at all.
Question: Did they check you?
Answer: Yeah, but they’re pretty good at that anyway. I think it would ease everybody’s mind if every airport was like Heathrow. It’s not that bad. They’ll get you through it. Some of the people, God Bless Them, security points in this country are a minimum wage job. It’ll get better and it’s just going to take some getting used to.
Question: How important is it for the kids to have this movie now?
Answer: It’s tough for me to comment on something like that because anything I say is going to sound self-serving. I think in times of crisis, entertainment’s always been important.
Question: This one has a positive message?
Answer: About fear. I feel a little weird talking about it now.
Question: Do you still do The Blues Brothers?
Answer: I haven’t for a long time. There might be a reason for that. I don’t know. Jimmy and Dan go out every once in a while. I just haven’t been available, but if they ask me, I’d be there.
Question: Are you trying to work with Dan again?
Answer: It sounds to me like Danny wants to retire. That’s the last thing I read about him. I haven’t talked to him for a while. I wanted to call him last week, but I haven’t been around to.
Question: More on Dirty Deeds?
Answer: I recommend Victoria Bitter.
Question: How do you tell your agent you’re ready to work?
Answer: If something comes up that’s really screaming at me to do it, that’s really good or has a money bag with a big dollar sign on it, I’m still your whore.
Question: Dirty Deeds wasn’t for money, right?
Answer: No, not hardly.
Question: It wasn’t a big budget?
Answer: No, it sure was a lot of fun though.
Question: It has U.S. distribution, right?
Answer: I don’t know what they’re going to do. What I heard, I couldn’t understand them anyway.