THE LEGO MOVIE
About the Production
I have a boyfriend, so don't get any ideas.
I never have any ideas.
Emmet never met an instruction manual he didn't like. Whatever the rules are,
he's glad to follow; whatever song is playing on the radio, he'll sing along;
whatever everyone else has for lunch or watches on TV, well, he's cool with
that. He even consults
a book to remind him to shower and put on his pants (in that order) every
morning before joining the Bricksburg citizenry on their orderly commute to
"We wanted someone with incredible comedy chops as our lead, but someone who
can also be sweet and endearing, and embody this 'regular guy' spirit. Chris
Pratt was our first choice; right out of the box," says Lord.
Each day on the construction crew, Emmet happily razes any buildings deemed
"weird" and replaces them with ones that look exactly like all the others, on
orders from President Business. Says Pratt, "The city of Bricksburg is this big
sprawl where everything looks the same and it's all pre-fab modular homes, and
any areas that have any flavor are being destroyed. So it's being built as a
kind of homogenous, utopian model, though you quickly sense there's some
underlying darkness here; something is controlling the people of Bricksburg."
But life as he knows it is about to change when Emmet accidentally veers off
the path at his site, falls headlong into a freshly excavated pit, and meets the
trespassing Wyldstyle: the most beautiful and exciting woman he has ever seen.
From her graffiti-splashed black hoodie to the turquoise and hot-pink streaks in
her hair, to her take-charge attitude, there's clearly nothing ordinary about
Elizabeth Banks says, "I enjoyed being an action hero. Wyldstyle is trying to
live up to her name. She has a nice rebellious streak in her, which is something
I think most kids can relate to, and she's pushing the envelope a bit to
establish her own way in life and her own look. What I loved about the character
is that she's smart and strong. She has kick-butt powers and a lot of sass and
she's no damsel in distress. She's there to save the day."
While recording her dialogue, "I rarely wore shoes," Banks reveals. "I was
usually barefoot because I like to jump around and move. You can't make noise
over your vocals, so I have to take my shoes off, especially in an action movie.
There's a lot of punching and jumping and running, and I did all of that behind
Wyldstyle is a Master Builder, the first one Emmet has ever met. "In the
story, there are legendary individuals called Master Builders, who are highly
creative and can take any pile of bricks, or whatever is available, maybe a stop
sign and a dumpster, tear them apart, and rebuild them. They can turn anything
into anything else," Miller explains.
"Our thought was that all of the extraordinary characters from history and
literature are Master Builders, so people like Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln,
WomanTM and Robin Hood would be in that pantheon together, sharing their
extraordinary abilities," adds Lord.
But the Master Builders, once revered, have been forced into hiding because
President Business, aka Lord Business, abhors their spontaneity and innovation.
What's worse, he's not satisfied with driving them underground. He wants to
eliminate them and their influence completely with one super, horrible, secret
weapon called the Kragle, and Wyldstyle is part of the rebellion trying to stop
him before it's too late.
When Wyldstyle encounters Emmet at the construction site, she is there
searching for the one thing that can block Lord Business's terrible plan,
according to prophecy: The Piece of Resistance. So when that vital piece turns
up inexplicably fused to Emmet's back, like it or not, the guy whose only
ambition in life is to fit in suddenly becomes The Special, the most important
person in the universe. And the most hunted. Before he knows what's happening,
Emmet is careening at high speed through the Bricksburg cityscape on Wyldstyle's
custom-built motorcycle-which she keeps modifying along the way-with Lord
Business's robot assassins in fierce pursuit.
Will Ferrell calls his character "a real control freak. Lord Business runs
everything and doesn't want any creative expression or anyone building anything
that's not on the instruction worksheet. He's built the entire universe just the
way he wants it, just perfect, and it drives him crazy that people come around
and dare to change things."
"He's a frustrated Master Builder, himself, and generally not a very nice
person, who becomes a super villain and wants to glue the whole universe
together so it can always be exactly how he designed it," offers Miller.
Lord Business is also remarkably tall for a LEGO minifigure, notes Ferrell.
"In his public persona as President Business he has a more pleasant look, very
corporate, three-piece-suit and a tie and not a hair out of place. However, when
he reveals his true self, the maniacal Lord Business, he wears an impressive
cape and 20-foot-tall boots-or, the 20-foot equivalent in LEGO terms-so he can
look even more evil and terrifying."
Lord Business's number one enforcer is the alternately intimidating and wacky
Bad Cop/Good Cop, a swivel-headed minifigure with a split personality, each of
which is voiced by Liam Neeson.
"What's so fresh about Bad Cop/Good Cop is that we literally see both sides
of him," says Dan Lin. "He's Bad Cop whenever he's executing Lord Business's
orders, and that's the straight-ahead tough guy we're used to seeing in the
movies. Then he's got the Good Cop side too, so he's fighting with himself. One
side of his face has the mirrored
sunglasses and gritted teeth and is very stern, and the opposite side is much
softer, with a smile, and Liam gives each of them their own identity."
"When I saw some of the animation, and bearing in mind the history of New
York police, I thought he should be Irish, and specifically from the North of
Ireland," says Neeson, who gave Bad Cop that particular accent, while bringing a
distinctly different inflection to his better half. "The Good Cop, he's Irish
too, but he's a wee bit more feisty."
Neeson additionally voices Bad Cop/Good Cop's father, Pa Cop.
The actor finds echoes of Arthurian legend in Emmet's journey, saying, "The
basis of all those stories was the quest, going after the impossible and trying
to win it and, in the process, bettering the world, and that's certainly the
basis for 'The LEGO Movie.'" That aside, what struck him most was its humor.
"The witticisms these characters throw at each other is quite extraordinary,
this crazy, zany brilliant dialogue."
Neeson and Ferrell acted out some of their interactions and improvised
together, via headphones, while Neeson was in a recording studio in New York and
Ferrell was in Los Angeles. "Liam's measured and mostly serious delivery as Bad
Cop juxtaposed against Will's outsized comedy take on Lord Business is
hilarious," says Lin.
In Morgan Freeman's case, it's his famously rich and authoritative voice that
makes his characterization of the presumably wise wizard Vitruvius so laughable.
Whether in his dramatic roles or noted documentary narrations, Freeman's
delivery unfailingly lends an air of truth and substance to whatever is being
spoken. However, audiences will quickly grasp that not everything Vitruvius says
can be trusted-or even makes much sense.
An ancient hippie sage clad in sandals and a tie-dyed shirt barely visible
under his voluminous white beard, "Vitruvius talks a good game but he's a little
hazy on the details: like the prophecy and how, exactly, they're going to stop
Lord Business," Miller concedes. "It's almost as if he's making it up as he goes
Longtime fans of Freeman's work will be surprised that this is the first time
he has applied his resonant voice to an animated movie.
Once in possession of The Piece of Resistance, Emmet, Wyldstyle and Vitruvius
must find a way to use it, but their appeal to the Master Builders for help
falls flat when those accomplished individuals are underwhelmed by Emmet's lack
of experience-not to mention ideas, skills, confidence, and anything resembling
Luckily, the trio still has some friends they can count on: Wyldstyle's
enigmatic boyfriend, Batman, voiced by Will Arnett; the sweet but somewhat
tightly wound Unikitty,
voiced by Alison Brie; a remarkably resourceful pirate named Metal Beard, voiced
by Nick Offerman; and a loopy, out-of-date Spaceman named Benny, voiced by
Fearless as ever, dark as ever, and gravelly voiced as ever, Batman
demonstrates what a team player he is, ceding the main hero role to Emmet even
while Emmet is kind of stealing his girlfriend. But that's OK, says Arnett,
because, "as a boyfriend, LEGO Batman isn't the greatest. He's a little
self-absorbed and probably not as sensitive as he should be. But, hey, he's
Batman; he's got a lot of stuff going on."
Sharing their recording sessions allowed Pratt, Banks and Arnett to harmonize
their roles in a way rarely realized in animated movies. "We were able to
develop a rhythm to how these characters worked with each other and how they
complement each other and that was a real treat that, I believe, pays dividends
on screen," Arnett adds.
The group's first destination is Cloud Cuckoo Land, a new environment created
for the film and described as a realm of no rules, no government, no bedtimes,
no frowny faces and no negativity. It is presided over by Unikitty, a kind of
fluffy kitten crossed with a unicorn and dipped in sugar. At least on the
"Cloud Cuckoo Land is a wonderful playground where everything is fun and
light, and Unikitty is all about gumballs and cotton candy and happiness. But
don't cross her," warns Brie. "She has quite a temper. You never know when she's
going to go off.
"It was fun to play Unikitty because her moods are so extreme," she
continues. "She has some anger management problems. When she gets angry, she
still tries to say nice things, only in a mean way, which is a good example of
the kind of adult humor that plays through the movie. The kids will be having a
good time and the adults will be getting these jokes that the kids will
That's not so much the case with Metal Beard, who is himself a walking,
visual joke. "He's a crazy pirate who lost his body in an battle with Lord
Business and has ingeniously, if haphazardly, replaced all his parts with an
assortment of tools and objects that make him look like a Swiss Army knife, with
a tiny little head on top," says Miller.
"One arm is a shark and the other is some kind of cannon," says Offerman,
"which makes him especially salty and crusty and out for vengeance."
For Metal Beard's voice, the actor says, "I took the spirit of the artwork
and animated sequences I'd been shown and tried to capture that flavor, with a
notion of whimsy, plus a combination of all the cartoons I've loved in my life,
all mixed into a savory goulash that became Metal Beard. You change a lot of
pronouns, like, 'hand me over me
bottle of rum.' For some reason making your pronouns archaic makes them more
seaworthy and, of course, you have to throw in the occasional 'Arrrgh.'"
The group's final member is Benny, the Spaceman. Along with Batman, the
Spaceman is one of two existing LEGO minifigures in lead roles, whereas
minifigures Emmet, Wyldstyle, Vitruvius, Lord Business and Bad Cop/Good Cop are
newly designed for the film, as are the two brick-built characters, Metal Beard
and Unikitty. A space traveler from the early '80s, Benny was a beloved part of
Phil Lord's and Chris Miller's childhoods and there was no way they were going
to leave him out of the fun.
Benny sports a helmet with a broken chin guard, suggesting that oxygen
deprivation may have contributed to his current state of mind. Says Animal Logic
CG Supervisor Damien Gray, "We put a lot of work into aging him, giving him
teeth marks, scratches and dust as he's been around for more than 30 years. It's
all part of his character. He's a little out of kilter and out of sorts,
displaced in time and space."
He's still game, though. Lin says, "Benny adds a whole new flavor to the
group and a heightened energy, and few people can bring energy like Charlie Day.
Benny comes into the story after the rest of the team is formed. He's not sure
how he can help but he's very enthusiastic, though his grasp of technology is
very much of the past and this constantly frustrates him."
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