Interview | Andy Samberg on Conner4Real and Hotel Transylvania 2
Andy Samberg will entertain you. Along with his The Lonely Island associates Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, he took Saturday Night Live by storm with their distinctive brand of absurdist music videos and naughty music videos like “Dick in a Box” and “I Just Had Sex.” They’ve released multiple hit albums and have a new feature film, Conner4Real, in theaters this summer. But Andy Samberg will also entertain your kids. In the Sony Pictures Animation franchises Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Hotel Transylvania he’s rocking the box office and making funny noises with the best of them.
The hit comedy Hotel Transylvania 2 arrived on home video this week, so we got Samberg on the phone during his lunch break for the sitcom Brooklyn 99 to talk about his children’s movie career, his background in experimental cinema, and how much new music we can expect from The Lonely Island in Conner4Real.
Short answer: “a ton,” to the extent that – at the moment – there is no pre-existing music in the film. We’ll find out just how much “a ton” is when Conner4Real arrives in theaters on June 3, 2016.
Crave: How is making an animated Adam Sandler movie different from making a live-action Adam Sandler movie?
Andy Samberg: Well, in the case of Hotel Transylvania 2 it was different in that I don’t think I ever saw Adam Sandler. [Laughs.] So that was a big difference. The Adam Sandler movie I made was also rated R, it was a hard R, and I think that this one is rated PG so that’s another huge difference, creatively. Is that good? [Laughs.]
That is good. Are there are hard R-rated alternate takes of Hotel Transylvania 2? Did you ever just go nuts?
[Laughs.] Oh god, I certainly hope not. I don’t think that’s a director’s cut anyone wants to see. It’s such a sweet movie.
I’m a fan of these two movies, I think they’re very funny, and yet when I watched the second one I wondered… Why do you think Mavis hasn’t turned Jonathan into a vampire yet? Won’t they run into problems down the road?
That’s a fantastic question, and the first time I’ve ever been asked it. Maybe that’s what the third one should be about.
There you go. Pitch it to Genndy Tartakovsky.
The third one, yeah. It’s like they’re older now, or Johnny’s old, straight-up.
It’ll be like Michael Haneke’s Amour, but with vampires.
Yeah, exactly, and it’s like questioning mortality. Should you just be happy with the lot you’ve been given? [Laughs.] And is it against God to strive for more?
You know, I don’t think there are enough kids movies about that.
[Laughs.] I’m going to just go all in. Go for it. Go for the Oscar.
How do these movies occupy your life? Because it’s voice over, is it something you can do on the side, relatively easily? Are these films an important aspect of your life?
Well when I’m doing them they’re important to me, but they’re not a massive time commitment if that’s what you mean. It’s generally like, over the course of a year or two years you go in every couple of months and do a long session, and then they get new stuff and animate it and storyboard and rewrite and restructure, you go in and do another big chunk until they feel like they’ve got everything working. So when you sign on for one you know it’s not going to be like a huge time commitment, but it will be in your life for a long time.
I realize this is probably implausible but do you ever get recognized from Hotel Transylvania, by little kids?
[Laughs.] No but sometimes a parent will know that I was a voice and they’ll be with their kid and they’ll say, “Look, that’s Johnnystein!” and I’ll do the voice. That happened to me with Baby Brent a lot also, with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. People say, “He’s Baby Brent” and I’ll go, “UH-OHHHH” and the kids will go [gasp]. That was very sweet.
You studied experimental film in college, right?
Yeah, experimental film and video. I did a lot of comedy basically with it.
I’m curious about what you think of the relationship between experimental film and comedy, because when I was in film school, “experimental film” wasn’t funny. It was abstract and strange.
Yes, well, I think I was the only person in my experimental film class doing comedy. But my sense of humor, and a lot of comedy that I love is quite surreal and strange, you know? You could argue that Monty Python is experimental film. It just happens to be really funny. Or like Mr. Show, that kind of thing. Those are the kinds of things that I was obsessed with at that time. I mean obviously, I still am but, before I was like, “Whoa, I want to do comedy. I want to make weird stuff like that.” So in a lot of ways I fit right in, and I had a wonderful professor who really encouraged me to do weird, sort of surrealist, funny stuff.
Have any traditionally-defined “experimental filmmakers” influenced your work? Is there a Stan Brakhage influence on any Lonely Island videos or something like that?
[Laughs.] That’s a good question. I mean sometimes we’ll shoot very much in the style of “blank,” you know? We would do that for digital shorts or something, where we would want it to feel like a Jarmusch film, or we wanted it to feel like Thin Red Line or something. But not in any specific terms, you know? The majority of the ones we’re known for are the influence of really awesome music video directors. Probably more like Hype Williams and Spike Jonze, that kind of stuff. Although Spike now you could say is also an incredible experimental filmmaker. [Laughs.]
One of the things that interest me about your musical career is your ability to capture different musical styles in a very spot-on fashion.
Are there particular musicians or musical styles that you’ve evoked in Lonely Island that are really influential on you musical, or do you just think they’d be funny to subvert?
Well generally if we’re doing some version of it, it’s because we’re a fan of it. Particularly in the beginning we were doing a lot of stuff that was inspired old school hip-hop, N.W.A. and Beastie Boys and things like that. Our first year on was “Lazy Sunday” and “The Natalie Rap” and all that, the blueprint of that stuff is all over our early stuff especially. We’ve been doing more pop world stuff, like present day pop, and when I hosted SNL I did sort of an EDM thing. It’s all stuff that we get into and listen to, and sort of absorb it and come up with our version of it and try and build a new joke out of that format.
As a fan of Lonely Island I have to ask, how much music is in the Lonely Island movie? More or less than, say, The Blues Brothers?
[Laughs.] Well, as of now we’re not using any pre-existing music by any other artists. It’s all original music. Right now there’s quite a bit and I’m assuming we’ll also be having a soundtrack with even more. We’ve been working on a lot of music, I can tell you that for sure, and right now there’s a ton of it in. We’re in the process of editing literally right now. Akiva and Jorma are editing as I talk to you. It’s coming together. We’re really, really getting excited about it and it’s starting to sharpen up a little now and come into focus, and we’re liking what we’re seeing.
Top Photo: FOX Image Collection
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.