With the release of Monsters University this week we got the chance to sit down with Canada’s own Dave Foley, who plays half of Terri & Terry Perry — a monster with two heads and very distinct voices who are constantly at odds with one another (Sean Hayes voices the other head). We talked about his relationship with the Pixar family, the differences in making animated films now and back in 1998 when he did A Bug’s Life, his experiences with fraternity life, roommates and taking direction from Leonard Nimoy. Read our Q&A below.
It’s been a few years since A Bug’s Life…
Dave Foley: Oh yeah…
And while I don’t necessarily want to say that Pixar was in their infancy…
DF: It was only their second feature…
But now that it has all been rolled up into Disney and this massive machine, I was just curious how your experience was working on Monsters University, compared to A Bug’s Life?
DF: It’s really been an ongoing relationship with not only Pixar, but Disney as well since I did some work on the Prep & Landing things that John Lasseter oversaw. The company has changed quite a bit since A Bug’s Life, with their huge new campus outside San Francisco. However, the way they make movies has always stayed the same, just a general willingness to follow the best idea possible no matter how much work might be involved. That always amazes me, and just how they keep bringing so many great new directors into the mix, it’s just a great thing to see.
With the innovations in technology from A Bug’s Life to now, is their more freedom for you as an actor to be able to improvise and play with the character?
DF: Not really. I mean, it is easier for them to make changes now, but the team at Pixar has truly never shied away from that work. When I was doing A Bug’s Life, if someone like Kevin Spacey improvised something during one of his sessions that they really liked but it meant bringing me back in to do my session, they would just call me up and I would come back in. Even if it was already partially animated, they would just throw out and start again, because they are always willing to give the actors that kind of freedom, and they just took the burden of the workload that doing things like that meant.
Do you get kids recognizing your voice from animated films, or is it parents pointing you out to them?
DF: It’s usually the latter, but then I’ll completely startle the kids and say “Princess Atta” and the kids will bug out (room laughs) and it’s like the creature from Alien just popped out of my chest, it’s that startling to them.
How do you manage to find a comedic rhythm, working on a project like this especially since you mentioned how there are multiple sessions and you aren’t in the room with people. How do you prepare for something like that?
DF: I generally don’t prepare at all…for anything really! You ultimately just have to rely on the vision of the director and find the rhythm of the action of it all along with the general tone. On this one I was actually quite fortunate as I got to record my sessions with Sean Hayes. They scheduled us to come in together so that we could improvise and talk over each other and make it feel more like siblings, since they wanted the two heads to feel like bickering brothers.
Were you tethered together?
DF: No, the sound engineers just wouldn’t allow that (smiles).
How hard it is to get into the flow of the narrative and get that rhythm down when you aren’t always in the same room as people though?
DF: On A Bug’s Life I never met any of the other cast, but John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton were there with me doing all of the other character lines and John would basically act out the entire film for you. I remember going to the audition for A Bug’s Life and he acted out the entire film from start to finish before I even got the part. I remember just sitting there thinking “Who is this guy?” (Laughs)
Monsters University is essentially, a college comedy, did you ever have any experiences with fraternity life?
DF: I didn’t have a lot of experience with high school, much less fraternity life since I dropped out of high school. It was only when performing with the Kids in the Hall that I really got any taste of that at all.
Would Dave Foley have fit into a fraternity?
DF: Oh, not at all! (room laughs) If there was ever one like the one in the film, maybe, but I just don’t see myself fitting in with a group of frat boys.
Did you have any involvement in the A Bug’s Life pavilion at Disney World?
DF: Oh, yeah. We recorded the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” 3D film for the opening of the wild animal park in Orlando and I got to go to that. Then they added A Bug’s Land Adventure in California and John brought me in to do voices for that, so I have my own little mini theme park, which my daughter is very proud of (laughs).
Is it a nice change of pace to be in what is essentially a frat house comedy, but is still so genial compared to some of the other roles that you get offered?
DF: I guess?…
I mean that at this point it just feels like you’d maybe get offered a lot of gross out comedies instead of something like this.
DF: I suppose that is the other side of my career, with all the Kids in the Hall stuff that I have done. The “dark side” of my career (smiles). And yeah, I do enjoy doing stuff that I will NEVER let my kids see and stuff like this, it really has been the other side of my career, largely through Pixar obviously. I mean, it’s the only place that I’d ever get to play a college student!
Hey, Chevy Chase did it for years!
DF: Very true (smiles).
Is it important for you to have that balance between the kids/animated stuff and the Kids in the Hall-esque material at this stage in your career?
DF: Oh yeah. I love being involved in all forms of comedy. The type that I generate myself tends to be a little more on the “dark” side, but it is great to do stuff that yes my kids can see. Plus, I am just a huge fan of animation. I have been my whole life and getting to be involved in animated films is not only such a treat but something that I never would have dreamed could happen.
Any animated favorites, not only between A Bug’s Life and Monsters University but with anything else in the Pixar/Disney canon?
DF: Well obviously I do have a soft spot for A Bug’s Life, I was Flik after all! But between the rest it would be hard to pick a legitimate favorite, because Pixar has so far failed to make a bad movie. I have never seen one where I DIDN’T have a great time. There’s just moments like in Up, that opening 20 minutes and the first act of Wall-E where you just marvel that these are exceptional moments in film history and there is stuff like that through all their films.
A little off topic, but were you really in Three Men and a Baby?
DF: I was actually…and it was the only time that my mother was impressed that I was in show business because I got to meet Tom Selleck. As well, growing up a science fiction fan, getting to be directed by Leonard Nimoy was a real thrill. I remember his direction to me (in a Nimoy-esque voice) was “Faster, David”… (room erupts in laughter).
How was it being the straight man to Sean Hayes?
I just realized how that sounded…
DF: (Smiles) I love working with Sean. I did 5 episodes of Will & Grace and I was Jack’s only boyfriend in the entire run of that show. And after all the Will & Grace stuff, I went to Palm Springs, which is sort of a gay retirement community, for a few days and I tell you I’ve never been more famous in my life (laughs). That is the most famous I’ve ever been.
You mentioned you were a science fiction fan growing up…
DF: And I still am, I love science fiction. I haven’t done a lot, only an episode of Stargate: Atlantis and an episode of Eureka, but I would love to do more if the opportunity ever came around.
Any other Pixar films that you have gone out for or wished that you were in?
DF: Nothing I ever went out for, but Flik does have a bunch of cameos in other films like Toy Story 2 and at the end of Cars when they are all watching the cars version of A Bug’s Life and all the Prep & Landing Christmas specials that were under John Lasseter’s supervision.
Heard any talk about a sequel to A Bug’s Life?
DF: No, but I’d certainly be up for it if they decided to do it, and I’d love to see a 3D re-release of A Bug’s Life because I love 3D. We are the cult classic, the forgotten Pixar film (smiles).
With the elements of competition in the film, did you find any parallels in the movie with your own life as a comic coming up with the Kids in the Hall?
DF: NO NOT AT ALL! The only comedy obstacle was us trying to get past each other on Kids in the Hall (smiles). However, there really is that parallel between competition and teamwork, especially since on Kids in the Hall there was such a bitter rivalry and we are very mean to each other. But once we agreed on what we were doing then it would just be about making each other look as good as possible on stage. That really is the message of the movie; to find that balance between individual goals and working as a team and learning how to be responsible to others.
Given that this is essentially a G rated college comedy, were there any moments in your sessions with Sean Hayes, riffing back and forth where you drifted into PG-13 territory?
DF: No…I don’t think we did anything that could get leaked… (smiles). I think we pretty much stuck to the genre.
The film has a lot of crazy roommates in it, have you ever had any crazy roommates of your own?
DF: No. I’ve pretty much avoided having roommates…I have had wives though (Room Laughs)
But you never had a house full of wives, right?
DF: No, but… wait… well? (pauses, laughs) No, I’m not like Andy Dick, who has several of his wives living with him at the same time. The only roommates I ever had were people crashing with me. I had Wally Langham from Larry Sanders and CSI living with me when he got divorced. He was there for a while and he once remarked that we were the less attractive version of Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. (laughs). John Kastner from the Doughboys also came to live with me for a bit when he first moved to LA. Those were the only times I ever really had roommates, but they were mostly just people who were living in my house. We never had to share the TV or anything.
Monsters University is now playing everywhere. Read our review of it here.