Movies

In Which We Zoom With Will Forte To Discuss ‘MacGruber,’ ‘The Willoughbys,’ And How To Properly Pronounce ‘Lithgow’

Look, if you have a better cure for those “I’ve been inside for about a month” blues than zooming with Will Forte, well I’d sure like to hear it. A few minutes before this interview was set to begin, Forte was having some phone problems, so, instead, we did it over Zoom. And when we connected, there was Will Forte, sitting in front of a giant painting of the 29th President of the United States, Warren Harding.

Forte can be heard next this week in the Netflix animated film, The Willoughbys, which features surprisingly trippy animation and, as Forte suggests, would have been a good movie for 4/20. (You know, it’s never too late.) But it is weird doing an interview over Zoom, where most of us have become used to work meetings and more lackadaisical conversations with friends. So, yes, this sort of turned into that, too, as we got off on tangents like Good Will Hunting, the Star Wars Radio Drama and how to pronounce John Lithgow’s name.

And it’s been ten years since MacGruber, which Forte notes is one of the first times the two of us met, back when face to face human contact was still “a thing.” Forte give us an update on the MacGruber Peacock series that was still being written and waiting for a greenlight before production was shut down across the board. But, Forte reminds us there are more important things right now than if MacGruber comes back or not. And, yes, that’s true, but it’s still somewhere on the list of “important things.”

Why do you have that painting?

It’s a Last Man on Earth prop. I think it was the first episode in season two when we’re cruising around the White House and we need to cut to an unhappy president portrait. So we, for some reason, did Warren Harding. And then we had a second one made because either it was too severe of a frown or not enough of a frown. The second one made was a slightly different face. So I have a second one in my house here.

I don’t have a background set up. This is just where my computer is. Those Star Wars toys behind me, this isn’t me going, “Hey, check this out.”

Okay. I still get to check it out though.

It’s borderline embarrassing. I wish I had Harding behind me.

You can for a price.

For The Willoughbys, this movie no one’s seen yet, we should just get really esoteric, a frame by frame analysis. Just all the theories…

I will answer whatever you throw at me. You are my captain. You are my Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.

Wait, that’s…

No, Dead Poet’s Society!

Yes. But he’s also in a teaching role of sorts in Good Will Hunting. What’s Robin Williams character’s name in that movie?

Oh, God. I have no idea.

It’s going to drive me nuts.

I don’t know. I have such a bad memory for all details. I can’t remember half of the MacGruber stuff.

Well, that’s my first question of this interview. And you don’t know.

Oh, that’s your first question?

Yes. What was Robin Williams name in Good Will Hunting, and you don’t know.

What’s his name?

Sean Maguire.

I would never have guessed that.

The scene where Sean Maguire is saying, “it’s not your fault,” over and over. Matt Damon says “Sean, come on, come on. Sean. Sean, not you, Sean.” Will Hunting does say Sean’s name a lot.

If you gave me a choice of five names, I still might’ve guessed that one last.

So if I had said like Murray Stedman, you might have thought it was Murray Stedman?

I’d be way more apt to pick Murray Stedman than Sean Maguire.

This should be an entire interview — quizzing you on character names from Robin Williams movies.

Oh, I’m going to do very badly.

I don’t have anymore though.

Probably for the best.

Well, you’re the one who brought up Good Will Hunting.

I meant to do Dead Poets Society, and I don’t even know his name in Dead Poets Society. I just know he was, “Oh, captain, my captain.”

Well, strangely, that is my second question. What is Robin Williams character’s name in Dead Poets Society?

I bet his name is Robert something. I just saw Sudeikis in a production of Dead Poets Society.

Really? Was this like a live read?

Yeah, he did it for the theater.

I have the character name. It’s not Robert.

Oh, you do? What is it?

Do you want me to present it to you as a quiz or just tell you?

Give me three choices and I’ll tell you.

Perry King, Frank Nelson, or John Keating.

Oh, John Keating.

Yeah, I didn’t do a good job with those names. Perry King is a real person. I think he was in Riptide.

Yeah, Riptide. He’s handsome! Perry King.

Yeah. He’s a handsome man. Oh, Perry King, in the radio production of Star Wars he played Han Solo. And the same for The Empire Strikes Back.

Wait, really? Oh, I didn’t even know they did that. That’s cool.

Yoda was voiced by John Lithgow.

Oh really?

I think they did Star Wars in like ’81 then they did ‘Empire in 83. And then they didn’t do Return of the Jedi until the ’90s.

By the way, just so you know, it’s pronounced “Lith-go.”

I’m pronouncing it wrong.

Because I wrote for him for Third Rock From the Sun. I was a writer on that show and I think I used to say Lith-gow also. So, you’ve asked me so many questions that I didn’t have an answer for. I thought I would throw out some piece of knowledge that I have. So I don’t seem like a complete know-nothing. So, I’m a know-something.

So since Footloose I’ve been pronouncing his name wrong?

Yep. If that’s the way you’ve been pronouncing it. Sure.

I interviewed Colin Trevorrow and he told me his last name rhymes with “tomorrow.” Blew my mind.

Ryan Phillippe, it still takes me a little while to remember. Because, I mean, for years I just knew him as Ryan Phil-eepe. And then finally through knowing him through MacGruber, obviously, drilled it into my head. But it still takes just a second where it’s not as easy as just coming out. I have to remember what it is because for years and years I did say Phil-eepe.

Did he have to correct you? How did that come about? Or did you just hear him say his name?

No. I think somebody told me the correct pronunciation. I probably fact-checked it with them. I just want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Were there times you’d have to say his last name to him? I guess in interviews you wouldn’t want to say it wrong.

Probably more like that. But it’s also you just want to know.

I’m going to look back now because I remember I interviewed you for MacGruber. That might’ve been the first time we met.

Probably the first time we had met. Do you know what that means? This is our ten-year anniversary.

Really? MacGruber came out ten years ago?

Yeah, in May.

And here we are ten years later, on Zoom.

Ten years later.

So I watched The Willoughbys

Oh, you watched it? I haven’t seen it yet.

You haven’t seen it?

Certainly, I’ve gotten to see throughout, as you come in to record the voice, they’ll show you different stages of the animation and say, “Oh, this is what this is looking like.” It was so fun to see it all put together. And then what blew me away was the final couple of times that they would show me stuff. And just the visual aspect of this on its own is memorizing and beautiful and just super interesting and cool. Kris Pearn, the director, I had worked with him on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. And he’s just awesome.

The animation style, you’re right, it’s kind of a trippy movie. If there are kids still reading this, and you’ve made it through the pronunciations of John Lithgow’s name and Colin Trevorrow’s name and you’re still here, maybe ignore this part…

If you’re reading this and not hearing it, it’s just going to be the exact spellings of their names. They’re not going to know.

Okay, that’s true. But I think an adult could watch this while maybe having a beer, or whatever it is a person does.

We’re saving it for tonight, which is 4/20. So you enjoyed it?

I did enjoy it. But, then again, there’s nothing bad right now. Anything anyone sends to me at this point, I’m just like, thank God. There’s no such thing as bad content, but I did enjoy it.

I think the first time that I read the script must have been two years ago, maybe even longer. So at this point, there’s so much stuff that I don’t remember about the plot, about the characters, about my own character.

You’re in for a treat.

Yeah, it’s going to be really fun to watch it because the process is so interesting and you’re dealing with everything on a real micro level that after a while you forget about the bigger picture of it.

We were talking about MacGruber earlier, with the Peacock show, did you get to film anything or did the pandemic hit before you even got to filming? I have no idea.

We’re still finishing the scripts. We’re still waiting for the official green light. But, we’re moving forward as if that’s going to happen. And you know, obviously what has happened to the world puts everything on hold, and rightly so. The most important thing is to make sure everybody is safe. We’re going to stop this virus from spreading even any more. But that just means that all this stuff, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what happens when you come back. Hopefully, we still have a shot, but it’s just there are so many unanswered questions and way more important questions than if MacGruber is going to get done or not.

Well, you’re right. It’s not my number one question right now, but it might be in my top 10.

Okay, well thank you. Well, yeah, I mean we are really excited about the stuff that we have written so far. I think it’s stuff that if people are fans of the MacGruber movie, I think it will be something they will enjoy. If you weren’t a fan of the MacGruber movie, you’re probably not going to like this either. Who knows?

Well, it was good to see you. Also, I really need a haircut.

You have a wonderful overhead light that’s coming over you, giving a nice halo effect.

Yeah. I need to redo this setup…

It almost makes you look like you have frosted tips.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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