‘One for me, one for them’

Actor Josh Gad, talks about his film-choosing strategy, doing the Olaf voice, the riveting simplicity of Pac-Man and Adam Sandler’s basketball fanaticism.

Published - July 28, 2015 08:25 pm IST

Josh Gad attends the world premiere of "Pixels" at Regal E-Walk on Saturday, July 18, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Josh Gad attends the world premiere of "Pixels" at Regal E-Walk on Saturday, July 18, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

In Chris Columbus’ Pixels releasing on July 31, aliens attack the world in the form of videogames. A bunch of gamers from the Eighties are called in to rescue the world. Josh Gad plays Ludlow Lamonsoff, “a former prodigy at gaming,” who is now an “introverted conspiracy theorist.” In Cancun, Mexico, the 34-year-old father of two, talks about gaming, his choices of film, and fatherhood. Excerpts.

What was it like working with Adam Sandler?

I grew up watching Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore . I was the biggest Adam Sandler fan since I was a kid. The opportunity to get to make that man laugh was unbelievably cool for a young punk like myself.

He is such a great collaborator. He encourages you to steal scenes, to do your best work. The set was one of most fun sets I’ve worked on and that was because of working alongside these incredible comedic actors such as Peter Dinklage, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan and this unbelievable supporting cast.

But it really started with Chris Columbus, who again was for me one of the reasons I decided to get into entertainment. Gremlins , Goonies , the Harry Potter films, all of these movies were so pivotal in my journey, in my childhood, they all had a significant role in making me be like, ‘I want to do that one day.’

To work alongside a director who for the longest time I admired and revered was amazing. I like to look at Pixels as the Amblin movie he never made. It was really fun to work on a film that has all the trademarks of the great Eighties films.

Was there anything surprising about working with Adam?

Did anything surprise me? Yes, it surprised me how much of a basketball fanatic he is on set. I mean literally during every break he would do a game of hoops.

Can you tell us something about the research you did for the film?

Prior to having two kids, I was pretty into gaming. When I had my kids I retired that stuff. Getting this job I was like I am supposed to be this really good gamer so I should go back and play some games. So I went to an arcade and I started playing Pac-Man, Centipede, Donkey Kong things like that and I wasted pretty much the better half of the day, spending 50 dollars-worth of coins. Pac-Man is just a giant yellow head with two eyes going wac wac wac. It is such a simple concept but is so riveting. I think that is why people never stopped playing those games. That is why 35 years later Pac-Man is still one of the most iconic and one of the most recognised games played in the world. For me it was a joy to go back to my childhood. The second I put my hands on the keyboard, I was transported to a dusty, dank, dark room that smelt like pizza. I was reminded of everybody wearing those thick glasses in the 1980s and wearing those really ugly short shorts. Having two older brothers, having been born in 1981, I was defined by that moment in time and I think that’s why Pixels speaks to so many people young and old because it is nostalgic but it has got a modern feel to that nostalgia.

Did you ever get to meet the creator of Pac-Man?

Yes! I had an opportunity to meet Professor Toru Iwatani on set. He showed up wearing a Pac-Man t-shirt! It was so cool to see him. He is such a down-to-earth guy. He has created this significant part of pop culture. I think you would be hard pressed to find people who don’t know what Pac-Man is. It is as universally understood as Mickey Mouse. It is such a symbol of gaming.

What kind of person is he?

I didn’t spend much time with him. He was much smarter than I am for sure. He was so tickled by the fact that we were using his character as a giant villain in the movie that is basically hunting us down one by one. He was really fascinated by that, seeing his baby come to life like that.

Are you excited about your kids watching your films?

Most of my resume is probably not safe for their viewing. But they have seen a movie called Frozen more than once. In my day-to-day life I record so many messages for kids as Olaf. And I realised that I never really did that for my daughter — never sort of done the Voice for her. Now my nightly ritual is I say goodnight to her and give her a warm hug as Olaf. I don’t know if she thinks I am an ego maniac but it seems to really tickle her.

Could you tell us about how you choose your films?

I always try to do one for me and one for them. That is why I am doing Beauty and the Beast now. I choose films like Angry Birds so my kids don’t have to wait too long to watch them. Because god knows if I had my way I will never let them to watch some of the stuff I have done like Love and other Drugs.

Do you get to sing for Beauty and the Beast?

Yes. It is a musical adaptation. It is amazing to be a part of the film because it is the first time any of these movies have been adapted with that element. You have Cinderella which was amazing but not a musical, Maleficent , which was amazing but not a musical, you have Alice in Wonderland , again not a musical. So for us to embrace the amazing canon that Alan Menken, Tim Rice and Howard Ashley created. I sing at the most inopportune moments. If you around me for long enough I just break out into song.

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