Bill Hader has had a stellar year
Perhaps Bill Hader was destined to voice a “Star Wars” droid. The sci- fi franchise, after all, provided his first inkling that he would wed his wife of now nearly a decade.
“Yeah, that’s true,” Hader said the first time I interviewed him, several years back now. He looked around writer- director Maggie Carey’s apartment, and he knew. “She had ‘ Star Wars’ curtains. Iwalked in there and inmy head, I thought: This is awesome, andwe will be married.”
Now, nine years after their nuptials, Hader has lent his vocal skills to a “Star Wars” character that is being emblazoned upon seemingly every fabric and common surface material around. The “SNL” alum is credited as a “vocal consultant” for the sounds of BB- 8, the cute new “soccer ball” droid in “The Force Awakens.”
Two years ago on “Conan,” Hader— while doing his comic impressions of dying Star Wars characters — half- joked that he “cornered” J. J. Abrams and told the “Force Awakens” director that he would do any voice for Episode VII.
What really happened, Hader has said in recent interviews, was that Abrams was messing around with an iPad sound- effects app while the actor operated a talk box. The result soon became less “voice” and more mechanical, as they found the droid sounds they were looking for. (“Parks and Recreation’s” Ben Schwartz is also credited as a BB- 8 consultant.)
Inspiring the whirs and whistles of a droid is just the capper on a stellar year for Hader, the Emmy- winning performer who got to contribute even more significantly to another one of Disney’s biggest hits of 2015: Pixar’s “Inside Out.” Hader voices the emotion Fear— an easy role for him, he says, given his naturally anxious state. When I asked Hader in June how he landed that role, he joked that he basically hung out at Pixar for days until they gave him work. “It’s that thing where,” he says, “I stalked them.”
The real reason I believe directors love to hire Hader, however, is that as a quickwitted performer and writer, he’s an appealing mix of wildly imaginative, joyously collaborative and ever so sonically gifted— plus, it doesn’t hurt that the Oklahoma native comes across as terminally humble. No part is too small if it captures his creative interest.
This past summer, I mentioned to Hader how fascinating I’ve found his career choices— that the sheer eclecticism of his roles suggests someone who is truly following his own muse as a performer.
That wit and presence and sense of collaboration made Hader a smart choice to star opposite Amy Schumer— and Lebron James— in Judd Apatow’s summer hit “Trainwreck.” And his “Documentary Now!” series with Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers and Rhys Thomas was very well- received.
Bill Hader is the voice— or beep— behind BB- 8.