We met him as epic dork McLovin, but in the five years since "Superbad," Christopher Mintz-Plasse has built an admirably diverse resume, playing a nerdy super-villain ("Kick-Ass"), a nerdy dragon enthusiast ("How To Train Your Dragon"), a nerdy vampire ("Fright Night") and... okay, it's not that diverse. But it's really fun.
With his return to the world of voice acting in stop-motion kids' thriller "ParaNorman," Mintz-Plasse finally throws off the shackles of nerd-dom in his role as dimwitted school bully Alvin. When we spoke during this week's press blitz, we asked how it felt to turn the tables — social-hierarchically speaking — and why certain roles beg for a second life while others should be laid to rest forever.
We don't want to make any assumptions about your own place in the social strata of high school... but did you find it cathartic to play the bully, especially since he was kind of a dips**t?
He's such a dips**t. He's such an idiot. I love it. He was so fun to play. Yeah, it was cool. It was something I had never done before. I went in, I created this moronic voice that was just so fun to do, and they loved it. The directors loved it.
My character in the movie doesn't have much of an arc. You know, he's not the hero, he doesn't need to try to make the audience cry or steal any emotion. He's there strictly to be an idiot and to make people laugh. That was a blast to do.
We met up with you at Comic-Con and came away with a strong impression that you're not a believer in paranormal activity. When you strip the zombies and ghosts away from "ParaNorman," what movie were you making?
When I first read the script, I was just excited to be part of a stop-motion movie. I was like, "Oh, it's really cool. It's really funny." And then once I saw the movie and did some interviews, people started to mention — this shows how much I pay attention — there's an underlying kind of bullying theme in this, which I really should have realized, because I was the one doing the bullying.
Not only am I bullying Norman, but the townspeople, in a way, bully the zombies. Which is a really good twist for the kids, 'cause zombies are normally scary, and you've never seen a zombie movie where they're the ones getting bullied. So I think that's a really smart thing to do for a young audience.
They make a good persecuted second class. Once your limbs are falling off from decay, that's sort of punishment enough.
Agreed. People gotta stop being dicks.
It's funny that it took you some time to recognize the overarching theme of bullying. Isn't that always the way in real life? The bullies don't see their behavior for what it is?
No, they're compensating for something. They're trying to fill in, you know, the horrible parenting they had when they were young. Or the education that they lack. They just got to fill it in by being mean and rude to younger kids.
People think of voice acting as playtime more than work, because you can go into the studio and be like, "News flash. We're doing this scene without pants."
That's actually word for word what I told these guys. "News flash. I'm not wearing any underwear."
That really took it to a new level. No one said underwear. So, is there a downside for you?
[Laughs] There's no real downside to any sort of work that I do. I'm all so grateful for it, but I wouldn't say that animated work is just a walk in the park. It is easy, it's really fun, but I don't know why I really stress myself out every time I'm about to go in. I just get really nervous about being in a room by myself with, like, one microphone hanging over my head and a glass wall with people on the other side, and I can't hear what they're saying. For some reason, I always get myself really nervous.
Because you're scrutinized?
Yeah, and I don't have anyone to bounce off of. I don't know if I'm going to be funny. I don't have anyone there to read it to. Every time I go in there, I have a blast. It doesn't change. I always get nervous.
It's a fish bowl. That would be stressful.
Yeah, but they're all great people. They all feed the fish.
"Kick-Ass 2" has taken a long time to get off the ground. Was there ever a point your involvement became uncertain because it was taking too long?
I didn't think it was gonna happen a couple years ago, because it didn't make as much money as we wanted it to, in theaters. Then, slowly, the DVD sales went up, downloads went up. There seemed to be a core audience that loved it and really wanted it.
So, I didn't believe it was gonna happen, and then slowly, Marc Miller and Matthew Vaughn were calling me and saying, "It's gonna happen," and I didn't get my hopes up yet. And then, about three or four months ago, before they even contacted me, the word was leaked that it was gonna happen. And then I got a call and met with the new director. I'm flying to London next week, and we're gonna get started on production.
Have you seen enough to know it's going to be incredible?
I've read the script. You know, that's the thing with me. I never wanna get my hopes up with just reading the script. Like, I know how incredible it is, but I don't want to say the movie's gonna be great, because I have no idea. I have faith that it's gonna be awesome. We have Chloe [Moretz] back, Aaron [Johnson] back and myself. Matthew Vaughn's producing, but he's not directing, which I'm a little sad about, because he did such a good job with the first one.
I have faith that it's gonna be bloody awesome.
Speaking of sequels, Jonah Hill has been very adamant that "Superbad" shouldn't have one. Have you ever wanted to — or would you ever do a spin-off?
A spin-off? No. No, no, no. I would only... I mean, I agree with Jonah. I don't think it's necessary, but I would only do it if, you know Judd [Apatow] was producing and Greg [Mottola] was directing, Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg] wrote it, and Seth [Rogen] was in it. If we had the whole gang back, I would consider it, but I would never do a spin-off.
Do you have a beef with McLovin?
No, no. I just don't want to ruin something that's good. I don't wanna… you know, I don't want to touch something… sequels have been made which have ruined the first one. They've tainted it, and I don't want that to happen.
They are — in theory — actually doing the "Party Down" movie soon. You were only in one episode, but it involves a lot of your people. Would you consider doing that?
Oh, I would love to. I doubt they'll need me.