Bill Hader | New York Film Academy | The Backlot Podcast

Tova: Hi and welcome to the backlot. I’m Tova Laiter moderator and director of the New York Film Academy guest lecture series. In this episode we will take an in-depth look at one of my great guests and hear about his experience in the entertainment industry. And now Eric Conner will take you through the highlights of this Q&A.

Eric: Hi I’m Eric Conner senior instructor at New York Film Academy. This time around we hear from a performer who went from Saturday Night Live to a slew of Judd Apatow comedies voiced my son’s favorite character in Inside Out before emerging as a quadruple threat as writer director producer and star of HBO’s Barry the hysterical. Bill Hader.

Bill Hader: That’d be so funny if Keith Morrison was in Game of Thrones. If he was Jon Snow. Hey I’m dead but I’m back. Battle of Winterfell.

New York’s hottest club is Gloosh. New York’s hottest club is Jelly Bones. New York’s hottest club is Spicy.

I sure am glad you told me earthquakes are a myth Joy. Otherwise I’d be terrified right now.

So it’s just McLovin.

That’s badass.

That is badass.

You wanna know what I’m good at. I’m good at killing people.

It is going to be so awesome.

McLovin in the f**king house.

Eric: He forecasted that it’d be cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Arrested McLovin to help his street cred in Superbad and got dating advice from LeBron James in trainwreck Bill Hader also spent time behind the camera writing for South Park documentary now before creating Barry. But before all that. He was a student here at NYFA. Even if he doesn’t know what NYFA means.

Tova: So how did you start in the business. At what point did NYFA enter into it.

Bill Hader: That what?

Tova: The New York Film Academy.

Bill Hader: Oh what do you guys call it.

Tova: NYFA.

Bill Hader: They did not call it back in 1996 when I went here. Was NYFA. NYFA. That sounds like something that they’re selling late at night. The NYFA. No I NYFA. I’m sorry. I just don’t like to. I’m sorry. I’m just getting used this NYFA thing. I’ll start calling it NYFA at some point but just let me have my moment of it being an old man. I’m going to call some friends of mine and be like they call it NYFA now it’s like what what do you mean they call it NYFA in our day it was NYFA.

Eric: He’s welcome to call our school whatever he wants. For a kid from the middle of the country a summer here at New York Film Academy was an opportunity to follow his passion.

Bill Hader:I grew up in Tulsa Oklahoma and I loved movies and when I was growing up as a movie fanatic and I’m going to sound like an old guy but you know you didn’t have the Internet none of these you know to watch a movie you had to really hunt it down. It was awful. And you know it was terrible. But in the back of Premiere magazine there was a thing for NYFA New York Film Academy. And I went whoa and I had terrible grades. And I couldn’t get to New York NYU. There was no way but it was my junior year of high school and I was like I went to my parents and said I’d like to go to this. And they said okay sure. You know if that’s what you want to do this summer. I mean they saw that I was making short films and stuff on my own. And I was writing scripts. They saw that I wasn’t like just doing drugs and drinking. They were like Oh OK. He’s applying himself to things that he cares about if he cares about it. He will apply himself but if you know. So I went and I couldn’t get into the one in New York and they didn’t have one in Los Angeles at the time so I ended up going to the one on the Princeton campus. And we made. We made four short films on Arri S and we cut on flatbed. No you guys do video right. You done Arri S you guys done 16 mm. See that is rad. That’s awesome to hear. That makes me really happy because I mean Barry’s shot on video I mean that’s basically that’s not film but I loved shooting on film I thought it was so much fun and so yeah. We made like these films and then it was the first time I made this thing and then I remember making one of the shorts and the teacher was like this is really good. And everyone laughed during it and they thought it was good and someone’s like how’d you shoot that and I was like oh this is good you know it gave me a lot of confidence and so I came back with these four short films you know and I was gonna go my senior year of high school and I thought I’m going to get into a good film school and it turns out you have to have a really good S.A.T. score and you have to have really good grades and I had neither of those things but I had these short films. And for some reason I end up moving to Scottsdale Arizona. I can’t explain to you I literally just like a little lost and then I went to a school there for a little bit and then I just moved here. I was a P.A. on this lot back in 2000. I was on a movie called collateral damage. So I was a yeah P.A. for a long time I was a post-production P.A. worked in post FotoKem and I remember falling asleep in my car in front of FotoKem. Here’s a crazy story. Fell asleep in my car in front of FotoKem right. And because I was waiting for this stuff to come out and I was with my friend and it was a film that we had made and my friends like dude get up and I go what and he’s like David Lynch is outside and I look up and there’s David Lynch smoking a cigarette and I was like and then he goes I have f**king twin peaks t shirt on and I was like turn that s**t inside out dude that’s so embarrassing. And then we were like We just stared at him. We got out of the car and just stared at him and he was like Hey. And then we’re like right cool right on. And then my friend was way more savvy than I just stared at him and he was like What are you doing. He goes ah I’m working on this movie about a guy who drives a tractor across country. The Straight Story. It is a beautiful movie and so that I was like my first celebrity sighting and I was like Oh my God just everywhere you go there’s just like amazing directors just hanging out yeah.

Eric: Even if you don’t get to see David Lynch every day Los Angeles is most definitely a place where dreams can be realized. Bill Hader initially focused more on work behind the camera but his talent as a comedic performer cannot be contained. Eventually catching the eye of SNL’s Lorne Michaels.

Bill Hader: I just was into film. I mean it was just I was in the movies like when I watched a movie I got really drawn in by the story the cinematography the look of it the feel of it you know the score. The production design and the actors I love the actors. But it was like the whole package and I was very uncomfortable being in front of people and being in front of the camera. Made me a bit. So it was more writing and directing but I had this thing of doing impressions and I’d do impressions like friends and stuff. And then so I moved to L.A. and I was doing all those jobs but I wasn’t doing anything creative which can happen very easily here where you’re just trying to make a living you’re just trying to make money. And you’re not doing anything creative and you’re like Why did I move here. I’m not making stuff. So I start taking improv classes just because a friend of mine not at groundlings. F**k Groundlings. No I’m joking no I’m sorry. No it’s not groundlings but the Groundlings are rad I couldn’t get into Groundlings. But I took a class at Second City L.A. and I did a show and I was in it with Megan Mullally’s brother in law and she saw me in the show and said You’re really funny. And then I was working as an assistant editor on Iron Chef America I was digitizing footage and she called me and said hey this is Megan she said I just had dinner with Lorne Michaels and I told him about you and they’d love to meet you. And I had no manager no agent no anything and I just was like uh OK. So I met Lorne Michaels and I auditioned like for a year I auditioned like four or five times for the show. Yeah. They would come see me in L.A. They just wanted to keep seeing if because I was green like super green as far as performing on stage. But I think they liked that because then they can kind of mold it instead of someone coming in with a lot of preconceived things I think maybe. But they also just it was during the season and they weren’t gonna bring me in midseason I think. And Jason Sudeikis had already been hired and so they were like well do we want both these guys are they kind of the same type or whatever and I got really lucky I came in with Jason Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig and I was really lucky.

Eric: Bill Hader had an amazing run on SNL from Stefon to Vincent Price to his recent turn as the Mooch Anthony Scaramucci.

Yo. It’s me Anthony Scaramucci. The Mooch. I heard my name earlier and when I hear my name three times I appear like a goomba Beetlejuice.

Eric: One of the keys to performing comedy is to not go for the comedy. You don’t play the joke you play the reality though Mr. Hader’s the first to admit that could be really hard.

Bill Hader: You should never go for comedy in a scene. You shouldn’t. I did it. I do it a lot on SNL because and if I’m doing it it’s because I am insecure. I really am. I mean it just you just get insecure so you go you know and the audience get a laugh and you’re like. But the better thing is to do it straight. You know you’re right and don’t and find the truth of it. A good example that I will say is actually a scene in trainwreck when I played basketball with LeBron James.

You use protection right.

Yeah yeah yeah. She’s got little bowls of condoms all around her apartment.

Condoms I’m not talking about condoms. I’m talking about like protection like a lawyer. Like a nondisclosure agreement. You know. No penetration without representation. Listen I’ll tell you one thing you don’t wanna have a baby mama. You know next thing you know you paying for a Ferrari. You geting her a big house a big mansion. She’s gonna want to start a jumpsuit line and you gonna have to pay for it. You want to go through that. You turn on the TV Any Given Sunday win the Super Bowl and drive off in a Hyundai she’s supposed to get the shorty Tyco with your money. Then she went to the doctor got lipo with your money.

What are you talking about. What the f**k are you talking about.

It’s Kanye.

You’re quoting Kanye West to me.

Bill Hader: I think initially conceived it was like a funny scene of like whoa whoa whoa you know. And then we were talking about it and it was like wouldn’t be funny if it’s just like you never mention it. And it’s just two guys talking the scene you see and it’s really about him wanting to talk about Amy and what should I you know confiding in a friend what should I do about this girl I like and he’s just shooting hoops with his friend and then just make it that it’s LeBron James and he’s not holding back. But don’t call it out. Don’t draw any attention to it. And it was I thought a thousand times funnier. Because it’s just like it’s never brought. I never I’m never like Hey man come on then it’s like all the air just goes out of it. You just want to make it simple and trust that people are smart enough to understand what you’re going for and simplicity is key to that. Stay with the story and stay with what’s happening to the emotions of the story and not like air ball. You know.

Eric: What makes that scene even more surprising is Bill Hader is actually playing the straight man to LeBron and just like the future Hall of Famer Mr. Hader needed a fair amount of training and perseverance to make it in this business along the way. He even crossed paths with a couple of his future co-stars as they also paid their own dues.

Bill Hader: Oh man it was hard. And it happens all the time. And to be honest it still can happen I mean as you know like I was saying earlier you could still get really discouraged. The thing you have to try to do is again that thing I was saying earlier just like oh I can control the work I can control this I can control making this thing and everyone might hate it and all but I can’t really worry about that. You know what I mean. Like we make Barry and like I still have friends like oh man. A.V. Club hated the episode last night and I’m like I can’t. What am I going to do about that. You know or SNL. Jesus you would have people come up to you on the street and just be like you and your show f**king suck New York cab driver fully did that to me like. You and your show f**king suck. Like what am I supposed to do about that. But you know there is a thing I read once that helped me is that persistence plus talent equals luck and that’s a good thing of like if I’m persistent and you’re talented you’ll get lucky. I have a friend she was my nanny forever and she was a hardworking actress and she was our nanny and just could not catch a break. And she was doing all this work and I thought she was really funny but it just wasn’t happening for her. And now she’s it’s D’Arcy Carden she’s on the good place and she’s Janet on the good place and she’s on Barry. And that was my nanny. So and D’Arcy was sitting here like you guys going again you know I remember going to a show with my manager back in 2005. I got a manager because I got a meeting with Lorne Michaels I got a manager off that. So it’s like I came back to L.A. and people were like Wait. Who are you. How’d you get a meeting with Lorne Michaels. So I went to my manager’s house to meet her and she was super nice and she’s like oh we’re waiting on the again the nanny the nanny shows up. I meet the nanny. Hi nice to meet you. The nanny oh watching the kids nanny’s why and she’s like oh she’s this actress we’re trying to figure it out it was Kristen Wiig. She was my manager’s nanny when I that’s how I met her. I was like Hey how are you. And she was waitressing earlier and she was you know what I mean everyone has that. Like people who don’t have that I’m like f**k off. You don’t have you haven’t lived life you know what I mean like you need to get to give your art something. You know what I mean. Like it has to have something you know. So just keep at it as much as you can and that persistence plus talent equals luck. I would say that to myself I’m like I just have to be really persistent and something will f**king happen. And it takes a long time but it will happen.

Eric: Mr. Hader kept working after SNL to the tune of over one hundred productions. Give or take but he still had the dream of making his own material. He wrote for documentary now South Park and most recently co created the remarkable Barry with Alec Berg.

These people I take out they’re bad people. The money’s good. It’s a job.

Yeah.

Hey man are you seeing this beautiful morning. What are you doing. How are you.

What am I doing. I’m. Set up here. Like you asked me to.

Oh right. Duh.

Bill Hader: I co created with this guy Alec Berg. Alec started as a Seinfeld writer and now than he did curb your enthusiasm and now he does Silicon Valley and. So he and I. Our agent put us together and we sat and we talked about one idea that wasn’t very good for about and that happens. You talk about it’s never easy right. So we sat and we talked about this one idea for about a month and a half and we wrote out tons of notes and worked really hard on it. And then one day I came in and just went I don’t know is this working and he went No no I’m glad. No it’s not working. And I said Well what isn’t not working about this idea you know and you sit and you kind of talk about it and I go well it’s kind of slice of life type of thing. And those are great. But I was seeing a lot of those on television I was like I’d love to do some that has like stakes you know something like that you know has real. What are the most stakes he’s like life and death. And I was like Yeah yeah I was like what’s a life and death type story and then I said What if I was a hit man and he said. He goes I don’t like hit man I don’t. He said there’s more hit men in movies and television than there are in real life. You know it’s like the dog catcher you know what I mean it’s like that doesn’t. It’s not a thing. And he goes I hate hit men you know the skinny ties the two guns the cool. I go no no it’d be me. And he went oh I go me be me like me not doing a character like just me like very non-threatening. So he went oh that could be interesting and then very quickly we thought he should be taking an acting class. I don’t know why. I don’t know how we still have no idea how that came up though the ideas. Sometimes they happen like that you know. So we said oh he should take an acting class and then we started seeing interesting parallels.

Eric: An assassin played by SNL’s Stefon yeah well the first time I saw the trailer. I was fascinated. And more than a little confused. But as any fan of the show can tell you the unexpected is what makes it so compelling. As Bill Hader explained this unusual formula took time and work to find the right balance.

Bill Hader: Well the character of Barry it was interesting because initially we were talking about earlier where we came up with it. The character initially all the characters were a bit arched. It was a bit over the top. And HBO actually was great and they said. Yeah this the hit man guy the way you’re writing him like Is that how what they do. Like how do you what research like the acting world feels very well researched but the hit man world feels like it’s more about movies and about things that you’ve seen it’s not rooted in anything real. And that was a really good note. Because it’s true. A lot of movies and stuff you watch now are just about movies essentially you know and the real stuff is it comes from your life. And basically they were saying was like make it more personal. And so we say what if he was a Marine. And suddenly the whole show just got grounded into something much more interesting. When we decided that he wasn’t John Wick that he was a Marine and it was like a guy kind of hating himself for you know doing something for the service of his country and now he’s taking that and he’s doing something wrong and so for the character that’s what helped it but so much stuff you know you talk about other movies and I remember coming up and just being super inspired by movies and I still am I mean I’ll watch something and get so jazzed by it and get inspired to make stuff. But it’s important as I’m getting older to learn that the real stuff is from your life and stuff that you’ve felt now it doesn’t have to mean that like I’ve never killed anybody as far as you guys know but it’s like those emotions of feeling like lonely or misunderstood or out of place or wanting to belong or these things I have felt that and you go OK well let’s put it in this guy.

Eric: Well hopefully Bill Hader doesn’t have too many similarities to his killer alter ego. One of the things that makes Barry such a riveting character is his duality his private day job of well you know killing people versus his more extroverted dreams of performing.

Bill Hader: So this is a great interesting conflict for this guy. He’s trying to be a hit man. His life is in the shadows. But to be an actor you have to be in the spotlight right and then to be a hit man you’ve got to be anonymous and unknown. But as an actor you want to be known.

Acting is a is a very. Face forward type of job. It’s in direct conflict to being someone who anonymously kills people.

These are professional actors and they’re the real deal and they say I got something.

No I get it I get it. But I think you kind of think this thing through. I mean you want to you want to go out there and try to burn a guy and have him say hey there’s the guy from the chicken commercial.

I don’t know if I’d do commercials.

Bill Hader: As a hit man you have to repress your emotions to murder people and in acting you have to constantly you know use your emotion. So I don’t know. Yeah. So that’s we go oh that. That could be good and then went from there. But it’s good because you tell people about it and this is a good lesson. Everyone we told about it they went yeah yeah okay you as a hit man who wants to be an actor. OK I know what that is. And everyone has a picture in their mind what your idea is but it’s your idea and I might do it differently. And it was very satisfying when people would watch the pilot and go oh this is not at all what I was expecting. I thought it was gonna be real goofy and kind of glib and I was like No no no we can’t be glib about the violence we can’t it’s an emotional story about this guy dealing with guilt and hoping for redemption and all this stuff. So that was a good lesson for me too of just going like no no no I know what this is. Just trust me it’s gonna be good because people will constantly tell you that you’re doing it wrong.

Eric: One thing Bill Hader has been doing very right is his performance in the title role which netted him an Emmy as Best Actor in a comedy as well as nominations that same year for writing directing and producing. The character is beyond layered at times quiet and meek and other times a rattlesnake ready to bite. Playing that role would be enough work for most actors. But Mr. Hader pulls it all off while juggling all his other jobs on the show.

Bill Hader: Because you’re writing and directing and doing all these other things and my head was someplace else. And then I forget I’m also I’m in wardrobe and I’m acting on the show and they’re like alright Bill. You gotta go. You know and you’re like wait what. But I think the best stuff kind of comes from just using your instincts you know and like you think about it like you know your lines the best you can. I sometimes don’t know my lines and I’m always like I’m so sorry guys. But like you know the scene in the parking lot when I talk to him.

It’s a job. You know the money’s good and these people I take out like they’re. They’re bad people you know like they’re pieces of s**t. But lately you know I’m like I’m not sleeping and that depressed feeling’s back you know. Like I know there’s more to me. Than that. But maybe I don’t know. Maybe there’s not.

Bill Hader: Like that’s a thing where you just try it a couple of times and you do it and the first time is kind of flat and the second time it gets a little bit better. Third time gets a. And by the way Henry Winkler had to leave him doing that whole thing to a c-stand. Because Henry had to go. So I’m doing the whole thing to c-stand with a little mark on it and you’re just trying to think of you know people go oh are you thinking about this or that or whatever and you go you care about it it’s not like you’re I’m having a coffee and bullshitting with someone oh I gotta go do this scene there’s concentration but it’s not like Oh on this line I’m gonna do this. And on this line I’m gonna do that. It’s more of a feeling now you like one of my best friends is this guy named Duffy Boudreau and he writes on Barry he wrote on documentary now with me and stuff and he’s a guy that when he gets nervous he kind of holds his breath. And so in a weird way on like Take four. I started just doing that like oh Duffy does this thing where. And then when I’m in the edit bay we’re watching I go Oh I like that you know it’s like oh this is good. This is now this is something’s happening. You know what I mean. So you just like it’s like work you’re just like fine tuning it but you have to be instinctual.

Eric: He told our students the best way to balance work as a performer director writer producer. Is actually rather basic.

Bill Hader: Try to just. Treat it like it’s one job and you just go well this. I’m doing all these things but if you think of it as all those things together you can get really discouraged. So to me it’s and this is what worked for me is just thinking like oh this is the idea. This is okay Barry the story this thing I’m gonna try to do that but it can be very very overwhelming. You know I saw Henry Winkler today cause we had to do a press thing and he said you know you you mouth your like when I’m doing scenes with him I’m mouthing his dialogue a lot of the time cause I wrote it. And Stephen Root said the same thing that I’m always like. And that’s that’s annoying but it’s because in my head I’m going okay no this works. Yeah yeah no this this works because then later we’re doing this thing and that no no no this is good. This is good. You know so yeah you gotta like back off of it and try to be in the moment. And honestly I couldn’t do any of this if it wasn’t for Alec Berg having a good partner I couldn’t do any of it. I couldn’t do it all by myself. I would I have to be able to go. That makes sense right. And he goes yeah he’s a great sounding board in all of this. So yeah if you can have someone whether it’s a good you know a teacher or a friend doesn’t mean you have to be fully in business with them. But again it’s like I was saying earlier that thing of where you could show it to people and you know they’ll be real with you you’re gonna be good.

Eric: His performance is even more impressive considering that unlike pretty much every other guest we’ve had Bill Hader does not come from theater.

Bill Hader: I have never really done theater. I did theater like in high school. But I mean I did SNL but that’s not real theater. I think what they did. Like real theater actors like Sarah Goldberg who plays Sally is a big Broadway actress. Like I don’t know how you do that. I just don’t I don’t know how I do it. I’ve gone to friends who’ve been in plays and I’m just like yeah I don’t know how you did that. And I think it’s because I tended to gravitate towards things that are more behavior like acting that’s a little bit more like you’re watching behavior. And theatrical stuff it’s just a different thing that I don’t have the. You’re having to project and play it a certain way that I just I don’t have the. I don’t know how to do that. So I guess the answer’s no because I’m doing pretty well. So. I don’t know no but I think it’s good to have theater training. I wish I honestly I wish I did have that training because when I’m around them I feel like they’re so much better I’m honestly like well rounded actors you know Henry has theater training. Anthony Carrigan who plays NoHo Hank has theater training you know and Stephen Root has theater training so any time I’m in scenes with them you can feel it you know and you just go oh man you know I say it all the time. You’re only as good as the company that you’re in. You’re only as good as your fellow actors like if they’re good then that brings you up and if you’re good then that brings them up you know. So yeah.

Eric: Part of his work in fine tuning Barry has been laying out multiple seasons worth of storylines. It’s no small feat but he’s been up to the challenge thanks to his time writing for our favorite foul mouthed Colorado kids.

Bill Hader: Well when we were writing it I had never done anything real long form but I worked in the writers room a bit on South Park. I worked on South Park for like 10 years off and on and I watched how those guys would put episodes together and it was really helpful for me to understand how to how to do that. But I think a thing that we kind of have like little tentpole scenes like season one we knew there was a part in Episode 7 I don’t want to ruin it for anybody who hasn’t seen it but there’s a scene in episode seven we knew Okay we’re headed there right. So I don’t know what we do but we’ve got to write to get to this and then this new season there was one of those that happens again in episode seven and another one in episode eight where you’re kind of like. I start with a big whiteboard and I have we have eight episodes and I put one through eight and then you just kind of have a bunch of notes I’ve taken and I kind of just start dropping things places and something that happened at the end of Episode 1 in the new season. I initially had in episode 4 and I remember Alec going shouldn’t that happen at the end of episode and I’m like Oh my God. Yeah you’re right oh once we put that there. Now this goes to here Oh rad OK yeah yeah. This is working but it takes forever. And then once you even have it and you I go home and I’m like high fiving myself like we got it the next day or a week later you’re like oh s**t. OK. This doesn’t work. You know and you’re constantly constantly working on it but we never fully plan. We have like kind of vague ideas but the fun of it is kind of seeing where the where the characters kind of take it. I mean that’s that’s really what you want to do is you want to just be listening to the characters and getting out of the way. And the big thing I’m sure you guys have been taught this. But it was beaten into me at South Park which is have you guys heard the and and and that thing that was it’s therefore therefore that is everything with Barry is that where we’re constantly. I mean Alex Berg’ll say it’s all and and and right now man I’m like I know. And then he’ll go aha oh wait. What if he does this and then therefore this happens and then that oh see it’s more causal if we do this you know and then oh cool and then another act you know you you have to be real malleable and know that the process is messy and that you’re gonna fail a lot in writing. I always come in kind of with the whole thing. I kind of sit down with the writers and I’ll go here’s where I think the season is and they go OK. And it’s kind of like saying like Here’s the house that we’re gonna build. And the writers are like cool but wouldn’t like a swing set be in the backyard and not the front yard and you’re like Oh yeah that’s a good idea. OK. You know and it’s like wouldn’t that. That should be a door right and not a window right. And you’re like Oh yeah yeah. You know and you’re you’re kind of piecing it together that way but it should feel organic. It shouldn’t be by the numbers it can’t be plot. It should be character driven. That was what I learned at South Park. It was really crazy. Everything was driven by emotion. Everything at South Park is driven by emotion everything’s like Cartman is feeling blank so he wants this and his emotion is something that can be relatable right or something and serious. I mean I worked on one episode. Did you guys see fish sticks with Kanye West. Yeah where he’s the fish sticks and he gets but that’s about a guy not getting a joke you know. And so you know or or whatever it is and so you know you’re constantly. It’s so much with emotion you know every time we’re in the writers room we’re always we’re always going like you know I’ve had a feeling where like the thing with the laptop where it’s like oh I had that happen where I got really embarrassed by this thing where I was trying to make a big overture to someone or like in episode six in season one there’s a scene where I’m trying not to hang out with Taylor anymore and I call him and I’m like Hey man I don’t think we should like. That was I’ve had to fire a trainer and I fully ended up like hiring them for another like month because I just was too and I went into the writers room I was like and they go did you fire. You fire that guy and I was like No. And I was like I told him like hey man you’re great you’re this and blah blah blah and then it was like OK what are we working on today. OK. Barry and Taylor I’m like oh I should just do that right. You know because that’s the thing I did. You know. And so I don’w know it kind of works.

Eric: Mr. Hader might not trust his instincts enough to fire an underperforming trainer but they’ve been right in guiding his career. He made choices that were not safe but were very much right for him.

Bill Hader: You never know. You got instinct. It’s all instinct. It’s like what do you like. What draws you into the thing. You know. Like I turned down a lot of. I don’t do a lot of scripts because I get real like antsy oh I don’t know. And then you you know I read Skeleton Twins and just was like yeah. You know I’ve done jobs for money. I’m moving you know I need I need money. But then there’s the thing like big movies you know I’m not oh I’m gonna do big movies I’m in the sequel to It the Ritchie. I’m the all grown up Ritchie Tozer The Finn character and I heard that and they’re like hey did you see It. Oh yeah. I love that movie and they’re like Well there I was like yes. Is it are you. Are they offering me. Because yes. No you gotta go meet with the director too and I was like oh and I just went and I was like I want to do this you know because it was just like instinctually. Yeah. That would be rad. That’d be what an experience. You know and it was it was so much fun. The movie’s incredibly scary. They showed me one scene from it. I wasn’t in it and I was like All right all right cool. I don’t need to Andy Muschietti directs it he’s like yeah pretty f**ked up huh man. He’s like this is going to make people s**t themselves am I right he calls me Blido Blido Blido f**ked up. Don’t you wish you were in that scene man. I can’t act scared too. I’m always smiling. When I get nervous I smile a lot. so I’m like Oh my God. Pennywise is here no way. Hey Blido man you can’t be smiling man why you smiling you can’t be f**king smiling man you’re gonna die and the clown man. What the f**k. This is all on a god mic by the way. So it’s come on man what you’re doing. But instinct that’s the main thing just being instinctual. What do you like. You know when you’re watching I mean it sounds reductive but it is like when you’re at a bookstore and you’re like I want to read that. You know or you’re watching something oh I’m gonna watch this. This seems good. You know like you don’t question those things you just you instinctually are drawn to that. So if you’re lucky you can do that. But also sometimes you got to take s**t cause you gotta f**king make the money.

Eric: That’s great advice. Trust yourself and your creative instincts that got you there. Though it might take time to figure these things out. I mean after all Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are most artists careers.

Bill Hader: You don’t need to figure it all out this millisecond. You know it takes time. I remember being like young and reading about like Steven Spielberg made his first movie when he was 25 or and you put this weird pressure on yourself that means nothing if you don’t have any experience and just relax and just do it just do it fail. That’s the big thing. I was terrified of failing. I didn’t want to fail. You fail and if you know you screen a thing for people and they’re like Yeah man that was a thing you know and you go well what didn’t work that should be the question What do you guys think didn’t work about it and take it. And. You know and I would just I would watch one cut of something I did and be like well I’m not showing this to anybody because I don’t I’m I’m embarrassed. You have to fail you have to learn from that and keep doing it and keep doing it and just keep doing it and then suddenly that thing that was hard becomes a little easier. And then this new thing I’ll become hard and then that’ll become a little easier. So I think that it’s like don’t be afraid of failing. And I wish I would have stuck with certain things like writing certain things or kept making things. You know Barry’s the first thing I ever liked actually directed I directed all these short films but that pilot you saw that was like the shot of Hank coming out and going Hey you must be Barry. That was the first thing like I’m a director on set like action. And I was f**king terrified. But you just have to do it. You have to just be like I’m going to try this and it’s all a process. And it’s all just a conversation it’s all a process and you’re not going to live and die by every thing. You know. I wish someone had just told me when I was starting out and everything like that was just like fail and keep failing and it’s gonna be OK. If you keep failing to make it about the work because I so was like. It has to be perfect. And it won’t be it won’t be perfect for a while but each one it get incrementally better. That means you’re on the right track.

Eric: When Bill Hader tells you it’s okay to fail maybe it’s okay to take some risks. Fail enough and heck. Maybe one day you’ll get nominated also for four Emmys in one year. We want to thank Bill Hader for spending time with our students and thanks of course to all of you for listening. This episode was based on the Q&A moderated by Tova Laiter to watch the full interview or to see our other Q&A’s. Check out our YouTube channel at youtube.com/NewYorkFilmAcademy. This episode was written by me Eric Conner. Edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden. Our creative director is David Andrew Nelson who also produced this episode with Kristian Hayden and myself. Executive produced by Tova Laiter Jean Sherlock and Dan Mackler. Special thanks to our events department Sajja Johnson and the staff and crew who made this possible. To learn more about our programs check us out at NYFA.edu. Be sure to subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. See you next time.

Bill Hader: Watching Tom Cruise work on Tropic Thunder was pretty crazy. People forget I’m in that movie because I’m in scenes with Tom Cruise no one’s watching no one’s watching me. I’ll be like I was in Tropic Thunder like where and I’m like I’m like Tom Cruise’s like right hand man they’re like he had a right hand man there and I’m like I know you’re not watching me. I was on that movie for like five months and no one knows I’m in it because they’re like Who are you in it.

Eric: We remember Bill, we remember.

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