Chris Pratt is tall. But not as tall as Will Arnett. They greeted each other warmly in the back courtyard of Bricksburg, the former Funny or Die offices on Seward in the heart of old Hollywood, where Warner Bros. threw an awards cocktail party for “The Lego Movie.” The two actors didn’t actually interact that much playing Emmet and Batman, respectively, while making the animated movie, which has since turned into a surprise blockbuster and Oscar frontrunner–although directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord did get them together to riff in the sound booth a few times.
That’s the loneliness of the animated voice artist. Pratt is looking sleek and genial as he anticipates not only a solid run in the Marvel universe–after being anxious anticipating the fate of “Guardians of the Galaxy” (which has landed on the Oscar VFX shortlist and will be up for more technical nods)–but the stack of scripts that come to major movie stars. (We compare Pratt to rival Chris Pine here.)
Sure enough, Pratt’s signed on to do one western (“Cowboy Ninja Viking”) and is now eager, he told me, to join Denzel Washington in Antoine Fuqua’s remake of John Sturges’ 1960 “The Magnificent Seven.” Pratt can’t wait to improve his horse-riding skills.
Also riding high are Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, who have successfully launched three franchises: “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie.”
These guys not only dreamed up but managed to sell the whole “Lego” concept to Warners–using DC’s iconic superheroes–while fighting to make the movie work on an organic scale, as though the legos were being created in someone’s basement and filmed with stop motion cameras, even though the whole thing is CG.
The movie worked like a dream, and was one of the more original –and hilarious–surprises of the year, a hit with critics (96% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences alike. It’s the third highest-grossing picture of the year domestically, nabbing $258 million, and a total $468 million worldwide. And it proves yet again that with animation and comedy, writers and directors can enjoy a lot more freedom to be creative. The National Board of Review gave Lord and Miller an original screenplay nod–which might be repeated at the Oscars, if not at the Writers Guild.
Bricksburg is the name of the town in “The Lego Movie” as well as the offices of this dynamic duo’s “Lego” spinoff empire, complete with plenty of action figures and Lego dioramas and a handy orange plastic chute from one floor to the other. They’re already laboring away on three more Warner Bros. movies: Charlie Bean’s Kurosawa-style “Ninjago” (2016), with Lego ninjas, samurais and kung-fu, their head animator Chris McKay’s “The Lego Batman Movie,” set in Gotham with Arnett (2017), and “Lego Movie 2” set for 2018. Lord and Miller have said they may not direct that one either: “They’re all incredibly different, we’re trying to make sure each of those movies has its own voice, and we’re empowering other people,” they told Bill Desowitz at Animation Scoop. “We’re all working on the pitch for ‘Batman’ together.”
I had a blast dishing on the year’s best with Lord, who seems to have time to watch movies, amazingly enough. One of his faves: Cannes Director’s Fortnight entry and National Board of Review Top Ten Indie pick “Blue Ruin.” Damn. Another one to catch up with.
Meanwhile Warners motion pictures co-head Sue Kroll is pushing Robert Duvall for a supporting actor nod for “The Judge” and working to maximize the last of the “Hobbit” movies from Peter Jackson, which should handily outgross the others and rack up some technical nods as well.