Bill Hader on Casting ‘Toro’ in ‘Barry’: ‘I Didn’t Know If He Could Act or Not’

"He would give me shit about how I was blocking [the scene]," Hader said. "I was like, 'Guillermo, it's not really your call, man.'"
Barry Season 4 Episode 3 Guillermo Del Toro scene
Michael Irby and Anthony Carrigan in "Barry"
Courtesy of Merrick Morton / HBO

[Editor’s Note: The following interview contains light spoilers for “BarrySeason 4, Episode 3, “you’re charming.”]

When NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) needs to hire a hitman to kill Barry Berkman (Bill Hader), he texts Toro.

When Bill Hader needs to hire an actor to play the yet-unseen handler, he texts Guillermo Del Toro.

Who else?

“Guillermo sent me a funny text [asking], ‘Could I be in ‘Barry’?” Hader said, explaining how the three-time Oscar winner came to be in Episode 3, “you’re charming,” of the HBO black comedy’s final season. Del Toro has long been a fan of the series — expressing his enthusiasm on Twitter from the very beginning — but Hader wasn’t sure how serious the “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Pinocchio” director was about joining the ensemble.

“I think he didn’t think I would [ask him],” Hader said. “People say [they want to be in the show] sometimes, and it never happens. But then I thought, ‘Actually, there’s a part that he’d be really good in.’ I called him and said, ‘Yeah, I have a character for you. His name’s Toro.’ And he went, ‘Oh, man. Really?’”

Hader named the character Toro to illustrate how serious he was about casting the acclaimed writer-director. “I said, ‘Well, the character’s called Toro, kind of saying, ‘Well, now you’ve got to do it.’”

It worked. After finding a date that fit their schedules, Hader said Del Toro came to set with his wife and “Nightmare Alley” co-screenwriter Kim Morgan — “who’s lovely, and obviously an incredibly talented writer,” Hader said — to shoot his scene opposite Carrigan and Michael Irby.

In context, Toro’s role is rather simple. He meets with Hank and Cristobal (Irby) to discuss how he’ll go about killing Barry. But the style and humor Del Toro brings to the brief Episode 3 opener elevate events to “Barry’s” now-standard heights. He appears as if from nowhere, dressed in a burgundy jacket with a black fedora and cane.

“He brought his own cane,” Hader said. “The guys in the scene with him were kind of in awe, like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Guillermo del Toro.’”

Still, there was one looming question:

“I didn’t know if he could act or not,” Hader said.

As evidenced in past roles like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” plus voice work in “Trollhunters” and “The Simpsons,” Del Toro knew what he was doing.

“We only had [that location] for… not very long,” Hader said, “and we had a lot to shoot there. So we were running very fast. But he was great. He had two different takes on it. We did both versions of the guy.”

It was only later that Hader realized his favorite aspect of Del Toro’s performance.

“[When] we were in the editing, we realized the funniest part about it was just watching him react,” Hader said. “When we would watch his full takes, the way he was reacting was making me laugh really hard, and I go, ‘I think we need to cut this so it’s just on his reaction shots and you’re just watching him digest the information.’ And it was really fun.”

Of course, an acclaimed filmmaker like Del Toro couldn’t come to set and simply check his director’s hat at the door.

“He would give me shit about how I was blocking [the scene],” Hader said. “Things like that. He said, ‘The eye-lines won’t match because you’re on too wide of a lens.’ And I was like, ‘Guillermo, it’s not really your call, man.’ […] ‘Cate Blanchett didn’t say this shit to you on your last movie.'”

“But no, he was very sweet,” Hader said. “I remember afterwards he goes, ‘You shoot fast. That’s good. Hold on to that.'”

Take it from Toro — one, if not both.

“Barry” releases new episodes Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO.

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