CARS 3 Interview with Armie Hammer, Owen Wilson, Kerry Washington, and Cristela Alonzo
The atmosphere in the room changed when Owen Wilson, Armie Hammer, Cristela Alonzo, and Kerry Washington walked into the interview at The Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday. There was a lot of excitement from the 25 bloggers in the room and you could feel it. The actors were all smiles and laughs they took their seats and we dove into the big questions.
During the interview with Director Brian Fee, he mentioned that Armie Hammer was the nicest guy in the world. I wondered how difficult it was for him to channel his inner jerk for the voice of Jackson Storm. He said it was lies and that he wasn’t the nicest guy in the world.
Q: How hard was it to channel your inner jerk for this character?
AH : It was funny because I had like good, strict parents, always told you to be nice to everybody and all that, so then you get in the recording, but they’re like no, we really want you to kind of really jerk it up, like be like the biggest jerk. I’m yeah, got it, got it, got it. I mean we want more like way more, so it was fun getting to do that, getting to access and do that, but in a safe environment where you’re not actually offending anybody. It’s good.
Q: Were you really a jerk?
AH : Yeah, yeah, yeah. It came too easy scary enough.
Q : Can you share how you became involved with the roles, why you wanted to be a part of this film?
CA : I’ll tell you that I actually got a call. I was on my way to do a stand up tour in Canada, and I got a call from my agent asking me if I wanted to go to Pixar. They didn’t tell me anything. They’re just like do you want to go to Pixar? I’m like well that’s a random question, but yes. They flew me up to Pixar. I had no idea I was being considered for anything. I didn’t know anything until I got there, and then they made me sign papers and I’m like what am I doing?
And it wasn’t until they gave me a tour and then they sat me down in an office and broke down this Cruz character, and immediately I thought wait a minute, this is a job interview, like I would have dressed up better for you. I mean, I’m wearing my Target best, but still, you know, like who, what, where, right guys? So I became involved with it and I was working with the film in November of 2015.
And I had no idea, and honestly I’m glad no one told me because I would have been very nervous. So it allowed me the chance to be myself and not have any time to work on fake me. I ended up getting it, and who ever thinks that you’re ever gonna be part of the Pixar world. I mean, it’s incredible.
KW : I got a call much, much later. [Lots of Laughter.] There was a role to play, like a super know it all, bossy pants character, super arrogant, so would I be willing to go way against type. I said yeah, and honestly I’ve been a fan of this franchise for a long time, and just was honored to be a part of it and excited to do something that my kids could watch.
OW : How I became involved? I met John Lassiter, he was sitting next to me. We had a dinner and he was telling me that, about the sort of idea, and I didn’t think, you know, necessarily anything would come of it. I didn’t know who he was or anything, and then it all sort of fell together and now I have this little guy.
AH : I wish I had a really good story. They called me, they said do you want to be in the movie? And I was like yup.
The other cast-members started teasing Armie.
Man, that story had drama and everything.
AH : I really wish I could find a twist or like an angle in there, but it was really that easy.
OW : You were kidnapped, brought to Pixar.
AH : I did go to Pixar. I did go to Pixar.
*There is a moment here when Cristela talks spoilers, but I’m not going to share those until after the movie releases. I want this story to be a surprise to everyone who goes to watch it on Friday.
Q : I was wondering if there are little pieces of your character that relate to the child in you.
AH : I hope not.
CA : I will tell you that the Cruz character started out as a boy, and they decided to make it into a female, a girl car. And John Lasseter actually came into the sound booth when I was recording one day, and I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to be part of a Pixar movie. I was just telling Kerry [Washington] like every time a talk about anything, I try to talk about where I come from, how I grew up, blah, blah, blah, get very personal very quick. And I started telling him how I just never thought I was going to be a possibility, you know.
It’s like so many people tell you, especially in the kind of hood that I grew up with, they always tell you that you can’t do anything, you know. And everybody in the neighborhood is very quick to knock you down a peg. So John Lasseter took that story and actually ran with it. So there’s a speech where I get upset at Lightning, and one of the lines is dream small, he told me. And that was actually a line that I told Lasseter about my family. My family always told me to dream small, and it was that thing were they told me to dream small because they didn’t want my heart broken.
It was that thing where they always said you can’t have big dreams because big dreams don’t happen for people like us. So it’s that story where that speech and these stories that I started telling Pixar evolved into Cruz. It’s that thing where like, you know, it’s that thing where I try to bring that part of me into Cruz, and I think that that’s when they realized that a lot of the heart of the story came from that.
OW : How do we follow up with that? That’s deep.
CA : I don’t know. Maybe try harder.
Q : Kerry, is there something about this CARS character that you learned from?
KW : This is probably gonna seem like a stretch, because it’s such a supporting character, but one of the things it’s made me think a lot about is sort of this disposable society that we live in, because Natalie Certain is so sure that Storm in going to win, because of the numbers. She’s just so sure, and she’s certain that you can kind of discount everybody else because of the hot, new thing is the way to go. I think we have to be really careful about that as a society, not just in our business but in general.
I heard a story recently, it’s so random but I heard a story recently about how Rutgers University paid more money than they’d ever paid to any visiting adjust speaker person ever the year that Snooki came to teach. There’s no judgment on that, but she’s a reality star and that was the same year that Maya Angelou spoke at their commencement. And it just made me realize that we can sometimes, I think, prioritize hot and new more than we prioritize wise and creative.
And as a society, we need to be careful about that. Again, no judgment about her.
Owen told Kerry she had to tell the story also about showing the movie to her daughter.
KW : When I was telling these guys in our house, we talk a lot about owning your voice and having a voice, and kids can be literal, and so when we went to see the movie, my daughter said, that car has your voice. That’s weird. She should have her own voice.
AH : And that was the moment we all fell in love with Kerry as a parent. How did you do that?
Q: I have to ask you, Kerry Washington, for all of us Scandal fans, hearing that this is the last season for Scandal, what can we expect from you? I’m pretty sure you’ll come up with something else.
KW : What can you expect from me? I decided to voice a car. I heard a rumor. I’m really excited about going into our last season. A lot of times in our business, you don’t know when the jobs are going to stop, so it’s an honor to go into these last, I think we’re doing 18, knowing like we can give it our all and say good-bye to our fans in a loving and respectful way.
After last year when I did the film Confirmation for HBO, I produced and starred in that film, and I started a production company, so we have lots of projects set up at different studios both for television and film. And some of them I’m not in and some of them I’m in, so… It’s called Simpson Street, which is the name of the street my mom grew up on in the Bronx.
Q : Cars has such a mentor-mentee thread running through it. Who are your mentors, either personally or professionally?
They broke out into trash talk with Kerry stating that in order to be in the movie they agreed to say that Owen was their mentor. Armie and Cristela agreed and the trash talk continued for a few minutes.
Then Cristela told her mentor story.
CA : My mentor is my mother, who passed away years ago, and my drama teachers in school. I went to public high school in a very mall town, and these teachers saw something in me. I will tell you my high school was 99 percent Mexican, and we used to do plays. My freshman year, we did the Diary of Anne Frank, all Mexicans. And, I know, and it was like so weird because we didn’t think it was weird.
We just did the show and I think that doing something like that actually taught me that you couldn’t limit yourself into doing things, you know. We wanted to do the Diary of Anne Frank, and we did it, because realistically how many plays do you have for Latinos? Hamilton wasn’t around back then, you know. I had a teacher in college tell me that, as a Latina, I could do West Side Story and Chorus Line, and I did West Side Story and I did Chorus Line, and then I thought, well, I guess I have to retire from theatre. You know what I mean?
I don’t even think my teachers realized what a great lesson they were giving me by telling me yeah, you can actually do a play about the holocaust and be in it, and actually do it. And I think that’s something, without them even knowing, in such a subtle way taught me so much.
Q : Owen, how do you feel about being a role model for drivers and young racers?
OW : It’s nice to be a part of a movie that seems to have meant a lot to people and particularly racers, because everybody at Daytona 500 seemed to like cars, so…
KW : That’s the kind of message you get when you mentor. It turns out people at NASCAR like cars.
Q : Owen, my son has autism, and when we first saw Cars 2 movie it like opened up his communication. He talks about CARS, hundreds of them. So how do you feel about the impact you’ve made on kids, especially in the special needs community where they’ve like latched on to CARS for like a decade.
OW : I see that with my own kids, it’s like they haven’t seen a movie once until they’ve seen it a hundred times, so they really learn a movie. It’s not just like me watching and falling asleep, and oh, it was good. It’s like they really get into it. So, yeah, I do see that but I also have where a parent will say this is Lightning McQueen [pointing to Owen], and the kids like that’s not Lightning McQueen.
They’re like take a picture, and the kid is like doesn’t seem to like it. I’m there smiling. You know, to your original question, it feels great. And I think that’s kind of the nice thing about doing something creative like we all do to then make something that means something to people, or that they laugh and enjoy. That’s a great feeling.
Q : Armie, you have a lot of fans on Twitter. They’ve been sending me lots of questions. One woman would like to know, she said she saw an instagram that you recently took a road trip through Route 66. She wants to know what was your favorite spot?
AH : =I do it a lot. I love, I love a good road trip. It’s really hard to pick, but, you know, there’s something so magical in like the American South West. It’s like one of the least densely populated places on earth. And you can end up in just like the most remote out of nowhere areas where nothing has changed since Route 66 was the main artery and thoroughfare of the region. So, you can end up in motels where it’s like honestly, the bed probably hasn’t been changed in 50 years, you know, kind of think, which seems pretty gross, kind of like that.
But if you think about it as like I’m really like bumping up and rubbing up against history and bed bugs, then it’s like, it’s really wonderful. Yeah. I don’t know. My favorite part the whole…
Q : Changes your perspective.
AH : Yeah. I’m like my glass is half full of maps. I just, I love a good road trip ’cause you just get on the road, you put it on cruise control, and you you just go. You listen to music. You listen to podcasts. You listen to nothing. You just look around. I don’t know. There’s nowhere to, like camping also, Cibola National Forest is a great place to camp. I don’t know. There’s tons of places out there.
CARS 3 Opens June 16th!
*A special thanks to Disney for asking me to cover this media event.