Perhaps Bill Hader was destined to voice a “Star Wars” droid. The sci-fi franchise, after all, provided his first inkling that he would wed his wife of now nearly a decade.
“Yeah, that’s true,” Hader said the first time I interviewed him, several years back now. He looked around writer-director Maggie Carey’s apartment, and he knew. “She had ‘Star Wars’ curtains. I walked in there and in my head, I thought: This is awesome and we will be married.”
Now, nine years after their nuptials, Hader has lent his vocal skills to a “Star Wars” character that is being emblazoned upon seemingly every fabric and common surface material around. The “SNL” alum is credited as a “vocal consultant” for the sounds of BB-8, the cute new “soccer ball” droid in “The Force Awakens.”
Two years ago on “Conan,” Hader – while doing his comic impressions of dying Star Wars characters – half-joked that he “cornered” J.J. Abrams and told the “Force Awakens” director that he would do any voice for Episode VII.
What really happened, Hader has said in recent interviews, was that Abrams was messing around with an iPad sound-effects app while the actor operated a talk box. The result soon became less “voice” and more mechanical, as they found the droid sounds they were looking for. (“Parks and Recreation’s” Ben Schwartz is also credited as a BB-8 consultant.)
Inspiring the whirs and whistles of a droid is just the capper on a stellar year for Hader, the Emmy-winning performer who got to contribute even more significantly to another one of Disney’s biggest hits of 2015: Pixar’s “Inside Out.” Hader voices the emotion Fear – an easy role for him, he says, given his naturally anxious state. When I asked Hader in June how he landed that role, he joked that he basically hung out at Pixar for days until they gave him work. “It’s that thing where,” he says, “I stalked them.”
The real reason I believe directors love to hire Hader, however, is that as a quick-witted performer and writer, he’s an appealing mix of wildly imaginative, joyously collaborative and ever so sonically gifted – plus, it doesn’t hurt that the Oklahoma native comes across as terminally humble. No part is too small if it captures his creative interest.
His wit and presence and sense of collaboration made Hader a smart choice to star opposite Amy Schumer – and Lebron James – in Judd Apatow’s summer hit “Trainwreck.” And his “Documentary Now!” series with Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers and Rhys Thomas was very well-received.
Yet often, 2015 resonated as the Year of Bill Hader’s Voice. Besides his Disney credits, he continues to provide inspired contributions to “South Park,” and also voiced Dr. Malocchio - alongside a wealth of fellow “SNL” talent - on “The Awesomes.” (He even offered ideas to Pixar for the current “The Good Dinosaur.”) And he springboards into 2016 by lending his starring voice to “The Angry Birds Movie” (opposite Maya Rudolph and Peter Dinklage), and then plays a giant in Steven Spielberg’s summer fantasy “The BFG.”
Whether he’s hanging out in the story rooms at Pixar for days, or experimenting with J.J. Abrams’s talk box, Hader is primed to experiment, bringing that fertile mind and vocal range to some of the most rewarding sound booths in the business.
And whether he’s voicing BB-8 or imagining a dying Jabba, it’s a matter of have tongue, will travel. Time after time, the muse awakens.