'Trainwreck's' Bill Hader on Playing More Serious Characters Like His Realistic Leading Man
"Judd [Apatow] and I talked, and I can't be funny the way I was funny in some of these other movies or funny the way I was on 'SNL,'" the actor says of the challenges of serving as a "grounding force" to Amy Schumer's character.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Trainwreck.]
When he was on Saturday Night Live, Bill Hader was known for characters like "Weekend Update" regular Stefon and Italian talk show host Vinny Vedecci, as well as his impressions of people like Vincent Price and Dateline's Keith Morrison.
But since leaving the NBC sketch comedy show in 2013, Hader has ventured into more serious territory with roles in movies like The Skeleton Twins and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. He continues this tradition in Amy Schumer's Trainwreck, often playing the straight man to Schumer's character, also named Amy.
The actor says he's not making a conscious choice to play a certain type of character, and that his pattern is more due to jumping at the opportunity to be involved with projects that interest him.
"You read something like Skeleton Twins, and I liked [director] Craig Johnson's first movie, and [I thought], 'I connect with it on some level, and that's a part I would like to play if I get a chance,'" Hader says. "And it was the same thing with this movie. … Amy's script was 100 percent there. I remember reading it and calling [director] Judd [Apatow] and being like, 'Whoa, we need to shoot this, like tomorrow, word for word. This is unbelievable. So good.' And the character was … just something I never thought I'd ever play before, and it was a romantic comedy that I liked."
In fact, Hader says he's not often a romantic-comedy fan, and that in playing the leading man in this one, both he and Schumer tried to keep the relationship realistic.
"I don't actually like a lot of romantic comedies because I never buy that the two people should be together by the end," he explains. "Amy and I wanted to work really hard on making sure that the chemistry felt real and authentic. … There were things from our lives that we put into it. We also just hung out a lot."
In fact, the moment in the film in which Hader's Aaron and Amy are shown riding the subway together and holding each other was inspired by something Schumer saw one day. She called Hader, who was off that day while she was shooting a later subway scene with Leslie Jones, and said she wanted to film the scene that day.
"[Amy said], 'I just saw a guy and this girl, and she was holding him and he was holding on to her and on to the handrail in the subway. They just looked so content and in love with each other. They both were kind of in their own worlds, but they were holding on to each other. I would like to shoot that … like right now. We're on a subway set with Leslie Jones. Can you come down here?'" Hader recalls. "So I ran down there and they put me in wardrobe and I got made up and we shot that scene, … and it's in the movie."
For Hader, who plays a surgeon who operates on athletes like Amar'e Stoudemire, keeping the movie realistic also meant spending time with real sports doctors.
"I spoke to a guy in L.A. who works with Kobe Bryant, and from him I learned about the music, that they play music during surgeries," he explains. "And then in New York, the guy who's playing kind of my assistant is like the No. 1 knee surgeon in New York, and he was in [the operating] scene, under his breath [telling me what to do]. He showed me how to do the surgery on a very lifelike prosthetic."
Hader also had to remain cognizant of how his character was supposed to be a "grounding force" for Amy.
"Judd and I talked, and I can't be funny the way I was funny in some of these other movies or funny the way I was on SNL," he says. "Sometimes you're on set improvising and you do some funny stuff, but then you look at it and go, 'Well, now this guy seems crazy.' "
He adds that when Aaron meets Amy, they seem to click in their first conversation in a way that's very true to life as she bluffs about being a sports fan, claiming she roots for teams like the Long Island Mediums and the Orlando Blooms.
"There's something very charming about that," he says. "He realizes, 'Oh I'm kind of immediately falling into sync with this person.' That's a thing Amy and I were talking about, like, 'Haven't you ever had that when you're single and you're talking with someone and you just fall into like an easy rhythm with them? … That's kind of what it was."
Beyond that, Hader says Aaron responds to Amy's freer personality.
"She's just not like anybody he's ever — she's just from another world. I think Aaron didn't know a woman like that could exist, and he finds it freeing for him. I think he likes the way he feels around her," Hader explains. "He wishes he could have some of the mojo that she has of speaking her mind and being so much fun and so freeing. He sees something in her that she probably doesn't see in herself: that she's a really loving person."
Aaron also doesn't anticipate how Amy will respond to their all-night argument near the end of the movie that ultimately leads them to break up, Hader says.
"I remember Amy before we shot that scene said, 'What do you think Aaron thinks is going to happen right now?' And I said, 'I think he's going to come home and say, "That was crazy. You kept me up all night arguing. I work. I can't deal with that. And, by the way, it does bum me out. Your past does bum me out, and I don't want to act like it doesn't. But we'll work through that. That's a thing we'll work through because I'm in love with you and I want to be with you, but that was nuts. Let's work on it. I'm gonna take a nap, take a shower, and we'll go out to dinner.'' ' And she went, 'Great,'" Hader explains. "And then in the scene, she just broke up with me. He just gets blindsided by it because for her, [she's thinking], 'The honeymoon period's over. I'm out. I'm failing at something.' Amy played it so well because [her character's] conscious of it. She knows what she's doing, and she's sad that she's doing it."