We caught up with the film’s writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who told us that Artoo was a key player in early drafts of the script.
“He was a Batman-level character,” Miller tells us, referring to the Caped Crusader who in the film is one of hero Emmet’s core group of helpers.
Adds Lord, “We figured we could get R2-D2 because his voice wasn’t a human being.”
“A kid doesn’t have lawyers that won’t allow the toys to play together,” admits Miller, explaining that they wrote the film without worrying about which studios owned the rights to whom.
“Part of the appeal for us was that ‘Roger Rabbit’ thing that you can get these characters together that you couldn’t get in any other type of movie. Watching my own son play, he does put Batman on the Millennium Falcon and there’s no-one saying they take place in completely different times and galaxies.”
The filmmakers, who met at university, are now part of the Hollywood A-list, thanks also to the recent success of ‘21’ and ’22 Jump Street’. “We have an inadvertent studio,” says Lord, joking they are in the business of “self-hating franchises”. ‘The Lego Movie’ has become one of 2014’s biggest hits, has multiple sequels and spin-offs in the works and is being talked about as an Oscar contender.
“That wasn’t a hot topic [when we were making it],” laughs Lord. “We never once thought that this would be something people think about come awards season, but we did think about holding ourselves to that high standard.”
“I personally was nervous that people were going to discount it because it felt like a big toy advert,’ adds Miller.
That’s why they deliberately set out to mock the brand, or as Miller puts it, ‘gently nibbling the hand that feeds us.”
“They understood from the get-go that this was something that can’t feel like an advert, it has to feel like it’s a thing a fan made,” says Lord.
One of the biggest challenges they faced was convincing Lego when it came to the twist ending.
WARNING: HUGE SPOILER ALERT!
The finale of the film reveals that the movie’s narrative has actually taken place inside the imagination of a young boy and that the baddie President Business is actually based on his dad (Will Ferrell). The movie shifts from animation to live action as we cleverly see how all the elements of the plot are creations of a child upset at his father.
“It was a hard decision to stick with,” admits Lord. “I think we all thought it was really interesting and it was part of the movie from the beginning. But it was easy to lose faith in it because it was expensive to shoot, it was a big risk and the rest of the movie started to work really well.”
“We almost didn’t get to shoot it because there was so much nervousness about it,” Miller reveals. “Even though we ourselves weren’t sure it was going to work, we convinced them to let us get the shot. We promised them if it didn’t work, we had back-up plans, which we didn’t really. It takes an adjustment for the audience, but I’m proud of how that put the whole movie into a different kind of context.”
Laughs Lord, “We’re very cavalier with other people’s money, I guess.”
But what does that mean for the sequel? Where do they go from here?
“We’ve had many, many discussions about that as regards the sequel,” says Miller. What are we saying the nature of free will…there are things that are implied by that ending.”
“We’re finally starting to write it,” says Lord.
You can see whether they pull it off when ‘The Lego Movie 2’ is released in 2018.
The first film is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.
Photos: Jim Smeat/BEI/Everett/Sony/Warner Bros./Action Press/Rex