Michael Cera Talks Sausage Party, Sequels & Severed Heads | EXCLUSIVE
There's one scene in Sausage Party that brings this soiree to a screeching halt. And it features the severed head of a junkie voiced by James Franco, who was tweaking out on bath salts at the time of his demise. The moment is both shocking and funny, shot in a way that is more disturbing than most horror movies. And it's a scene you wouldn't necessarily expect to find in an animated musical comedy that features singing food and swearing douches. Or perhaps it is.
The severed head in question is dropped through a vent in a grocery store by a diminutive hot dog with a deformed head named Barry. He's been through a lot, and his treatment of this bodiless head is borderline psychotic. But poor little Barry doesn't know any better. He's just returning from his first trip into the real world. And what he's seen on the other side of those sliding glass doors, and what becomes of his former isle dwelling friends is way more visceral and appalling than a simple severed head.
Arrested Development and Super Bad star Michael Cera stars as Barry, but you might not immediately recognize his voice. While Sausage Party boasts a strong cast of comedy icons, their characters are their own things, and don't necessarily sail on voice recognition alone. Barry is no exception. He's a lot smaller than his other Sausage friends. And this attribute helps him escape the clutches of a crazy baby (carrot) eating monster of a woman god who has taken Barry and his pals home to cook their flesh and consume their souls. After watching his friends die in the most gruesome ways possible, poor lil' Barry is able to escape. But his adventures in getting back to the grocery store prove to be quite a harrowing challenge.
Barry is one of the breakout animated stars of Sausage Party, though there are a few. He starts out as a sidekick to Seth Rogen's Frank, but soon embarks on his own dangerous mission, meeting new friends and learning the awful truth about what happens to the food that gets chosen to go 'home'. When he finally makes his way back to his original destination, he comes packing some newfound knowledge that might just save everyone else.
Sausage Party opens this weekend in theaters across the country. And we guarantee it's not like any other animated comedy you've seen this year. Possibly every. There are food orgies. Angry douches. Suicides. Cuss words. And sex. Lots and lots of food sex. To celebrate the movie's impending release, and to celebrate this weirdly wonderful slice of depravity, we caught up with Michael Cera to talk about his role as Barry, severed heads, possible sequels and more. Here is our conversation. Enjoy.
I've seen the movie. While it certainly has a stellar ensemble cast, Sausage Party doesn't necessarily bank on the recognition of the actors in terms of their voices. Seth is easily recognizable. But the rest of these characters stand on their own. I didn't immediately recognize your voice as Barry. Can you tell us a little bit about Barry so audiences know who you're playing?
Michael Cera: Barry is the one that has the dented center. He has a divot in the top of his head. He has his own adventure. He winds up with the guy shooting heroine. The guy who is doing Bath Salts.
In This is the End, they only gave you a short little cameo. Was this much more substantial role in Sausage Party to make up for that?
Michael Cera: To be honest, I have no idea how they go about making these decisions. (Laughs) I actually had no idea how big this part would be in terms of how substantial Barry would be. They asked me, and I didn't need too many details to come on board. I just learned as we went what my purpose and mission was.
Can I get your take on the movie after you saw it? I don't want to say I was shocked, but I certainly was taken aback by some of the imagery and ideas that are on display in this movie. Especially in terms of what you guys get away with. It's a very different kind of beast, to say the least.
Michael Cera: Yeah. Well, it's funny. I don't know how those voices really work. Especially when it comes to the MPAA, and the people who decide what a movie should be rated. Who should see it. But perhaps there is something about the fact that it is food, and it is a cartoon. It is this imaginary heightened world, which makes the delivery of the tone a little less extreme. But I don't know. If you think about it, I don't think this movie is more extreme than Pineapple Express. In terms of violence or language. And that was an R. It makes sense that this shakes down as an R rating.
Let's talk about the severed head for a moment. That's probably the most disturbing scene in the movie. Not only how it's handled, but also the way it's shot. It is startlingly realistic for an animated comedy...
Michael Cera: Yup, I know. (Laughs) There is just a total disregard for human life. It's a reversal of fortune. The food has been the one at the receiving end of this brutality for all of history. At least in this story. (Laughs) And then they get to turn the tables. It's like a little man rising story!
And to be clear, this is not a movie that has any kind of weird food agenda. It is not trying to point audiences towards veaganism, or a gluten-free diet. It doesn't speak for eating just meat. It's an equal food offender.
Michael Cera: No, no, no! I mean, the lettuce gets it pretty bad! Veagans get the finger pointed at them too!
One of the problems I found with the movie is, it's really hard to connect with these characters on an emotional level. Food, if you let it sit, is going to get moldy. It's going to rot. You can't really develop any sort of feelings for these characters, cause you know they can't be sustained...
Michael Cera: Well, I'm sure you are entering into a worm hole of logic that was discussed endlessly. For years. I don't know! I just did an interview with Seth. And I asked him, what do you think the story behind the cow that became the hot dog was? Was the cow a magical being? Or is the hot dog representing the afterlife of this inanimate meat that used to be the cow? And somehow in the processing of it takes on a magical consciousness? You know what I mean. All of these conversations were turned over, and over and over.
I Like that concept!
Michael Cera: Yeah, I know! That's good meat!
They set this up for a sequel. Is this something that is actually being discussed where the character of Barry is actually going to meet you in live action, where it will be some weird live-action CGI hybrid?
Michael Cera: I have no idea. I guess that depends on whether or not the movie is wildly successful. Probably. If people like it. You're right. The table is set for it. We haven't had those kinds of discussions. But I don't think they'd have to have those kinds of discussions with the cast. I think it would...It's such an easy thing to say yes to. To be part of this metaphoric adventure.
Well, here's what I want to know. You die right off the bat in This is the End. And everyone else is in heaven by the end of it. Would Sausage Party 2 take place in the Rogen Universe timeline before This is the End?
Michael Cera: Oh, man! I bet they leave no stone unturned if they actually do go down that road. I don't know what I'd want to see in a movie where it's food and live action bits.
This is interesting in that it is a Pixar spoof. Early on Evan Goldberg said they were trying to take them down a notch...
Michael Cera: Oh, I don't think they're trying to take them down a notch! I think these guys have a lot of reverence towards Pixar actually. I wonder what notch he is taking Pixar down to? How could that be? But I don't know...If they were to do a live-action hybrid animation movie, it would be very violent. Like you're saying, the violence in the animation is pretty graphic in this movie. If it were live action, I think it would have to double down on that.
Here's the thing, if I saw that scene with Barry and the severed head in a live action movie, I don't think it would have effected me so much. I don't think it would have phased me in the same way.
Michael Cera: Oh, really. That's weird to say. I think there is something to that. It is so tough watching cartoons get hurt. The first time I saw the trailer, I thought, 'Wow, this is really impactful.' Because it's assassinating your childhood in a way. It's hurting cartoons. It's this thing that appeals to children. They think this is a world where there is no danger.
I remember my dad had a coloring book that I wasn't allowed to look at. Because it was pretty naughty. This speaks to that taboo. It's a cartoon that appeals to kids, but they aren't allowed to see it. Did you have anything like that when you were a kid. That you knew you couldn't watch, which made it even more exciting?
Michael Cera: Did you ever get to look at that coloring book?
Yeah, eventually. And I was pretty disappointed. It wasn't very sexy, but it was like monsters that were kind of sexy...Maybe...It was kind of deflating to finally see it. But kids want to see this, and it's off guards. Did you have anything like that when you were growing up?
Michael Cera: Yeah, I remember when Scary Movie came out. I was like, 11. And I really wanted to see Scary Movie. Because a friend saw it. And described it. He described the best sequences. And I begged my dad. I asked my dad to take me to see it. And he wouldn't let me. He thought better of it. But it was that thing, like you're saying, when you finally saw the coloring book. It takes away whatever power in your imagination that it has. You know?