The actor who plays Hud talks about the film, future projects and the website he doesn't have
While you may not have seen a lot of TJ Miller in the hit movie Cloverfield, you sure did hear a lot from this improv comedy specialist, who makes his feature debut in Cloverfield. Miller played the cameraman Hud, providing much of the comic releif in the film and I had the chance to speak with him over the phone about the movie. Here's what he had to say.
I talked to Michael (Stahl-David) and Lizzy (Caplan) already and they had some pretty interesting audition stories, but this was your first feature ever. What was your auditioning process like?
TJ Miller: I showed up 45 minutes late, very hungover...
TJ Miller: They didn't tell us what this thing was, or what it was about and, to me, I just wasn't too ecstatic about that. It actually ended up being really good for me because I was just very real and very funny. I was the first person they saw for Hud and the first person cast in the film.
Oh, really? Nice.
TJ Miller: Yeah, it was pretty good. My auditioning trick was when I first got there - this was for the first, not the callback - I went in and they had me read and they gave me the wrong side. They gave me the side for Rob. It was stuff like, 'Listen, my father was a military man and he used to keep a diary. Every day he wrote in it.' It was this super-dramatic thing and I remember as I was reading it and when I went over it, in my mind I was like, 'Did they not listen to me in the meeting?' Because I'm a comedian and that's what I wanna do. As soon as I finished the audition, the casting director goes 'Yeah, that was really good, and also not at all the right side, so I apologize for that and we're gonna have to get you the right one.' So they gave me the side for Hud, you know, excitable and funny and it was a lot better.
You're coming from an improv background and Michael said there was a lot of improv in the movie, but it was scripted. Was there a bit of a transition coming into a script where you can't make everything up by yourself?
TJ Miller: Well, you know, I'm a comedian, first and foremost, and second. I also studied in BADA, the British-American Dramatic Academy and I've done a lot of acting in college. I had a minor in theater, which is a very important part of my education, naturally. It wasn't really a stretch. I'm trained in theater so I was excited and I was also in Carpoolers by that time. It was exciting because they did let me improvise a lot, which was great for me.
How much of a percentage would you say was Hud improvised and how much was scripted?
TJ Miller: I mean, it was a great script by Drew Goddard, but I improvised a lot. It was a good quarter or a half of everything we did. Maybe 25 percent of it was improvised. 33.3 percent, 33.3 repeating.
(Laughs) OK. So the whole project was so secretive. Were you even allowed to tell your friends or family what you were even doing? Was it that well-kept of a secret?
TJ Miller: They told us not to, they really really did. They said 'Don't tell your family, don't tell your friends, don't tell anybody.' What I did, was I was whispering into the willows. It's hard for me to keep a secret so I just whispered it into the willows.
That's got to be tough. You're working with J.J. Abrams and you can't tell anyone.
TJ Miller: I know! The funny thing was I didn't really know who he was. I was in Chicago when I got the movie. I mean, I was in L.A. but I was still living in Chicago. When I finally found out that he did Lost, I realized why everybody was making such a big deal out of it.
Your character Hud was the cameraman. In the movie, did you do all of the filming yourself or any of it?
TJ Miller: About a third of the film was me actually doing it.
So did you talk with the DP at all?
TJ Miller: Yeah, I worked closely with the camera department and the DP and it was pretty crazy. I've never done anything at that scale or like that. It was just really really interesting.
Do you have a favorite story from the set with J.J. or any of the rest of the cast?
TJ Miller: J.J. is so nice and so funny and I have a ton of great stories with him, but one of my favorites is when Matt Reeves came up to me. He said, 'OK, that was a good take.' I said, 'What did you think of it?' He said, 'It was pretty good. Could you actually zoom in about 16 mils to give her a little more head room and then pan left when she finishes talking?' I said, 'OK, what about the acting?' He said 'Oh, that's fine. We just need to see more of the girl.'
(Laughs) You sure picked a hell of a debut for a feature with this. The marketing campaign was just immense. Did you guys have any idea that it would create the kind of buzz that it did? When I talked to Michael and Lizzy they said they were following the buzz as it was going on.
TJ Miller: Yeah. It was the same thing for me. I was following a lot of what was going on, because it was so amazing. There really was a huge following. People just didn't know what this thing was. I was definitely aware of that buzz, that was the most exciting part of it. That's what J.J. does. He's really really great about getting people excited about stuff and having an online following and online buzz.
Are you still doing any improv stuff or are you mainly focussed on acting right now?
TJ Miller: I'm kinda doing both. I'm doing a lot of stand-up. I'm touring and doing stand-up and I actually can link to my website, put that in there, TJMillerDoesNotHaveAWebsite.com.
TJ Miller: I'm also on MySpace. MySpace.com/TJMillerIsNotOnMySpace. But yeah. I've been trying to get that balance. I've always been doing comedy, constantly, but at the same time I'm also doing other acting. Right now I'm filming another movie, a Dreamworks comedy.
Yeah. Is there anything you can tell us about that, She's Out of My League?
TJ Miller: Yeah, that's one I don't get fired if I talk about it. It's Jay Baruchel, who's in Knocked Up and Undeclared and a bunch of other stuff, and it's a comedy about a guy who goes for a guy who's out of his league, hence the title. I play his best friend Stainer, which I'm really excited about, people yelling Stainer at me.
Yeah, I saw that your name was Stainer. I thought that was awesome.
TJ Miller: It's great. Stainer, Hud, Marmaduke, I'm really running the gamut of weird, ridiculous names.
I have to ask everyone, but have you heard of anything about the Cloverfield 2 sequel?
TJ Miller: Nope. Absolutely not. I do know that I won't be in it.
Yes, of course.
TJ Miller: I've got some word about that, but yeah, they're keeping that under wraps. I'm sure that they'll probably do it from the perspective of another group of people. I'm sure if there's anybody that could do the sequel, a la Mission: Impossible III, it's J.J. Abrams.
Yeah, I read in an interview that J.J. said that was a possibility because there was a shot on the bridge where you were filming another guy filming and there was the possibility of that, other people with cameras out there, stuff like that.
TJ Miller: Yeah, that's exactly what they're probably gonna do.
Have you heard anything about Carpoolers? Is that getting picked back up?
TJ Miller: It's not looking good for the old 'Poolers. I'm a little worried about it. I just think the programming wasn't right and the writers strike really took us down.
Is there anything else you're looking at developing now?
TJ Miller: I'm continuing to do stand-up, doing this film and I'm also doing a short film that I wrote and Lizzy Caplan and I are starring in called Successful Alcoholics. It's about a young couple, very successful but constantly shitfaced. It's a fun one. It's got some of the Carpoolers cast and some great comedians so we're figuring that out. I'm also trying to do a DVD with a director that I work with that's tenatively titled Match-Up. It's all different types of comedy stuff. Keep an eye on my website because I've got a lot going on and I keep that updated regularly.
The website that you don't have, of course.
TJ Miller: That's right. Of course (Laughs).
Finally, how would you sum up your entire Cloverfield experience, from beginning to end?
TJ Miller: A lot of screaming, a lot of hard breathing, a lot of holding the camera and three and a half minutes of on-screen time. A lot of secrets, but overall, a really great movie to be a part of. I was glad I could do what I consider to be good, reasonable, truthful comedy in the midst of an action-horror film. That's the thing I love about the film is that it's very different than any other horror film and it's always good to bring my comedy to something that's different and ambitious, like Cloverfield was.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you, TJ. Thanks so much for your time.
TJ Miller: Great, and you know if you have any other questions you can email me and I'd love to see the piece when it's done.
Excellent. Sounds good. I'll email you the link when it goes up.
TJ Miller: Yeah, I'd love that. Thank you.