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Actor Will Arnett talks about his upcoming roles in movies for kids

January 17, 2014
JASON MERRITT—GETTY IMAGES

The Nut Job actor Will Arnett ("Surly") poses for a photo with actress Katherine Heigl ("Andie") and a pug that resembles the character "Precious" at the animated movie's premiere.

Ratatouille voice actor Will Arnett takes the lead in a new rodent-starring movie, The Nut Job, in theaters January 17. The movie is based on a short film from 2005 by director Peter Lepeniotis. Arnett voices Surly, a mischievous squirrel living in a city park. After accidentally destroying the park animals’ winter food supply, Surly plans to take over a nut shop. “Surly learns that through teamwork, he can do anything,” Arnett told TFK. “It’s a fun, animal-filled action/heist movie.”

Arnett, who also stars in the upcoming films The LEGO Movie and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, says having two young sons has given him a greater appreciation for family movies. “Anytime kids can experience good storytelling, I’m happy to be a part of that,” Arnett says. Read on for more from the actor.

Arnett voices Surly, a mischevious, independent squirrel, in The Nut Job.

TOONBOX ENTERTAINMENT, OPEN ROADS FILMS
Arnett voices Surly, a mischevious, independent squirrel, in The Nut Job.

TFK:

What adventures does Surly get into in The Nut Job?

ARNETT:

Surly is a squirrel who lives within Liberty Park. All the animals that live in the park get together and build a sort of war chest of food for the winter. Surly, in the opening part of the film, sees a nut cart and decides to go get some nuts for himself, which leads to a crazy chase, which ends up exploding the entire winter supply of food. Surly is banished from the park. He’s a guy who is kind of looking out for himself. He’s got a bit of an edge, and then all of a sudden he’s forced to go live in the city on his own, and it’s kind of scary.

TFK:

As someone who has lived in New York, do you think city squirrels like Surly have it harder than other squirrels?

ARNETT:

I do think city squirrels have it harder. Certainly in New York City, the squirrels are a little tougher. They have to deal with all the other animals that live in the city. They don’t have as much readily available food as a squirrel living out in a village or a country. They have to be pretty on top of it when it comes to finding their nuts.

TFK:

If given free reign at a nut shop, what would be the first type you would go for?

ARNETT:

I think the first nuts I would go for would be salted cashews. And then, if they had honey-roasted peanuts . . . I’m a big fan.

TFK:

Who is your favorite character in the movie?

ARNETT:

It’s hard to play favorites. Of course, Surly has his buddy, Buddy, who is really great and probably the most loyal to him through everything. The new friend he makes is Precious the dog, voiced by Maya Rudolph, and Precious is a pretty funny dog. They meet her, and she is working with these humans who are planning an actual bank heist as a simultaneous storyline. She’s kind of scary to them at first, [but] she ends up working on the team with them. That’s a really funny, fun relationship.

TFK:

You also voiced Batman in the upcoming The LEGO Movie. Was that a childhood dream realized?

ARNETT:

Yes. What can you say about Batman? He’s such an iconic character. And so the opportunity to do that was just a dream come true.

TFK:

You have two young sons. How are you at LEGO building?

ARNETT:

You know, I’m pretty good, I have to say. I have a lot of practice.

TFK:

You also filmed a role in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. How was the experience of filming an action movie in New York?

ARNETT:

That was great. Of course, that story has always been set in New York. It’s almost like New York is another character in that film. So to be there in my adopted hometown and shoot that film with this iconic comic story and characters was really excellent. Working with the guys who are going to be the turtles was really fun.

TFK:

What do you enjoy most about being a part of movies for kids and families?

ARNETT:

Having two boys of my own, I watch a lot of kids’ TV shows and films. I have a newfound appreciation for family films that I feel comfortable letting my kids watch and that I can also enjoy on a certain level myself. I really appreciate when people make great shows and films for kids that have a good message and keep kids engaged. When I was a kid, there wasn’t much out there [for kids], but there were all these great stories. When I was seven, Star Wars came out, and that was so impactful on me—and all of us—back then. 


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