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'Wreck-It Ralph' star bites into candy-coated voice role

Published On: Mar 11 2013 05:56:20 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 14 2013 02:15:08 PM CDT
King Candy (voice of Alan Tudyk, inset) in Wreck It Ralph

Walt Disney Pictures

King Candy (voice of Alan Tudyk, inset) in "Wreck-It Ralph"

Veteran live action and animated voice actor Alan Tudyk loves taking on a variety of roles, and throughout his career he's had plenty of chances to play both good and evil.

The great thing is about Tudyk's latest project, the blockbuster animated hit "Wreck-It Ralph" is he gets to be both with the pivotal role of King Candy -- the ruler of the Sugar Rush video game who has a serious hidden agenda.

"I've always liked roles that have a dark turn in them, and King Candy's is the darkest," Tudyk told me, laughing, in a recent interview.

New on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D (Walt Disney Home Entertainment), "Wreck-It Ralph" is about Ralph (John C. Reilly), a lonesome, 8-bit retro video game character who is sick of being the bad guy. Day after day, Ralph wrecks the Niceland high-rise apartment complex so all-around good guy Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) can put it back together and become the hero.

Leaving behind his home (sadly, a pile of bricks) to travel across other generations of video games in the hopes of becoming a hero himself, Ralph is suddenly catapulted into the candy-coated cart-racing game Sugar Rush, where he meets the tiny but feisty Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a misfit in the game's world because she's a glitch.

Unfortunately, Ralph's first true friendship may be a short one, since he inadvertently unleashed a deadly enemy on his quest to become a hero. With the help of Vanellope, Felix and an action hero game soldier, Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), Ralph goes on a quest to stop the enemy before it destroys everything.

For Tudyk -- who's done multiple voice roles, including three "Ice Age" films, as well as such television series as "Young Justice," "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" -- approaching an animated film isn't so much about concentrating on the sort of take he'll give the voice, but the written word it's based upon.

"You approach each project pretty much the same way -- you just start with the script. I had this great class in school that taught about how to approach a script," Tudyk recalled. "It's amazing how what I learned in that one semester class is what I still use. It all starts with your script and your source material. You need to keep reading it. Something will pop out at a certain point. Questions start to come up in your head and you start to see it clearer and clearer with each read-through."

For "Wreck-It Ralph," Tudyk said brilliance popped out of script in several places.

"I love 'Wreck-It Ralph' for its story-telling," Tudyk said. "It was so effective, the way everybody's performances rolled out. It just worked for me -- I even cried a couple of times."

The road to final version of "Wreck-It Ralph" was an interesting one for Tudyk, who first participated in a table read of the script a couple years back with Silverman, McBrayer and Lynch (Reilly wasn't involved in the project yet). He said as the story was being developed, the role of King Candy kept getting bigger and bigger.

"As the character kept coming out of me, they were witnessing the birth of a funny, evil guy, and the filmmakers kept pushing the evil and his silliness," Tudyk said. "By the end, it was a bigger thing than I ever could have imagined."

Another thing that happened on the project that was unexpected was that Tudyk got to record dialogue with Reilly. It's a rarity that two performers are actually in the same recording studio at the same time on animated films, but this time the coupling of the Ralph and King Candy characters made a huge difference.

"Those turned out to be my favorite scenes. It was invaluable to have that. You can't anticipate what you're going to get from another actor, and you realize you end up doing that when there isn't someone there to record with you," Tudyk said. "You just sort of generalize who that other character is, but when you're with someone else, you just have so much more to react off of and it elevates your performance -- especially when that person is John C. Reilly. I liked him going into the project, and I'm even a bigger fan now because he was such a professional."

Tudyk said above all, he admired Reilly's dedication to the project. Tudyk recalled that the acclaimed actor wasn't there to wreck things, he was there to help build "Ralph" into the best film it could be.

"He wasn't just coming in and reading the dialogue -- he had been working on the script and had really great ideas," Tudyk said. "When the script was off a bit from what the character had been doing prior to that -- if he slipped a little bit, John would point it out and say, 'Is this in keeping with what we've been doing?' If the answer was 'no,' what we came up with at the moment was so much richer and so much better."

Tudyk said Reilly's contributions were so valuable, in fact, that he was recognized in the credits for more than his voice acting.

"He got some sort of additional story credit," Tudyk said. "I'm sure getting that credit does not come easy and it has to be deserved -- and from my sessions with John, it was."

Look for Tudyk ("Firefly," "Serenity," "Suburgatory" and the under-appreciated horror comedy "Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil") to next star as controversial player-turned-manager Ben Chapman in the upcoming Jackie Robinson baseball biopic "42."

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