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Addams Family 2 Director Conrad Vernon Dishes On The New Movie, Voicing Lurch, And Sequels - Exclusive Interview

Everyone's favorite creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky, and altogether ooky family is back in "The Addams Family 2," which follows the creepy clan on a road trip across the United States in an unusual-looking RV. The all-star cast features Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday, and Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester. Joining the fun this time around is Bill Hader as a shady scientist called Cyrus, who manages to drive a wedge between Wednesday and the rest of the Addamses. Unsurprisingly, hijinks and dark jokes about the afterlife ensue.

Looper sat down with the director of "The Addams Family 2," Conrad Vernon, to discuss what fans can expect from the much-anticipated sequel, how he ended up voicing the fan-favorite character of Lurch, and why he thinks "Sausage Party" could inspire a bigger change within the animation industry.

Hitting the road

So "The Addams Family 2" takes us on a wild road trip with the characters. What can viewers expect from the sequel? And why did you want to have the family hit the road?

Well, I think to answer the second question first, why we wanted the family to hit the road is because in the first one we were reintroducing this family to a new generation, basically. We needed the new viewers to know who the Addams Family were, what they were like, what their home was like, how they lived. And so we kept everything pretty tight in the house, or even in just the surrounding neighborhood.

This time we wanted to get them out of the house and on the road so we could show everyone how they interact with normies. Some of my favorite stuff is when normal people came up against the Addams Family and how strange everyone found them. It was always really funny and they were always really nice, the Addams Family, but what they find normal is not what we find normal. And I thought that was always really fun. What was the other question?

What can viewers can expect from the sequel?

Oh well, the viewers can expect a continuation of watching the Addams Family again and their strange ways. But this time, like I said earlier, they're on the road. They're going to be going all over the country and on their own strange adventures, the way they travel is definitely not the way we travel in RVs, but we can relate to some of the ways people get annoyed with each other on road trips.

Wednesday takes the lead

Wednesday has a really big role in this movie. How did that storyline come about?

Well, it was pitched to us by the writers, and I'll be the first to admit that I was like, are people going to buy that Wednesday Addams isn't an Addams? I mean, she's so obviously an Addams, but I have to tell you, they really pitched it and said "This is going to work." And it worked beautifully, they were absolutely right. I was really, really pleased with the way it turned out.

Wednesday is such a strong character, and kind of the focal point of the family for a lot of audience members. Playing with this role that she might not be an Addams, it was really interesting, even if you never buy that she's not an Addams. It was dramatic to actually see that she thought she might not be an Addams and she might leave the family, and then how much that hurts Gomez and Morticia. It's a really good storyline, and I think it turned out really great.

Bill Hader gets in on the action

Bill Hader has a great role in "The Addams Family 2" as suspicious scientist Cyrus. What was it like having him on board?

He was great. I had worked with him on a previous movie, and I know how versatile he is voice-wise, and funnily enough, his regular voice worked beautifully with this character. We just kept his regular voice for this. Although we did have him go quite insane at the end of the movie. I think instead of using different voices, we just kept notching him up towards insanity and more and more crazy; by the end of this, he goes absolutely nuts.

That was really fun working with him and watching him go crazy. Luckily we didn't have him go crazy constantly all the way through the recording sessions. That would have been exhausting. But you know, when you're playing not only a man, but five different animals, Bill Hader's the guy to get, that's for sure.

Director and voice actor

You voiced a lot of the characters in both "Addams Family" movies. Is that something directors always end up doing?

No, it doesn't always happen. I'm not back there casting myself. It's basically what we do, and since I have acted in other movies when we record scratch dialogue, which is temporary dialogue before we get the actors in, sometimes I'll hit upon something and everyone will really like it. And they'll say, "That's hilarious." Sometimes I'll say, "Okay, well, let's go and try to find someone else to do something like this, an actual actor." Sometimes they just can't hit what I've got, and not to mention it's very easy to get me into the booth whenever we need it. Instead of having to book and wait, all that kind of stuff. It doesn't always happen. But when it does happen, it's usually just a minor background role. I mean, I think Lurch is the third character I've played in one of these animated movies where all I do is grunt and groan. I've done Rico from "Penguins of Madagascar." I did the babysitter from "Boss Baby." And now I'm doing Lurch, and there is no dialogue to any of those characters. It's not that I'm some great actor.

Has it been daunting taking on the role of Lurch in "The Addams Family" movies? I know you're saying you're just grunting, but you're still a big part of the movie.

Yeah, it's really fun. I mean basically, when I go in to do all these groans and grunts and everything, I'm looking at the dialogue behind it. What's he really saying? And how do I fit that into a long drawn-out groan? There's a little bit of acting going on in there.

Making the Gingerbread Man

You also played the Gingerbread Man in the "Shrek" franchise. How did that come about? How did you come up with that character?

That came about when I was working on the first "Shrek." What was happening was the storyboard artists were given fairytale characters to go off and basically write and storyboard out their own scenes. And so I got this scene where the villain Lord Farquaad was trying to find out where the rest of the fairytale creatures were being hidden, and it was with the Gingerbread Man.

They gave me that assignment: take Lord Farquaad and the Gingerbread Man, and figure out how did they find out where the rest of the fairytale creatures are. And I was just like, okay, well, how do you extract information from a gingerbread man? You dip him in milk. You break off his little legs. And so I turned it into this interrogation scene.

And when I pitched it to everybody, I used a voice that me and a friend of mine came up with years ago for this little kid character that we had. And I said I'll just use that voice. And people cracked up at it. And again, they tried to get other actors in to do that voice. And whenever they cut it in, they were just like, "It doesn't sound the same," so they just said, "We need you to do this." I was happy to do it, and it went off from there.

Casting John Cleese and Julie Andrews

You've worked on so many projects. You started out on Cartoon Network, and you've worked with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. What are some of the standout moments for you from your career? There must be so many.

There are, there are definitely a lot. I will say one that pops straight into my head that just is a standout is when we had John Cleese as the king in "Shrek 2." And we had Julie Andrews as the queen. And we actually got both of them in the booth at the same time. And I found out that they had never met each other. Being there to watch them actually meet each other and act together for the first time, it was a huge moment. It was pretty great. 

And then I think a standout, I loved working on "Sausage Party" in general. It was a tough movie to get finished because it was so unexpected from the industry. But man, getting to work with all the actors, and getting to do something out of the realm of family movies, was just so much fun. Yeah, those two are definite standouts for me.

And you did quite a lot of voices in "Sausage Party" as well, didn't you?

Oh yeah. There's Toilet Paper and Gum and Potato Chips and Condoms and all these different characters. Again, it's the same thing where we just needed temporary dialogue in there and the voices that were funniest to us stayed.

Sausage Party's strange influence

You've worked in so many different departments, from storyboarding and voice acting to directing. Is there anything you haven't done yet that you want to do? Any dreams?

I can honestly say in animation, I'd love to make more movies for an older audience someday. I liked what we did with "Sausage Party." I think that there is an underserved audience in animation. Ninety-eight percent of this industry is made for six- to eight-year-olds. And I just feel like there's a 15 and up audience for animation.

You could argue that some of the Pixar films skew a little older because they have some really deep themes and they do them so well. I remember when people were just like, "No one wants to see a comic book movie." Now they're the biggest movies ever in the history of movies, they're gigantic free-for-alls. And I just feel like there is an audience for animation that is a little more adult, and I would love to try and break those doors open a little wider.

That's why I loved the first "Addams Family" movie, because it had those darker elements.

It's important to put that in. I always keep an eye out for the adults who have to take their kids to these. I don't want the adults sitting there looking at their watches and going, "Oh God." I want them to be entertained too. And that's what we did with the first "Shrek." If you look at the first "Shrek," you would be surprised at how adult it is. There's the Gingerbread Man saying "Eat me." There's Snow White, dead, brought off the table. There's lines in there that a lot of people wouldn't put in animated films now.

Rounding out the trilogy

Are you hoping for a third "Addams Family" film? What would you like to see the characters do next?

I am hoping for a third "Addams Family" film. That would be great. I mean, people have told us very clearly that they love this family and they love going to see them at the movies. I would love to have there be a third movie. And as far as what a third movie consists of, I think we just need to make sure that it is putting the family into a completely new situation. Something that's going to be the challenge of making these movies is not falling into formula. There's so many franchises that do that because it's a tried and true recipe and no one wants to screw with it, but I think we have to find a way to continue to get crazier and wilder and funner with this family and to continue to try and push the limits of where we go with them. Don't get comfortable.

I feel like you've helped start an "Addams Family" revival because there's the new Tim Burton show, "Wednesday," coming out as well. I feel like you're responsible for that.

Oh, I don't know if he'd agree, but I am looking forward to seeing what he does with it ... I'm glad, I really am glad that we got them back out there because there were kids who had no idea who the Addams Family were. And most of the kids who saw the live-action movies are now in their 30s. There's a whole generation missing out on this family, and I'm glad we brought them back out.

Join the Addams Family as they embark on one twisted road trip in the new trailer for "The Addams Family 2." See it in theaters or on demand on October 1.