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Why Galyn Susman And Angus MacLane Needed Chris Evans In Lightyear - Exclusive

Some original "Toy Story" fans may be a little miffed that Tim Allen won't be reprising his role as Buzz Lightyear in Pixar's "Lightyear," but that's for good reason: The Buzz in the self-titled film is an entirely new character. The Buzz we see in the "Toy Story" franchise is a more two-dimensional toy version of the space ranger, and the filmmakers wanted to distinguish between the "Toy Story" Buzz and the character who starred in Andy's favorite movie. As it turns out, "Lightyear" producer Galyn Susman and writer-director Angus MacLane had one name in mind from the very beginning when finding a voice actor for the new-yet-familiar hero: Chris Evans.

"Lightyear" is filled to the brim with Hollywood stars who essentially all fell into place once the film nabbed Evans in the leading role. During an exclusive interview with Looper, Galyn Susman and Angus MacLane revealed why they always wanted Evans to voice Buzz. They also dished on how the rest of the casting came about and what the other actors brought to the film in their roles.

Buzz always had to be Evans

Reflecting on why everyone wanted Evans to play Buzz, Angus MacLane said, "We originally thought of Chris for the role because [we] wanted to change the character from a side character, a comic relief, to the protagonist. In doing so, we were going to have to expand and make the character a bit deeper, but we wanted to not lose the comedic roots." 

Of course, a fully fleshed-out Buzz movie opens the possibility for a more fleshed-out Buzz — and Evans ran with that concept. "[Chris'] performance style allows for a character that has a lot of depth to it and a lot of comedy while not undercutting the drama through the comedy. He has a way to be self-deprecating and very funny," MacLane explained, citing Captain America as another role where Evans demonstrated these qualities. "He influenced it in a lot of ways, and then we would try things out and see what worked best for his particular take on the character. A lot of it is expanding the character and capitalizing on his acting talents."

Further reflecting on the casting, MacLane reiterated, "We always wanted Chris. James Brolin, I always liked his performance, but his voice just fit. It had the gravitas for Zurg."

It's a star-studded cast (and not just because they're in space)

Galyn Susman noted that answering questions about the story, such as what would help Buzz grow as a character, had to happen before they could cast the other roles. But from there, it was smoother sailing: "We had to figure out what Buzz's arc was going to be before we could even begin to understand who we needed to cast," she said. "They all [came to us], pretty quickly, once we knew who those characters needed to be, the voices that we wanted to go in."

Angus MacLane praised the ensemble, saying, "The cast is really great. One thing ... Keke Palmer was really useful as a foil for Buzz — her ability to be really charming and rapid-fire direct as she is. She's this force of nature, and it worked really well, rhythm-wise, with the character." He added, "Uzo [Aduba] had to be a character that could be commanding and poke at Buzz without us being defensive about, 'Oh, she's picking on Buzz.' She had to have this warmth to her. It's a really tricky balance, and she had to have the gravitas of the commander." And she's certainly the one in charge, as Susman noted.

MacLane concurred, adding, "She's better than Buzz, and you believe it. She could go toe to toe with Chris, and they work really well together."

"Lightyear" premieres exclusively in theaters on June 17.