Bill Irwin lent his voice to the character TARS in Christopher Nolan’s latest sci-fi thriller “Interstellar,” which hits theaters in 35mm, 70mm and 70 mm IMAX on November 5 and nationwide on November 7.
So what is TARS? It is an advanced robotic machine, which assisted the astronauts on their mission to travel beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars. Bill Irwin’s work on the film was much more hands on than one might think. He didn’t just go into a booth and voice the robot, he was actually on set acting out all of his scenes.
Read what Irwin had to say about working on “Interstellar” at the film’s New York premiere at AMC Lincoln Square:
Tell us about your role in the film.
I play a machine and as Chris Nolan told me on the phone, he said, “Normally, I would find somebody to do the voice afterwards in a studio in LA, but I don’t want to do that.” He said, “I want a character in those scenes.” So after I hung up on the phone, my agent said, “Yeah, I guess you guys found a meeting ground because you should get your passport together and then I was off to Iceland and Canada and Los Angeles.
Tell us about bringing the character TARS to life.
Well, first we spent weeks developing the motion of the machine. So a wonderful stunt guy named Mark Fichera and I were in Burbank learning how to push the metal around to give this creature life and Chris Nolan very assuredly I think invented a machine that has a sort of human personality, but is not shaped like a human. So we kept trying to give him what he said he had in mind and that was step one and then we started to work on the scenes and the production.
The production value on “Interstellar” is stunning, can you speak about being immersed in that environment and on those sets?
Well everybody’s least favorite was in Iceland where you stood in water up to your waste and there was water in every directon as far as you could see. [Chris] was the first in the water and the last out, so there was no room for whining or complaining. Beautiful, gorgeous places we went and long days. And it was the most exhilerating storytelling experience I have ever been a part of. I was usually behind the machine and speaking into a microphone, but I was acting scenes with actors whom I have admired all my life!
Speak about working with your fellow crew members Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley & David Gyasi.
Wes and I and David Gyasi who plays Dr. Romilly … we talked a lot about what it would be like to spend time out there in deep space and I think it informed their human interpretation of how you’d do this. Working on a movie is really hard work. It’s exhilerating, but it’s really hard work.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a TV series. I hope taking a stage show to Broadway. We call it “Old Hats” and those are my two dreams.