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The Bad Guys Interview: Director Pierre Perifel on Anime Influences, Making Wolf Likable

ComingSoon spoke with The Bad Guys director Pierre Perifel about DreamWorks’ latest animated hit, if he’s begun thinking of an idea for a sequel, and how anime influenced the movie. It is out now on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.

Tyler Treese: I was reading some of your previous interviews. You talked about how anime influenced the film. Can you particularly speak to just some of the specific influences and how it kind of manifested?

Pierre Perifel: Yes, you’re right. It is a little bit of a display of my influences for sure. What I grew up with and what I loved. Definitely, it’s an homage to my French heritage, where I come from really, because I think France for the longest time has had a very deep graphic novel scene and animation scene. It’s one of the biggest animation industry in the world. But the thing is, we’ve been at the crossroad of so many influences. Japan, for sure, the U.S., obviously, and then some European countries around it, both in terms of the graphic novels, the movies, and the animation.

Therefore I grew up with all that. When I came here, in the U.S., I think anime was not as known as what we had in Europe. So I grew up with all the Dragon Balls and the early Miyazaki movies and TV shows. A lot of those have been sticking with me. I think the arrival of streaming has kind of brought more anime here now, but up until recently, it’s not been the case. So I wanted to kind of explore that a little bit on the screen. Just what is the animation style that we are talking about? What is the look of the characters, the designs, and all of this?

I wanted to change a little of that. What is the graphic nature, what this movie would be. Making sure that it kind of comes across a slightly different from what we usually see in animation in Hollywood, in the big CGI movies from Hollywood. So all of that kind of fed into this. I wanted to do something different and also I could use all my influences to do that. Definitely Miyazaki, Dragon Ball, there’s FLCL. There is a bit of Cowboy Bebop definitely. In the French form, there would be Ernest & Celestine, The Big Bad Wolf … and all these comic graphic novels, Christophe Blain, all these movies, basically some Luc Besson, definitely, and then a lot of the live-action references would be The Italian Job and Ocean’s Eleven, Snatch, Baby Driver, and Tarantino movies.

The character of Wolf is just so slick and so sly. I love him in the film and he reminded me a lot of Lupin the 3rd where you’re really rooting for him. There are also some moments where he’s jumping on the top of people’s heads in a familiar way. Was Castle of Cagliostro an influence there?

Oh, of course, absolutely. Castle of Cagliostro. Sherlock Hound as well. Have you seen this? Same thing. Early Miyazaki career. He did episodes of that TV show, which was absolutely brilliant. He’s brilliant. There is definitely that style of posing, that style of action, that was the references that I give, I gave my animation team is just, you guys study this, try to understand how it’s done. What is the side of posing we’re talking about? What is the timing, the rhythm of that animation, everything is much more illustrated than just a very realistic type of acting. It’s much more in a way characterized and everything holds within this kind of this stupidity, if you will, of the posing and they totally managed to find their own voice through it. It’s not exactly that, but it’s definitely inspired, you know?

What was your process when coming up with the characters and making them likable, because they are on the wrong side of the law, but you’re still rooting for them and they have such a charm to them. So how did you figure that out?

Yeah. That’s not an easy thing to do, frankly. It was really tricky. Well, you know what, in, there is so many movies that talk about villains, and of course, like you said, the first thing you need to make sure you do is make sure that the audience relates to those characters or empathizes with those characters so that they can go onto the adventure and the rest of the film without being like, “What am I looking [at]?” When you talk about a movie like Ocean’s 11, you have live-action actors, just a charisma of a Brad Pitt or a George Clooney who are bad guys, but just their charisma on screen kind of carries so much weight that you kind of fall in love with the character really quickly.

In our case, you don’t have that because those are like synthetic characters. So obviously your actors will help you out, but you have to create those little pockets of goodness in them. Even though they’re supposed to be bad guys, [they’re] learning to become good guys in a way that changed a little bit where it became Wolf kind of longing to belong, as opposed to I’m a bad guy doing just bad stuff. Now I become a good guy with just good stuff. It’s not exactly what we’re talking about anymore. It kind of started there, but now it became more along the lines of an underdog character wanting to become embraced and loved, which is such a relatable desire. Therefore, just by doing that, you immediately empathize with the character.

Okay. I’m now rooting for a character who has been unjustly pitted or categorized as bad and is trying to belong now, and we want to love him. So that character becomes an underdog, but obviously you also do it through the charm of the characters, the witty lines, just a couple of little tricks. Him leaving a tip apologizing and kind of laughing at his own expenses, and I think I think all of these go a long way just to help you emphasize with the character.

The film’s been such a success critically and commercially and the ending obviously sets up a sequel. So have you thought about any ideas for The Good Guys or some type of sequel?

You can’t help, but want to see them again. I’m with you on this one. Obviously, it is not a decision that I am making. It’s a whole studio process. So I can’t tell you if there’s gonna be another one, but I would love to see another one for sure. Just kind of thinking a little bit of where that story would go and what could we do with these characters, because you just wanna see them again.

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