neil patrick harris gone girlIf you only know Neil Patrick Harris from his role as the charmingly rakish lothario on "How I Met Your Mother," then you don't know Neil Patrick Harris.

Harris has an insane amount of range and just as much talent. This year alone he closed out "How I Met Your Mother," starred in "The Smurfs 2" and won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for the Broadway revival of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." Now that's something.

This week, Harris can be seen in David Fincher's stone cold masterpiece "Gone Girl," where he plays Desi, the untrustworthy ex-boyfriend of a Missouri woman (played by Rosamund Pike) who goes missing, putting her husband (Ben Affleck) in the crosshairs of both the police investigation and the media spotlight.

We got to sit down and chat with Harris about what it was like working for the notoriously demanding Fincher, whether or not he's still a part of the in flux Pixar movie "The Good Dinosaur," the possibility of another round of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," and how he wound up as the voice of California Screamin', our favorite rollercoaster at Disney California Adventure.

Moviefone: How familiar were you with the book before signing on?

Neil Patrick Harris: I hadn't read the book. I had heard it was a big book but I have been too busy with babies and TV shows to sit down and read a book about anything. Then I got a call that David Fincher wanted to have lunch and talk about this as a movie and I didn't even know it was going to be a movie. So I quickly grabbed the book and read it ferociously and I loved it. Then I found out the part and how exciting that could be and wanted the meeting to go well.

Was there any trepidation on your part about taking on a role in something that so many people had already consumed?

No, there was no trepidation. There was just enthusiasm. I've always thought that I'd be a good fit for David Fincher because I had heard that he was very meticulous and that he spends a lot of time on the process and on takes and on repetition. And I love the same thing. I make it a point to always take a bite of my food in a dinner scene at the exact same time during a take so the editor doesn't have to worry about me. And I think that's in line with Fincher's world and I was hungry to get a shot at it.

What was that whole process like? Because you say "meticulous" while others say "demanding."

Yeah, people ask me about his process as if it's bad. But I mean demanding is a good thing for the director. You're directing a movie where you're demanding things of other people. That's the design of what his role is. And I've been on a few movies where you spend a lot of time lighting a scene or getting a dolly move down and you realize you're behind and the actors come in and you film it as fast as you can and move on to the next thing. It's a weird pace.

I'm fine with it because it forces you to be as good as you can be as quickly as you can be, because you don't have time to ramp into it. But David reverses that trend, where there's less time lighting it because he's already worked that out and he spends more time doing takes so you get into the flow and the takes are one right after another. There's not a lot of "let's re-light it for an hour." You don't have time to check your phone or get a snack, it's a lot of you do the scene, you get a couple of notes, then you do the scene again. So it doesn't feel exhausting. It almost feels like you're dancing. If I could have ever subsequent movie directed by David Fincher, I'd be a lucky man.

Was there any more stuff with your character? Because there's a little bit more of him in the book.

No, thankfully, every scene we filmed of mine was in the movie. That was one of my fears -- that I'd be in a David Fincher movie and be I'd be edited straight out of a David Fincher movie. Because Desi is one of those characters that is intriguing yes, but certainly not the protagonist.

How did you see this character?

I wanted it to take a long time for an audience to have a sense of who he actually is. So I tried to make decisions as an actor in those initial scenes that were hard to read. And I think it speaks to a larger conceit in the movie which is -- the media is being skewered for passing judgment on an individual and his guilt without a lot of information. Then you meet Desi halfway through the movie and automatically think he's creepy, even though he only says a couple of lines and they're not very creepy but because people have said throughout the movie that maybe there's this creepy guy to blame, you're kind of doing what the media is doing, but towards my character. And I kind of liked that. I didn't want to make anyone feel comfortable and I didn't want it to seem like I was trying to be creepy.

So, let's look into the future -- the movie is a big hit and ten years later there's a Broadway musical.

[Laughs] "Gone Girl" with an exclamation point.

Right. "Gone Girl!" Now you're in it.

I get re-cast as Desi again...

Yes. You're in it. What is Desi's big musical number?

"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."

Now, you're a big Disney guy and I know this because every time I go to California Adventure...

My voice is there!

Yeah, how did that happen?

How did that happen? I think I had done some voice over for a Disney animated TV show and expressed my enthusiasm to do something like that. And the casting director for the TV show knew the people that did the theme park stuff, so my name got into the mix for that. They were revamping the back part of California Adventure and they didn't want it to be so surfer dude; they wanted it to be more old school carnival barker, more of a "hurry, hurry, step right up" voice. So they asked if I could do it and it was my favorite thing ever. I got to do a bank of sounds, like the, "Remain in your seat" thing. "Hold tight!"

Speaking of Disney-related things, you're in the upcoming Pixar movie "The Good Dinosaur." Or are you still in it?

As far as I know I'm still in it. I don't really know anything. I can't answer that in a cagey way, like I'm not supposed to say. I just don't know. The last session I did was with Bob Peterson, the previous director. So I'm not sure if they're using all of the vocals that I did for the future incarnation or they're redesigning or restructuring and they're going to come back to me. Those Pixar things have an amazingly long lead time, so I don't know what their plan is. I love working with them in that process. I've done voice over work in movies before, and they're so creatively intuitive and respectful of the fun of it all. So when you get flown out there and get to go to Emeryville, it's how you want to live your life! They're playing field hockey and the lunches are fantastic and everyone's cubicle is remarkable. So fingers crossed that my character doesn't end up with his throat slit.

What is the appeal of the voice over stuff? Now you have kids, so they can watch it.

Part of it is appealing to that demographic, to be able to have kids amused. But it's also a very exacting science, with a lot of content, because your inflections have to be really specific. It's more like singing with a speaking voice. So I try to be as specific and methodical as I can. It's crazy. At some point you just have to say, "Tell me exactly how you want me to say it and I'll say it." So it's a lot of mimicry. It's a lot of fun. And a couple of years later you get to see something really cool that you were involved with.

Has there been any talk about reviving "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog"?

I think everyone would love to see Dr. Horrible have another chapter, but we're all involved in these projects that are long-lead projects. Joss just did "Avengers 2" so that's going to take a long time to edit to previewing to re-shooting to opening. And once that's done he has to have the time to focus on finishing writing "Dr. Horrible" and shooting it and who's to say that Nathan is free, that I'm free. The joy of being able to make that first one was that it was during a writer's strike and we were all available. Hopefully the writers find something wrong with their contract so we can revisit it.

But it's still something that you'd like to do?

Oh totally. Joss is hilarious in his comfortable genius. And to get to spend time on set with him is hilarious.

Before I get the boot, I just wanted to ask you about one of my favorite movies of yours: "Starship Troopers." What did you think when you saw your outfit at the end? Did you say, "Oh I'm an SS officer in a movie about space bugs?"

I knew about that because I had done all the wardrobe fittings and everything. So I knew about the big boots and the leather coat and the SS stuff. But I thought it was interesting that, while we were making the movie, it was not intended to be comedy. I don't know if it was ever intended to be comedy. It was supposed to be more commentary, with a society that becomes grossly Arian and how that turns all other species into bugs and they all need to die. But when you watch it later, it's intentionally funny and ironic and while we were making it, all of those comedy moments were not eliciting laughter.

It's fun to laugh at myself now, I suppose.

"Gone Girl" opens everywhere October 5.


categories Interviews, Movies