Brad Bird’s Pixar hit Incredibles 2 delivers the same superhero thrills as the first film, but with a distaff twist: This time, Holly Hunter’s Elastigirl is the main protagonist of the movie, fighting crime in the big city while her husband Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) tries to put out domestic fires at home. The role reversal is something Bird thought of while he was promoting the first Incredibles film in 2004, but he didn’t let Hunter in on the plot twist until over a decade later. Even when she signed on to record her performance, Hunter says she never saw a full script for the Pixar movie.
“With Batman v. Superman, I had part of a script, a fragment, but that was under lock and key for all different reasons,” Hunter told Vulture this month. “Incredibles 2 wasn’t under lock and key, but that’s part of the methodology of constructing an animated movie: It’s made out of order in a way that a regular movie isn’t.”
Still, Hunter was eager to make the sequel, and she put her full faith in Bird once she heard his pitch for Incredibles 2. “After watching the first movie, you know Brad is a guy you can trust,” she said. “But Brad is the keeper of the flame and the keeper of the secret, because there’s no way that he can fully explain what it is he’s working on.”
Hunter recalled that when she signed on to the first Incredibles movie in the early days of Pixar, she thought she understood what Bird had in mind, but she was gobsmacked once she saw the finished film. “I’m an actress who’s done television, stage, and movies, but animation was a whole different process that I was unfamiliar with,” said Hunter. “It was a total shock to see the movie. Frankly, I was not prepared for that — it was kind of disembodying, the first time.”
This time around, Hunter had a better idea of how the process would work, but since Elastigirl is away from her family for most of the film and Hunter only read the scenes her character appears in, fully half the movie was surprising to her. Even her own moments contained some revelations: Though Elastigirl spends many scenes with characters voiced by Catherine Keener and Bob Odenkirk, Hunter never recorded with those actors, instead relying on Bird to play the other roles. Somehow, you’d never know the difference.
“Dazzling would be the word,” said Hunter. “When the movie was finished, I felt like I’d been somewhere else, like it was something I had to come out of. It’s not easy to have so many different story lines that are fully developed and work in concert with one another. That’s a real feat, because they’re big story lines that require a lot of action and information and setup, and Brad delivers it really seamlessly.”
She’ll now embark on an Incredibles 2 press tour more time-consuming than most of the live-action movies she’s made, but Hunter says she doesn’t mind at all. “To be involved in something this good,” she said, “it’s amazing.”