Josh Gad is fast becoming Disney’s go-to man when the Mouse House finds itself in need of a hilarious sidekick. He’s played everyone’s favorite sun-loving snowman, Olaf, in the Frozen films, and stole the live-action Beauty and the Beast as Gaston’s bumbling buddy, LeFou. Now, he’s back to steal more scenes as kleptomaniac, over-gown dwarf Mulch Duggins in Disney’s adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, an action-packed fantasy about a child criminal mastermind, a world of fairies, and the bond between a father and his son.
The movie was supposed to hit theaters this year but is going straight to streaming service Disney+ following disruptions to the release schedule on the back of COVID-19, something Gad has mixed feelings about: on the one hand, this spectacle-filled family flick will bring some joy to people at a time when they need it, but on the other hand, “nothing will ever replace the cinema,” he told Rotten Tomatoes.
Ahead of the movie’s digital release, Gad shared his five favorite films, with a big caveat. “I want to preface this by saying I have my five favorite movies to watch of all time, which are Back to the Future, The Goonies, Groundhog Day, The Wizard of Oz, and probably Ratatouille,” he said. “Those are the five movies that I watch over and over again.” He says the movies below are the ones that opened his mind about film: “These are the movies that I think really gave me a perspective on what cinema can be.”
Number five, I would say is There Will Be Blood. I was in a SAG [Screen Actors Guild] screening. The movie had gotten no attention at that point. I saw it before it had come out. I was a massive fan of [writer-director] P.T. Anderson. Obviously, anybody who goes to conservatory – like, Daniel Day-Lewis is core curriculum. I sat there and I watched as this movie began with 20 minutes of silence, basically. And I have never, in the modern era, I have never felt so mesmerized watching a contemporary film in my life. It was so unbelievably daring and brave and phenomenal, and the performances were so bizarre that I couldn’t understand what I was watching. So I would say that would be number five for me.
Number four would be – it’s almost cliché to say this now – but Pulp Fiction. So 1994 was an insane year for cinema. As a kid, I probably saw Lion King six times in the theater that year; as a son, I probably saw Forrest Gump five times in the theater, because my parents kept taking me to it. But as a person coming into my own and realizing what moviemaking could be, that movie was a movie I snuck into and it was called Pulp Fiction. I had never seen anything like it before. It just completely blew my mind wide open with the possibilities of storytelling and introduced me to a filmmaker that wasn’t yet on my radar because, frankly, my parents never allowed me to watch Reservoir Dogs at that time. I remember walking through the looking glass and just having this jaw-dropping experience.
You mentioned you snuck in to see Pulp Fiction. Was that because you were underage? And how did you get in?
Oh yeah, I was under age, and I was with a couple of friends of mine and we were at the AMC theater in Hollywood, Florida, where I grew up, and we bought tickets to another movie and we snuck in. We were bad; we did that a couple of times. I actually got kicked out of Demolition Man for doing that, but Pulp Fiction, somehow I didn’t get kicked out. And I think I did it twice, because I was just so like, “What the hell did I just see? This is incredible.” So that definitely rocked my world.
Number three is a movie that I think is a perfect film and it’s a film that it doesn’t matter whether I saw it for the first time at 2, or revisited again at 10, or 22, or 32, or this past year when I took my kids to see it on the big screen. And that’s The Wizard of Oz.
The word “timeless” is thrown around a lot, and very rarely does it actually feel like it applies to as many motion pictures as are branded with that title. But The Wizard of Oz is one of those films that it truly doesn’t matter when you see it, it’s still timeless. It remains timeless. And that experience is proven by the fact that my own children, seeing it in a movie theater after seeing it on the small screen when they were very young, are still as awestruck by every single moment of that film as they were the first time they saw it. And it’s a movie that was made during the Great Depression. So that is a testament to great cinema. That’s a testament to the power of film.
Have you done The Wizard of Oz on stage yourself?
I’ve never done The Wizard of Oz on stage. Man, wouldn’t that be great? No, never had that opportunity.
We’ll just put that out there into the universe for now.
We’ll put that out there. We’ll will that into the universe. I don’t know that I’m going to be doing any stage anytime soon, but one day.
The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II
So, then you get into the top two, which is just so damn hard to pick two movies that you can share to be the most perfect films of all time, but I’m going to do my best. I was 12 years old. and I had only been told in passing about this “saga,” these films that had been described as perfect. Then I went to Blockbuster Video and took a deep breath and grabbed a large case of two VHS tapes called The Godfather. And I took it home and I watched it and I was so unbelievably mesmerized that I made my mother drive me to the Blockbuster the next morning and I got Godfather II. And I put that in and watched it and then went and got Godfather III, which I wish I hadn’t gotten because I would have loved to have just kept it at those two films.
But it was this moment of, again, an awakening where you realize the power of cinema – you realize what true moviemaking is. I’m going to cheat and say that Godfather 1 and II are in my number two spot together because they are just so absolutely perfect and brilliant and almost act as one piece. And the level of filmmaking, the level of acting, the level of craftsmanship is just on another level that I don’t know will ever be surpassed. It really is just something to behold.
Up until recently, I would have told you that Godfather I and Godfather II would probably be number one for me. And I have to go back and revisit them because frankly, it’s been about five years since I’ve done so. But I had an experience right before COVID that was pretty remarkable.
It was a movie that I’d seen plenty of times, in all the wrong ways. And frankly, it wasn’t even in my top 10. I found it a little boring, I found it a little hard to muster through, and I found it difficult at best. And then I went to the ArcLight Cinerama Dome, and I sat down, and for the next four hours I watched Lawrence of Arabia with an audience, the way that it was meant to be seen. And I’ve got to tell you in this moment right now, that movie is the movie that I would probably put number one on my list of most influential films for me as an artist.
It’s haunting. It’s absolutely crazy to think that it came out when it came out, and that it takes the kind of risks it takes with its lead character. It was so unbelievably complicated and not easily digestible in terms of some of the choices that are made. And the complexities of his character are stripped away in real time, against the backdrop of some of the most incredible cinematography to ever be captured on a lens. It just really slayed me.
Joel Meares for Rotten Tomatoes: You mentioned seeing Lawrence on the big screen… What are your feelings about the fact that Artemis Fowl, because of what’s happening, isn’t going to premiere on the big screen, but is going direct to Disney+?
Josh Gad: My feeling is that it is rising to the moment and I couldn’t be more grateful. I would so much rather the audience get to experience this movie than sit at home and wish that they could have the opportunity to see something right now. I think, frankly, the fact that we get to share it with people at a time that is so difficult to find any joy, to find any light, to find any hope… There are millions and millions of families that are stuck between four walls right now, trying to not lose their minds, and if we can give them a two-hour respite from that, a break, then I absolutely support this decision to give a movie like this to families who so desperately need it.
Does it hurt that I can’t celebrate this film with others on the big screen? Absolutely. Nothing will ever replace the cinema – nothing. Movie theaters have been a part of our collective experience for so long, and it binds us together. And it’s why even in this most desperate time, people are still making a trek to drive-in theaters, because they want that communal experience. So yes, it is, to some extent, a mixed bag, but I’m eternally grateful that we have an opportunity to share what I think people need most.
Artemis Fowl is available to stream on Disney+ on June, 12 2020.
Thumbnail image: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney, ©Paramount Vantage/courtesy Everett Collection