The Marvel Life

The Marvel Life: Joe Lo Truglio

We chatted with one of the stars of ‘Paul’ to talk about comics, animation, fanboys and tracking down foul-mouthed aliens.

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By Marc Strom

Anyone who’s seen “Paul,” the story of two U.F.O.-obsessed friends played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who come across a real live alien, knows how much affection its creators have for the worlds of comics and science-fiction.

Aside from stars Frost and Pegg, though, the film also featured Bill Hader of SNL fame and co-writer of SPIDER-MAN: THE SHORT HALLOWEEN, and Joe Lo Truglio, who has his own geek roots underneath the surface.

With the release of “Paul” on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, we had the chance to speak with Lo Truglio, who played O’Reilly, the fanboy Federal agent, about the comics he made as a kid, his own work in animation and which Marvel hero he’d most like to see pair up with Paul.

Joe Lo Truglio as Agent O'Reilly in 'Paul'

Marvel.com: In thinking back to “Paul” and your role in it, one of the things I loved most was that you were the character chasing after Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, but you were really the most like them. What was it like to play that role?

Joe Lo Truglio: It was easy, because I am a big fan of comics and illustrations. As a kid, I would collect horror comics; Twisted Tales, I think Pacific Comics was the publisher. And of course Mad Magazine, I was a huge fan. When I was 13 I made my own [version of] Mad Magazine called Crud Magazine. It had its own mascot and editor, a weird scientist-looking guy named Melvin Crud. I’m a big Edward Gorey fan and I also illustrate, so it was very easy for me to tap into my comic book geekdom.

Marvel.com: How would you compare your own level of Geekdom to your character’s?

Joe Lo Truglio: A little less. I wouldn’t say I’m as much [a fan] as O’Reilly, who I think lives and breathes it, but I am very interested in graphic novels. I probably couldn’t name as many as you or people who would be going to Meltdown Comics every day. Bill Hader actually introduced me to a number of great ones when we started shooting, like  Y the Last Man, and I hadn’t read any of the Walking Dead. Bill is really knowledgeable, he also set me up with Sleeper, the Ed Brubaker series. I’m also a huge fan of Scalped.

Joe Lo Truglio and Bill Hader as Agent O'Reilly and Haggard in 'Paul'

Marvel.com: You mentioned your drawing, you also did some animation for “The State,” didn’t you?

Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, it was a very primitive kind of segment. The sketch was something called “Cereal-less Commercial.” We were all just talking nonsense and at some point the characters from the cereal box kind of bounce off and jump around. They were just scribble doodles but I was thrilled because that was the first type of animation that I had ever done and it was on a TV show. Now I’m working with someone who is an animator and developing some horror shorts. I’m not sure where you can see them yet or what we’re going to do with them but there are a couple of animated horror things that I’m working on now.

Marvel.com: Very cool, so are you writing and animating those?

Joe Lo Truglio: I’m doing two projects. One is kind of like a scary fairy tale which I’m writing. It’s along the lines of Fractured Fairy Tales from “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” but they’re more genuine horror. Not a lot of comedy in those. I’m executive producing another project of an animator with an idea that he has, it’s about a zombie film.

Joe Lo Truglio and Bill Hader as Agent O'Reilly and Haggard in 'Paul'

Marvel.com: Getting back to “Paul,“ we see all these sci-fi and super hero genre movies coming out these days, and “Paul” is kind of like that but more comedic. Out of all the recent super hero films, who would you like to see Paul interact with the most?

Joe Lo Truglio: Interesting. I would love to see Paul and Iron Man get together. They both have [great] one-liners. Just to have Tony Stark and Paul [in the same room], it would be like a tour de force of sarcasm and intelligence. I like the idea of a small pudgy clay-looking thing next to a shiny metal thing, I think visually it’s kind of a cool picture.

Marvel.com: Would you write and draw this comic?                                

Joe Lo Truglio: It would be a one time only, special edition issue. I Am Paul Man. [both laugh]

Marvel.com: One other thing I was reading about your time on the set of “Paul” is that you actually stood in for the alien because Seth Rogen, who voiced him, wasn’t around, right?

Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, Seth wasn’t around because he was filming “Green Hornet” at the time. [Director] Greg Mottola, our fearless leader, wanted a real person interacting with Simon, Nick, Kristen [Wiig], Jason [Bateman] and everyone. I was flattered by their invitation to be that guy. It gave me the opportunity to work with all of them for two and a half months. I would have kneepads, and we would do a scene just with the actors and I would learn the lines and do the scene. After that, I’d leave and they would put in a stand with ping-pong balls on it so the actors would have an eye line. They’d shoot it again, take that out, and put in a lighting puppet. An actual-sized puppet with the same flesh texture and look, and they’d shoot a ghost tape with nothing in there. It was really interesting; I’ve never been a part of that kind of special effects movie. It was quite a combination of elements to bring our lovely Paul to life.

Joe Lo Truglio, Bill Hader and Jason Bateman as Agents O'Reilly, Haggard and Zoil in 'Paul'

Marvel.com: Having been so involved in the special effects aspect of this movie, would you be interested in doing any more films with special effects of that type?

Joe Lo Truglio: I would! I like working with people that love making movies. There are directors that work in that type of movie that loves making movies. So yes, I would love to be a part of something like that. The fact that this is also a comedy plays a little bit more into my wheelhouse. Even more so than the special effects type of movie, I’d like to be involved in a horror movie. I’m a fan of prosthetic makeup. I had the privilege to work with Greg Nicotero on “Paul” for a day for the burn makeup that O’Reilly has at the end. That was just a thrill for me, having been a fan of [the same] makeup artists that he was a fan of. More than a sci-fi movie, I’d love to be involved in a straight up horror movie. I’m writing one with Ken Marino, so we’re hoping that gets made sometime.

Marvel.com: To close things out, when Bill was introducing you to all the comics, were there any Marvel characters or series that he showed you that you really took to?

Joe Lo Truglio: Well none that he introduced to me, but there was a funny story when we went to the comic book store. He had written a Spider-Man story [SPIDER-MAN: THE SHORT HALLOWEEN] and we went to buy copies for his friends and family. We go to the check out counter to pay for them, and the clerk had his head down and was ringing all these comics up. He came across Bill’s Spider-Man and said “Oh, that’s Seth Myers and what’s his face from SNL.” I started smiling and Bill started smiling. [The clerk] said he thought it was pretty good. [He] looks up and sees Bill and lets out this huge yell, “What are you doing here?!” Bill was totally cool about it, and [when] the guy asked for him to sign the comic he signed it “What’s His Face.”

Pick up “Paul” on Blu-ray and DVD starting August 9, 2011.

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