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Brad Bird, Patton Oswalt On Cooking Up 'Ratatouille'

Patton Oswalt is the voice behind Remy the rat, hero of Ratatouille, who likes his cheese avec des oeufs. (Disney/Pixar)

This interview was originally broadcast on June 28, 2007.

In 2007, director Brad Bird and actor Patton Oswalt joined Fresh Air's Terry Gross to talk about their film Ratatouille, Pixar's animated comedy about a foodie rat who becomes a chef in a top Paris kitchen.

Oswalt — a foodie himself — is the voice behind Remy, the rat hero whose exquisite sense of smell and taste make him yearn to be in the culinary world. Bird says he decided to cast Oswalt in the role after seeing him perform a stand-up routine about the Black Angus steak restaurant.

"He was so volatile about food and so passionate and funny about it, you know, it just struck me: 'That's the character,' " Bird says. "He's so volatile, but in a good way. I mean, you know, Patton has very strong opinions about anything and he'll let you know, and when he loves something, he loves it, and when he hates something, he hates it. That kind of extreme emotion is perfect for Remy."

Bird wrote and directed The Incredibles and Ratatouille. He is also the director of The Iron Giant. Oswalt is a comedian and actor. He has appeared on the television show The King of Queens and in several movies, including Big Fan and Balls of Fury.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

It's become a FRESH AIR tradition to do a theme week at the end of August, leading into Labor Day weekend. We've done blues week, country music week, hip-hop week, animal week, and this week it's food; interviews about why bananas don't always taste the way they used to, going undercover as a food critic, the possibility of test-tube meat, an archival interview with Julia Child and so on.

We wanted to come up with a good title for the week, and everything we've come up with is somewhere between not bad and bad. To give you some idea, we've had pot luck week, smorgasbord, food for thought, FRESH AIR con queso, my dinner with Terry, chew on this and of course FRESH AIR eats it.

So we thought you might have some better ideas. If you do, tweet us with the hashtag #freshairfoodweek - that's one word. If we like your suggestion we'll use it and credit you on air. We'll also make a list of the best suggestions on our Tumblr, nprfreshair.tumblr.com. If you haven't used Tumblr yet, that's spelled T-U-M-B-L-R.

Let's start off whatever-it's-called week with an all-you-can-eat moment. Comic and actor Patton Oswalt has a great bit he does inspired by a commercial for the Black Angus restaurant chain. This is from our 2007 interview, after the release of the animated film "Ratatouille." Oswalt did the lead voice of the rat-turned-chef.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

Mr. PATTON OSWALT (Comedian): Black Angus used to be a very friendly restaurant where I'd come in and have a steak and have a baked potato. It'll be a good time. And you go, that sounds fine.

And then over the past few years, the commercials have turned into this, like, gauntlet of threatening food, where it doesn't even look pleasant anymore. And there's this - it sounds like an initiation rite now: At Black Angus, well start you off with an appetizer platter, featuring five jumbo, deep-fried Gulf shrimp served with a side of our butter and cheese cream soup and 15 of our potato bacon bombs and a big bowl of pork cracklins.

And you're like, you know, we're each going to split that. No, you'll each get your own. And we'll take you to our mile-long soup and salad bar with our He-Man five head of iceberg lettuce salad, served in a canoe with 18 pounds of ranch dressing and, what the heck, four cheese burgers.

It's like oh, man, you know what? I just - how about I'll just get a little mixed green salad? Hey, I'll put on a dress and curtsy before I bring you a mixed green, buddy. Why are you yelling at me?

And it just keeps - it just never ends.

GROSS: That was comic and actor Patton Oswalt. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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