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Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer and Kerry Washington: The Cars 3 Interview

Thank you to Disney and Pixar for hosting me during the Cars 3 Event. All interview photos courtesy of Lousie Bishop/

This was a first for me. It was the very first time I was part of an interview with four actors at once. I thought it might be a little crazy, and it was. In the best way possible. There were so many special little memories I was able to take away. I found out Owen Wilson had never ridden Radiator Springs Racers. I talked with Cristela Alonzo about New Kids On The Block. I discovered that Armie Hammer loves playing with die-cast cars. I watched Kerry Washington sing and dance to a few lines from “Be Our Guest”…  I think you can tell it was a fun interview.

How did they become involved in the film?

Cristela: I’ll tell you that I actually got a call. I was on my way to do a stand-up tour in Canada, and I got a call from my agent asking me if I wanted to go to Pixar. They didn’t tell me anything. They’re just like, “Do you want to go to Pixar?” I’m like, “Well that’s a random question, but yes.” They flew me up to Pixar. I had no idea I was being considered for anything. I didn’t know anything until I got there, and then they made me sign papers, and I’m like, “What am I doing?” And it wasn’t until they gave me a tour and then they sat me down in an office and broke down this Cruz character, and immediately I thought, “Wait a minute, this is a job interview.” I would have dressed up better for you…. So you know, so I became involved with it and I working with the film in November of 2015. And I had no idea, and honestly I’m glad no one told me because I would have been very nervous. So it allowed me the chance to be myself and not have any time to work on fake me. And I ended up getting it, and it was, I mean, who ever thinks that you’re ever gonna be part of the Pixar world? I mean, it’s incredible.
Kerry: I got a call much, much later. There was a roll to play a super know-it-all, bossy pants character, super arrogant, so would I be willing to go way against type? I said yeah, and I just… honestly I’ve been a fan of this franchise for a long time, and just was honored to be a part of it and excited to do something that my kids could watch.
Owen:  I met John Lasseter, [he] was sitting next to me. He had a dinner and he was telling me about the sort of idea, and I didn’t think necessarily anything would come of it. I didn’t know who he was or anything. Then it all sort of fell together and now I have this little guy. [Picking up Lightning McQueen diecast.]
Armie: I wish I had a really good story. They called me, they said do you want to be in the movie? And I was like yup. I really wish I could find a twist or like an angle in there, but it was really that easy.
Owen: You were kidnapped, brought to Pixar…
Armie: I did go to Pixar. I did go to Pixar.

Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), a frontrunner in the next generation of racers, posts speeds that even Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) hasn’t seen. ©2016 Disney•Pixar.

What was it like for Armie to channel his inner jerk to play Jackson Storm?

Armie: I was funny because I had good, strict parents, [who] always told you to be nice to everybody and all that. So then you get in the recording, they’re like “No, we really want you to kind of really jerk it up, like be like the biggest jerk.” It was fun getting to access and do that, but in like a safe environment, where you’re not actually offending anybody.

What message does Cristela want little girls to take away from the film?

Cristela: You know, this is actually a really good story that Brian Fee, the director, told. They screened the movie in Arizona, and they were telling me that the little girls that were at the screening couldn’t understand that Cruz had won the race. And there were moments where they had to ask their mothers if they had understood the story correctly. And for me that story is something that I carry now with me because it’s such a simple story that she would win the race, yet it never occurred to anybody that she would win it. You never even think about it, and then when you see it, you think, “Wait a minute, she can absolutely win the race. Why can’t she?” But it’s such a weird thing that we’re so accustomed to not have that story, that experience that when little girls see it, they don’t even believe their eyes… When I heard that story, that’s what I wanted kids to get out of it, especially girls. The fact that if you’re good, you can win. If you’re the best, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. You just have to be the best and try hard, and that’s the best take away from this story.

Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson), alongside elite trainer Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo). © 2017 Disney•Pixar.

Do they relate to their characters in any way?

Armie: I hope not.
Cristela: I will tell you that the Cruz character started out as a boy, and they decided to make it into a female, a girl car. And John Lasseter actually came into the sound booth when I was recording one day, and I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to be part of a Pixar movie. And I was just telling Kerry, every time I talk about anything, I try to talk about where I come from, how I grew up, blah, blah, blah, I get very personal very quick. And I started telling him how I just never thought I was going to be a possibility, you know. It’s like so many people tell you, especially in the kind of ‘hood that I grew up with, they always tell you that you can’t do
anything, you know. And everybody in the neighborhood is very quick to knock you down a peg. So John Lasseter took that story and actually ran with it. So there’s a speech where I get upset at Lightning, and one of the lines is dream small, he told me. And that was actually a line that I told Lasseter about my family. My family always told me to dream small, and it was that thing were they told me to dream small because they didn’t want my heart broken. So, you know, it was that thing where they always said you can’t have big dreams because big dreams don’t happen for people like us. So it’s that story, that speech and these stories that I started telling Pixar evolved into Cruz. So I always tell people what I like about Cruz, yet at the same time it’s very heartbreaking, is that Cruz gets to win in the story, and I don’t know if I get to win in my story. So it’s that thing where I try to bring that part of me into Cruz, and I think that that’s when they realized that a lot of the heart of the story came from that.

Kerry Washington lends her voice to Natalie Certain, a highly respected statistical analyst who knows her numbers. ©2017 Disney•Pixar.

Did they learn anything from their characters?

Kerry: This is probably gonna seem like a stretch, because it’s such a supporting character, but one of the things it’s made me think a lot about is sort of this disposable society that we live in, because Natalie Certain is so sure that Storm in going to win, because of the numbers. She’s just so sure, and she’s certain that you can kind of discount everybody else because of the hot, new thing is the way to go. And I think we have to be really careful about that as a society, not just in our business but in general.
Owen: You’ve got to tell the story also about showing the movie to your daughter.
Kerry: In our house, we talk a lot about like owning your voice and having a voice, and kids can be literal. So when we went to see the movie, my daughter said, “That car has your voice. That’s weird. She should have her own voice.”
Armie: And that was the moment we all fell in love with Kerry as a parent.

Who were their personal or professional mentors?

Kerry: Well, to be in the movie, we’ve all agreed to say that Owen is our mentor.
Armie: That’s was a requirement for being in the movie.
Owen: It just feels good to be a mentor.
Cristela: My mentor is my mother, who passed away years ago, and my drama teachers in school. And I went to public high school at a very small town, and these teachers saw something in me. I will tell you my high school was 99 percent Mexican, and we used to do plays. My freshman year, we did The Diary of Anne Frank, all Mexicans. And it was like so weird because we didn’t think it was weird. We just did the show and I think that doing something like that actually taught me that you couldn’t limit yourself into doing things. We wanted to do The Diary of Anne Frank, and we did it, because realistically how many plays do you have for Latinos? Hamilton wasn’t around back then. I had a teacher in college tell me that, as a Latina, I could do West Side Story and Chorus Line, and I did West Side Story and I did Chorus Line, and then I thought, “Well, I guess I have to retire from theatre.” I don’t even think my teachers realized what a great lesson they were giving me by telling me, “Yeah, you can actually do a play about the holocaust and be in it, and actually do it.” And I think that’s something, without them even knowing, in such a subtle way taught me so much.

What does it mean to be part of something so important to so many children and families?

Owen:  It feels great. And I think that’s kind of the nice thing about doing something creative like we all do to then, you know, make something that means something to people, or that they, you know, laugh and enjoy. That’s a great feeling.

Armie recently took a road trip down Route 66. Did he have a favorite spot?

Armie: I do it a lot. I love a good road trip. It’s really hard to pick, but there’s something so magical in like the American South West. It’s like one of the least densely populated places on earth. And you can end up in just like the most remote out of nowhere areas where nothing has changed since Route 66 was the main artery and thoroughfare of the region. So, you can end up in motels where it’s like honestly, the bed probably hasn’t been changed in 50 years, which seems pretty gross… But if you think about it as I’m really bumping up and rubbing up against history and bed bugs [laughs], then it’s really wonderful. I just, I love a good road trip ’cause you just get on the road, you put it on cruise control, and you just go. You listen to music. You listen to podcasts. You listen to nothing. You just look around.

Stick around. I’ll be sharing lots more Cars 3 Event Coverage in the coming days. Catch Cars 3 in theaters on June 16th!

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!

As The Bunny Hops®