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John C. Reilly goes through a midlife crisis

Actor reflects on the ways his animated character in ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ suffers through a very adult dilemma.

To hear John C. Reilly tell it, "Wreck-It Ralph" -- in which he voices the titular video game bad guy who leaves his game on a quest to become a hero instead -- is a movie about a midlife crisis. But the folks in marketing at Disney probably don't want to put that on the posters, he admits.

How much of a video game fan were you before this movie?

There's not enough hours in the day these days to play video games, having a family and stuff -- especially given how complicated they are. Just learning the game takes hours at this point. But it certainly made a big impact on my life when I was a kid. I'm of a generation that was there when "Space Invaders" first came out. That was the huge game-changer. It's hard for people to appreciate these days what a big change that was, because there were no computers, no cell phones. The idea that you could manipulate something on a television screen? Just that alone was huge.

Would you say that this role is in any way a referendum against typecasting?

I guess so. I didn't really think about that when I was making the movie. It was more about this journey that most of us are on, which is to discover who we really are. And then the tough part for most people is accepting who you are, and then just enjoying life once you've done that. So much of what we do in the world is telling us, "You're not good enough, you should improve yourself in this way." Or we're always thinking about who we want to be or who we should be. To me, it's a movie about self-realization and self-acceptance. You don't have to tell the kids that, but for me that's what it's about. It's more like a story of a midlife crisis.

Which is the best way to sell a movie to kids, yes.

Yeah, exactly. "When Mommy and Daddy get older and get closer to death ..." Just kidding.

It's been 15 years since "Boogie Nights" came out.

It has? You know, as Bob Dylan said, "I'm an artist, I don't look back." Or something like that. He said, "She's an artist, she don't look back." Yeah, I don't spend too much time watching stuff I've done, to tell you the truth. It just makes you feel old.

I don't think you're old.

Well, I'm older than I was 15 years ago. [Laughs]

If you could disappear into a game yourself, which would you choose?

To tell you the truth, the idea of being trapped in a video game seems kind of nightmarish to me. [Laughs] I mean, they’re all a fight for survival. I think life is enough like that already. That said … I don’t know. I have always wondered what those cherries tasted like in “Pac Man.”

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