Paul Walter Hauser balances Pixar, pro wrestling and plenty in between

Adam Graham, The Detroit News on

Published in Entertainment News

DETROIT — Paul Walter Hauser has nothing to be embarrassed about. Seven years after his breakout in "I, Tonya," the Saginaw native is one of Hollywood's busiest actors, and he has a full dance card that will keep him busy for the next several years.

Hauser is in Atlanta where he just wrapped filming on the reboot of "The Naked Gun" with a cast that includes Liam Neeson and Pamela Anderson. He's soon headed to Australia to shoot a comedy with Peter Farrelly, and then it's off to the U.K. to work on the new "Fantastic Four" project, his first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The "Black Bird" Golden Globe and Emmy winner is also set to appear in the upcoming Bruce Springsteen biopic "Deliver Me From Nowhere," he'll play Chris Farley in a movie about the iconic "SNL" comedian's life, he's starring in a movie about the 1980s game show scandal that rocked "Press Your Luck," and he's already wrapped Doug Liman's heist thriller "The Instigators," with Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, which is due out in August. And he's balancing his screen work with what he calls his "real hustle," his budding pro wrestling career (he even has his own wrestling action figure), and he'll face off against fellow Michigan grappler Danhausen at an event on June 22 in Clive, Iowa.

"A lot of these things were relationships that have been developed over time, and it all coalesced seemingly by happenstance," says Hauser, on the phone Thursday from an Atlanta Airbnb, after finishing up "The Naked Gun." "A lot of this stuff is just kind of lining up. But I do feel it's the result of a lot of hard work, and I keep strong relationships with folks, and you never know when those relationships suddenly reciprocate, which is what's been happening."

First up for Hauser is "Inside Out 2," the sequel to Pixar's 2015 animated hit, in which he voices the character of Embarrassment. The part calls not for dialogue but mostly for a series of "animalistic and instinctual" sounds from the actor, and he dug deep to fulfill the role.

"I threw a bunch of things at the wall," says Hauser, 37, who is married and has two children with his wife of four years. "It was very much an experimental improv game of squeals, grunts, shrieks, mumbled words, words cut off, half words, gibberish, pleas, cries, moans and guffaws. It was literally every possible sound I could make that was either embodying embarrassment or was an offshoot of feeling embarrassment."

One of his character's reactions was culled from Hauser's own personal stash, he says.

"There is one particular sound that I sometimes make that is kind of like a door creaking. It's kind of like an, 'ehhhhhhhhhhh?' It's like you're unsure about something, or you kind of wish you could pull words back into your mouth that have already been spoken," he says. "It's like the physical embodiment of Michael Cera or something. There's something awkward and self-judgmental about it. I remember doing that a bunch and that feeling very real, that this is me acting out of the experience of being embarrassed."

The part marks Hauser's second voice role of the year, following his work as Dark in Netflix's animated adventure "Orion and the Dark," which was released in February. Hauser says he always knew he had a voice for animation, and that the two roles are somewhat in conversation with one another.

"I have a very distinct voice, and I can modulate and do different voices," he says. "So I always thought, you know, I don't know when that break will happen, but someone down the line has to realize I can do good animated comedy stuff, and in this case bring some heart to it as well. Because there's so much vulnerability and pain in both the character of Dark and the character of Embarrassment. They're bedfellows, almost."

Hauser's part in "Inside Out 2" is the opposite of the old Hollywood adage of an actor deciding whether or not to take role based on the number of lines their character has in the script. He says he was drawn by the opportunity as much as the role itself.

"At the end of the day, I'm just honored to be in a Pixar movie," Hauser says, emphasizing he hopes people see the movie in theaters with a large audience. "It definitely wasn't about the size of the role, as much as how I could make this thing special and honor what it is they're trying to do, and make them happy that they chose me."


Hauser grew up in a deeply religious household — his father was a minister in the Lutheran church until his retirement in 2022 — but his second religion is professional wrestling, and he's been a lifelong fan of the artform.

After first stepping into the ring in November — he has since participated in several matches — he realized his in-ring dreams were achievable.

"I learned I'm actually capable of doing this. It's difficult, but it's not impossible," he says. "Also I love it, and I knew I would love it. I don't want to equate it to falling in love, but that was kind of what happened. I was like, 'oh, I always knew we would get along, I always knew we would fit together.' And then it happened, and I'm having the time of my life."

He's looking to book more matches in between acting roles, being a husband and being a father. As for which he's likely to earn first, a title belt or an Academy Award, "I think the Oscar," Hauser says. "I've put in more work on that front."



MPA rating: PG (for some thematic elements)

Running time: 1:36

How to watch: Now in theaters


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