Producer/director Peter Farrelly and Hugh Jackman (Photo: Relativity Media)
"By the way, this thing's going to get about an 8 on Rotten Tomatoes' meter. The critics are gonna freak out at this thing, but the college kids, high school kids, 20-somethings, and anybody who smokes weed is gonna flip out."
So says writer, producer and director Peter Farrelly of "Movie 43," the anthology film that assembles an A-list cast for some of the most outrageous and offensive comedy material ever to sneak past the censors. And Farrelly knows what he's talking about, as he and his brother Bobby have continually pushed the envelope over the years with wild gross-out comedies such as "There's Something About Mary," "Kingpin," and "Shallow Hal."
Farrelly talked with us about creating a comedy for today's ADD audiences, how he was able to score an ensemble that includes Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Halle Berry, and Richard Gere (though not George Clooney), and how things are looking for the highly anticipated "Dumb and Dumber" sequel, "Dumb and Dumber To."
Bryan Enk: I read that "Movie 43" first stemmed from you and producer Charles Wessler having a mutual love for "The Kentucky Fried Movie."
Peter Farrelly: Yeah, it's Charlie's baby, I've got to give him credit, but for two years he was like, "We gotta do a 'Kentucky Fried Movie'-type movie," as no one had done that in a while. There have been these shorts movies, but they're actually a little more dramatic or romantic [for instance, "New Year's Eve"].
We also knew that people's attention spans have shortened considerably in the last decade, so it's hard to do a shorts movie because if you're an hour and ten minutes into it and you're starting another short, people are looking at their watches and thinking, "I don't know if I want to start another." So we decided to come up with a wrap-around, something that holds it together, pulls you along, and makes you want to keep watching to see what happens at the very end -- that was really the trick of it.
BE: "Movie 43" has actors who have done a lot of comedy, and then you've got, you know, Richard Gere. When you were casting the film, was it a conscious decision and effort to bring in a lot of, for lack of a better term, "non-comedians"?
PF: Well, we've always felt that a great actor can do anything. I've never bought the idea of a "comedic actor" -- the studios do, though; right from the beginning on "Dumb and Dumber," they were like, "No no, not Jeff Daniels, you've got to get a comedic actor," and I was like, are you kidding me? He's one of the best actors in the world. I've always felt that any great actor can do comedy.
So when we started this, we've got a $6 million budget, we've got nothing. Everyone got paid scale, and Charlie Wessler is just one of these guys who knows everybody. So he started with Kate Winslet; he called her agent and said, "Maybe she wants to do this thing, it's only like two days' work, it's a real hard R, and she'll get to do s**t in this that she'll never get to do again." And she said yes! So once we had her, then Hugh Jackman popped in, and all of a sudden you had everybody saying, "Yeah, I want to do this!" We just shot for the moon and amazingly got some incredible actors.
BE: Is there any particular cast member that you were surprised to be able to get?
PF: Um ... half of the people we got for this movie, I was surprised, honestly. I really was -- I couldn't believe we got Kate, I couldn't believe we got Hugh, I couldn't believe we got Halle Berry, Richard Gere. I was surprised, but I have to say when they said yes, they embraced what it was, which is just balls-to-the-wall humor.
BE: Was there a cast member who took a little extra convincing to come on board?
PF: Well, people passed! George Clooney told us to f**k off. [Laughs.] There are people who didn't want to do it, and they didn't. But really, if you have to convince someone to do it, it's probably not meant to be and it's not right. People certainly passed on us, but it's like that for any movie. There must've been 300 guys who passed on "Dumb and Dumber."
BE: Did you have a favorite day on set?
PF: The great thing about this movie was, we shot it over three and a half years. It was a very odd production in that Charlie wanted to get all these big names, but you can't get all these big names together over the same ten-week period, it's impossible -- they're all out doing movies or they're cruising on yachts, you know? So what we did was, we were like, "Hey, Richard Gere, when can you do the movie?" And he said, "I can't do the movie, I'm busy for a year," and we would say, "We'll wait!" So we would wait for a year, and then we did do it. I only shot two of them; I think I was only on set for four days, two days for each shoot. And all four days were ... you know, I'm working with Stephen Merchant, Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Jackman, it couldn't have been more fun. There's not a bad moment when you're doing that kind of thing.
BE: The movie's biggest laugh involves what actor?
PF: "Victory's Glory" with Terrence Howard is killing me more than any of them. He plays it so straight, so real, and it's such an absurd thing ... it's a coach who's giving a pep talk to an all-black basketball team that's playing against an all-white basketball team in the 1950s.
BE: You received a lot of script submissions for this project, many of which of course couldn't be filmed or included. Are there any other particular scripts or scenarios that you wish had made the cut?
PF: Charlie must've looked at 500 scripts. At least! Maybe even 1,000. He pared it down to about 35 or 40 and from there we shot about 16 or 17. But of that 35 or 40, it was sort of a coin toss -- in other words, you could make this movie again with those others and it would probably be the same, as we got some really fantastic shorts. There were things that we shot that got cut only because they felt too similar to something we already had, or because they were so offensive, on top of all the other stuff that's in there, it felt like overkill -- it literally felt like we were trying to offend.
BE: Do you have a personal favorite film that you've directed?
PF: You know, this is going to sound like bulls**t, but I really don't, because ... I know not all my movies are great, but it's like talking about your kids. And you put so much into a movie that they're all close to my heart, and if anything the ones that stick out are the ones that didn't do so well, because I don't understand why they didn't and others did. Like, "Kingpin" only made $25 million, and I love that movie. And "The Three Stooges," I think that's one of the best movies we've ever made, and it made, like, $50 million. Odds are the world at large would pick "There's Something About Mary" or "Dumb and Dumber," but I like them all.
BE: What's the most challenging film you've directed?
PF: The two most challenging were "Fever Pitch," because we shot that during the Red Sox's journey to winning the World Series in 2004, and we were shooting it during games and trying to stay out of everybody's way, we didn't want to piss people off. It was a big undertaking but also probably the most fun, because you're making a movie and on top of all that you're at the World Series.
But I have to say "The Three Stooges" probably had the highest degree of difficulty. Doing that movie, there was so much room for disaster, and I'm especially proud of that one because it turned out so well. And those three guys [Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos] my great fear was that two of them would be great but one of them would be weaker, but those three guys are all so incredibly good. I don't know if I'm prouder of any movie. It could've been such a piece of crap, but it wasn't, it was really good, and I've never had one Stooges fan not love it. A few minutes into it, you forget that it's not the Stooges, and that's a tribute to those three guys. Those guys are three of the best actors on the planet.
BE: Finally, what's next for you? Is "Dumb and Dumber To" indeed the next thing you're doing?
PF: "Dumb and Dumber To" is so close to happening; I wish I could tell you more, but basically it's at Warner Bros., we have a script we all love, Jim [Carrey] and Jeff [Daniels] want to do it, and the financing … we have several companies that are negotiating with Warner and we hope to have an announcement in the next few weeks.
If I told you what the story is, you'd be like, "Oh." But if I told you what the story of the first one was, you'd be like, "Oh." I'd be like, "Well, it's about these two guys who find a briefcase and they take it to this girl in Aspen," and you'd be like, "Well, where's the f**kin' movie?" It's a character thing, it's those two guys, and that's what the sequel is -- it takes place 17 years after the first one, and we explain what they've done all these years, and they go on another wild goose chase that ... if you read it in one line, it wouldn't sound so great, but it's hilarious because it's about the little things that happen to them.
I'm really excited about this one -- we hope to be in production in May.
BE: That's excellent news. And in the interim have a great opening for "Movie 43" on January 25!
PF: Thanks! And by the way, this thing's going to get about an 8 on Rotten Tomatoes' meter, just so you know. [Laughs.] But it's gonna play like a rock concert, because it is so odd, so groundbreaking, so pushing the envelope, the critics are gonna freak out at this thing, but the college kids, high school kids, 20-somethings, and anybody who smokes weed is gonna flip out.