If you saw “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — and I hope you have as its one of the stronger comedies to be made over the last several years — you’ll likely have noticed the strong comic chemistry between British comedy sensation Russell Brand as three-quarters insane, recovering addict rock star Aldous Snow and Jonah Hill (“Superbad“) as a resort waiter and somewhat overly devoted fan of Snow’s. Well, you’re not the only one, and so we have the somewhat slapdash, sometimes brilliant, and ultimately winning new comedy, “Get Him to the Greek,” which once again brings us Brand as Aldous Snow, who, since the events of “Sarah Marshall” has suffered a failed marriage to rocker Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), had a seven-year old son, and removed the “recovering” from his addiction — kind of impressive since “Sarah Marshall” was only two years ago.
Nevertheless, having fallen headlong off the wagon, Snow needs help arriving on-time and semi-cognizant for an important TV appearance, a sound check, and a special comeback performance at L.A.’s Greek Theater. The task falls to ambitious young record company assistant Aaron Green (Hill, playing a different character than in “Sarah Marshall”), a huge fan of Snow’s in a sweet but rocky relationship with his improbably adorable doctor girlfriend (Elizabeth Moss of “Mad Men“). Frequently vomit-stained hijinks ensue as Green and Snow barely survive a number of unfortunate events, including a nearly apocalyptic visit to the set of “The Today Show,” one of the most truly mad Las Vegas sequences in film history, and the kind of freaky three-ways that would make most porn producers blanch. It’s all wrapped up with the sort of good-hearted traditional morality which reminds us that the producer is the Walt Disney of male-centric, R-rated comedies, Judd Apatow.
Since the film was set to premiere with a special screening and live concert at the Greek Theater a few days hence, it made sense to have a bunch of us entertainment-type writers show up for a series of roundtables with Brand and Hill, not to mention writer/director Nicholas Stoller and actress Rose Byrne, whose character has a special gift for singing the most obscene lyrics imaginable with the straightest possible face.
Director Nicholas Stoller was the first to drop by our table of mostly Internet types. Still in his early 30s and currently working with his “Sarah Marshall” cohort Jason Segel on the screenplay for “The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made,” he’s pretty much what you’d expect from a writer whose come up in the Judd Apatow school. He’s an apparently modest and low-key guy for a film director. Also, as things got going, showed off a fairly killer sense of humor.
So, one of us asked, just what was the germ of “Get Him to the Greek”?
“Russell and Jonah were a great comic team,” said Stoller. “They have great comic chemistry. [I thought] ‘That’s a movie, I don’t know what it is.’ During the shoot of ‘Sarah Marshall.’ I thought of this idea and then, writing a few drafts, realized it would be weird if Russell played a different rock star, so we made it a spin-off.”
How quickly did the wild storyline, both dramatically and geographically “all over the place,” come together? How much improvisation was involved?
“The big movements of this story really locked into place pretty quickly. I knew that I wanted to go to London, New York, Vegas and LA. I knew it needed to end with a threesome,” Stoller said to general chuckling. “There were like a few things I knew very early on — ‘I’m building towards this threesome, how do we get there? Really, every movie should end with a threesome. That’s my comedy theory — it’s in Syd Field’s Screenplay. ”
“So, you’re saying the Muppets movie is going to end that way,” suggested one of the writing weisenheimers.”
“I don’t want to ruin anything, but yeah. It’s pretty intense.”
“A bacon sandwich,” said someone else.
“Go write that down. You don’t mind if I use that” said Stoller, hungry for ideas for the world’s first pornographic puppet movie, but then he decided to get a bit less silly. “By the time we’re shooting, the movie certainly is pretty locked down. The scenes are where they are and a lot of the dialogue is where it is, but then we do a fair amount of improv. There are certain things, like the Vegas fight, which I had to choreograph a few weeks before.”
Then it was my turn to ask the question that had been burning a tiny hole in my brain. Though it wasn’t mentioned in the press materials, the premise of “Get Him to the Greek” is remarkably similar to the 1982 comedy, “My Favorite Year,” which starred Peter O’Toole as a drunken, Errol Flynn-inspired film star and Mark-Linn Baker (“Perfect Strangers”) as a young, Mel Brooks-esque gag writer and super-fan charged with getting O’Toole to a live “Your Show of Shows”-style broadcast in a reasonably sober state.
Would Stoller admit there’s a strong similarity? He would.
“I thought of the idea and pitched it and then someone said, ‘that’s a lot like ‘My Favorite Year.” And then I watched [it] and I said, ‘yeah, it is similar. It was a while ago, so it’s fine.’ There’s like three stories to tell. Shakespeare told all of them…but that’s a great movie,” Stoller said. I also pointed out for him that there were no threesomes in “My Favorite Year.”
Then a writer noted that this was Stoller’s second film as a director. Was it easier the second time around?
“In certain ways it was a lot easier because I literally didn’t know how to direct before ‘Sarah Marshall.’ After we finished and the movie had turned out well, Jason said to me, ‘the first week I was pretty nervous. Because I didn’t understand basic things like coverage,” said Stoller, getting a laugh from this film ex-film student by referring to the basic practice of ensuring a scene will cut together by obtaining enough footage during a film shoot.
“I had no business directing that movie, but in terms of the nitty gritty of literally how you make a movie, I understood that well, which is important when you make a movie. This is a lot more challenging. I call the movie ‘Running and Screaming,'” he said, referring to the fact that the movie features a lot of physical comedy and emotional hysteria, not to mention concert footage, fight scenes, and the like.
The next question was one I was going to ask, about the genuinely surprising and very funny cameo in the film by Nobel Prize-winning economist and liberal pundit Paul Krugman. Was this going to be the germ of another spin off?
“Yeah, ‘Get Him to the Economic Summit.’ I’m a huge Paul Krugman fan. I just enjoy his writing,” Stoller said. “I thought it would be funny to populate the film with celebrities, but every kind of celebrity from every walk of life. My brother [Matt Stoller, formerly of MyDD] was in the progressive blogosphere for years and now works for a congressman, so I’ve been aware of Krugman’s work forever.”
Then a question came up about one of the film’s more pleasant surprises, the strong performance of the former P. Diddy, Sean Combs, as thoroughly insane record company executive Sergio Roma, who considers himself a master of the art of the “mindfuck.”
“It’s no mystery to me why he’s a mogul having worked with him now. He came to it with ‘you guys know how to do comedy, I’ll do whatever you want.’ He was really trusting and awesome, just a great guy to work with” Stoller said.
But was he Stoller’s first thought for the role?
“I was thinking of him,” he said. “I thought he’d be really good. With someone like that, who you haven’t seen really do comedy, it was important to see him audition. He came in to audition, which was very cool and just nailed it, he was just hilarious.”
“After the audition, I had already decided that we are casting him. He literally got on his knees and said ‘I’ll do anything for this part.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know how my life has led me to the moment where Sean Combs is on his knees, begging me for something.'”
That was followed by some discussion of the various songs in the movie written by various hands, including Jason Segel. Some of the tunes, especially ‘The Clap’ and ‘Furry Walls,’ are actually quite good in an aptly silly way. Others are deliberately awful, including the hilariously condescending, career-decimating ethno-disaster, “African Child.”
“I was just trying to think of the worst song of all time. The words ‘African child’ popped into my head,” Stoller said. “These guys, Dan Bern and Mike Viola, who are singer-songwriters in their own right and wrote songs for ‘Walk Hard‘…took it and really had a field day with it and really delivered a terrible song.”
That led to a discussion of things that didn’t make it into the film, including a hilarious-sounding but sacrilegious musical moment with Rose Byrne/Jackie Q as the Virgin Mary and Russell Brand/Aldous Snow as the Baby Jesus. “They make out,” Stoller said, saying they chose not to “poke the religious beehive” with that one.
Then there was a moment left out for reasons having to do more with technical matters than taste. Lighting, and the relative size of objects was one of the many issues that flummoxed Stoller and ace Director of Photography Robert Yeoman as they attempted to put together an “anal cavity cam” suggested by Jonah Hill for the sequence in which Hill/Green is forced to rectally secure Brand/Snow’s heroin as they board an airline flight.
Then, suddenly, I had the floor. I was mightily impressed by the Las Vegas sequence, which builds to a truly impressive comic crescendo of insanity. How much, if any, improvisation went into scene? Stoller thanked me for the compliment and went into some detail.
“That was very figured out. I knew I wanted this thing to explode,” Stoller said. “The movie is structured like a bender and I wanted Vegas to be the part where it’s just not fun for the characters, and it just goes out of control. A big inspiration for that scene is the firecracker scene in ‘Boogie Nights.’ I don’t think our sequence is necessarily as tense, but just to have it building and building,” Stoller said.
“Everything that happens in the suite I graphed out with Jeff Dashnaw, whose my stunt coordinator and whose done a lot of Tarantino movies. There’s this stunt guy named Nash Edgarton, whose a friend of mine and helped kind of explain to me some of the concepts of how you do a stunt sequence,” said Stoller, explaining how carefully the scene was staged, a necessity to prevent injuries — though some dialogue and comic ideas actually were improvised or written on the spot. Stoller pointed out a moment involving Aldous Snow’s ne’er do well father and the increasingly insane Sergio Roma.
“That led to one one the best directions I’ve ever given. There’s a moment where Sean Combs takes the lava lamp to bash over Colm Meany’s head and everyone’s supposed to be so messed up. I kept telling him to do it ‘more Scooby Doo,'” said Stoller showing us a cartoonish face and posture that, yes, really looked like something from the Hanna-Barbara Saturday morning staple.
If Stoller was low-key and funny, Russell Brand was the very much same person he appears to be everywhere — hilarious and considerably less low key. Already a hugely famous and controversial comic in England, known for overcoming addictions to, among other things, heroin and ludicrous amounts of sex, Brand has been able to combine sobriety with comedy and controversy quite nicely, and has recently done something almost normal by becoming engaged to singer Katy Perry.
So, how does Brand feel about doing publicity tours?
“It’s quite nice. It’s like a dinner party where I get too much attention.” Getting a big laugh so start things off, he segued into why he’s got mixed feelings about actual dinner parties. “You see, because my job is showing off, socializing I just consider to be more work. It’s just some work, ‘it’s that thing where I have to talk, isn’t it?…You can listen as well, I like that.”
Someone asked him about preparing for shows like Jay Leno. The producers, of course, expect a certain amount of planning to make sure there’s “content” but Brand looks at the process differently. “Me, I get very adrenalized and scared before a performance and I think that energy, that ‘fight or flight’ energy, is translated into neurological activity that I can then translate into anecdotes.”
Was he concerned that playing a very off-the-wagon addict might trigger something negative?
“No, I didn’t think I would relapse,” Brand said. “Its interesting, actually, because the props person who gave me pretend cocaine to take in one scene, which I don’t think was in the movie, was himself 21 years clean. I asked him ‘what is this?, ‘and he goes ‘it’s organic matter.’ That’s the sort of thing you would read on a Nestle label. ‘What is this ‘organic matter’?’ ‘Oh, nothing, we just killed some kids.’ ‘What?!'”
Brand continued on a more serious note, getting progressively more intense. “I am in a daily program of recovery and everything, so, one day at a time, I’m alright,” Brand said. “Its more the emotional stuff, when you get all angry or shout at people. Your body don’t know that you are not serious. Apparently you can tell your brain any old information and it will just respond to it. That’s that power of positive thinking which some people say is just mumbo jumbo, and perhaps they are correct, but apparently if you fill your head with positiva, it will all be alright.”
Brand went on to discuss how being so open about his many issues has been a bit of godsend, making him more or less scandal proof in terms of his personal life. “It transposes those things from being stuff that makes you sad to stuff that makes you laugh. There are some stories I tell on stage, and they’re funny, but, in the words of Morrissey, ‘I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible.'”
Next came a question about deleted scenes. Was there anything that he missed being in the finished cut of “Greek,” particularly that one sacrilegious bit?
“Ah, yes. ‘I am Jesus. Welcome to the Church of Me,” Brand started, getting a big laugh, but then he actually made a bit of sense about the filmmaking process. “When I was younger, if I had to make something of myself to send to TV stations, I would always make them too long. Because I was vain. I would think all of it’s brilliant. But now I think it’s good to be succinct.”
“Because I’m actually genuinely pleased with the film, I think they have done a good job. I would have done it really different and made me much more funny. They made me dead sad in loads of it, but they seem to know what they are doing better than I do, I hope. We will see if the film is a hit. Otherwise, I am going back and edit it and doing the Russell Brand version which is different shots of me just looking out of windows.”
Then someone asked a question about the fact that working in a collaborative medium like film gives him less control than as a stand-up.
“As you say, as a stand-up comedian you have this sort of absolute authority and once you are up on a stage you can just go nuts and I have done so lots of times. Sometimes you can get in trouble. When I was a drug addict, I got really badly beaten up on several occasions cause I would just think, ‘I could say this now. It’s what I believe.’ And sometimes I know I was right about what I saying. I was definitely, definitely right about the nature of consciousness and the nature of culpability. I was saying that we are socially culpable for each other and you can’t demonize certain individuals — even the most extreme criminals — we have to take social responsibility. People don’t want them kind of ideas in a comedy club. They just beat you up.”
“I was saying that we have to take responsibility for the notion of pedophilia, but I was unable to articulate it in the way that people thought was acceptable, and their response was much more to do this to my leg,” the comedian said, rolling up a pants leg and showing us an impressive scar.
“I got really badly beaten up and thrown through a door. Luckily, I was on quite a lot of heroin that day, it didn’t hurt. What was interesting was the blood which goes to the beat of your heart, pulsing literally. Then I went to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh is a good place to get heroin. I got to these kids and asked them to get me some heroin. I give them 40 quid up front…never pay upfront. Probably anywhere. There are very few places where you can make advance heroin payments.”
Yes, Brand is that kind of interview. Even knowing that, I was impressed by the response when I asked about an incident I had read about involving him and British comic and talk show host Jonathan Ross making a prank phone call to a cast member of a classic television show. It seemed to me that it would not be as big of a deal if it happened here in the States.
Brand had some thoughts on the matter. “This is a difficult question for me to answer…no, it’s not difficult, it’s just complicated. Here it is. That prank phone call, it was not the nature of the phone call itself; it was the nature of the sociological structure of the country where I am from. We have a thing called the BBC. The BBC is publicly funded. The privately owned media want to destroy the BBC because it is brilliant.”
“They don’t like me or Jonathan Ross at The Daily Mail, a powerful [Rupert Murdoch-owned] newspaper in the United Kingdom. They don’t like us because we are both from working class backgrounds. [Ross is actually the son of a well-known actress and television host.] I am a former drug addict and instead of dying I’ve gone on and fucked everyone and made loads of money. It’s confusing for their message. Plus I am innately anti-establishment in my behavior and stunts, so they want to destroy me.”
“The thing that was wrong that we did is we left a rude message on an elderly man’s [comic actor Andrew Sachs] phone, but in my head he was still the character he played in the sitcom 30 years ago. I didn’t think of the reality. He played the character of Manuel in the program called ‘Fawlty Towers’ which I loved.”
“I just saw this man in a white waiter’s jacket holding this silver thing. That’s who I thought I was leaving an answering message for. I had sex with this dance troop, and one of that dance troop was the granddaughter of this man. I was explaining that on the radio, actually in quite a funny way. We phoned up and ended leaving this message. It was very silly and juvenile but actually funny. So the newspapers, as you know as journalists, are dying, people don’t read newspapers anymore. People get news from other sources, so newspapers need to campaign,” Russell said.
“It was a perfect storm. The Daily Mail don’t like Ross earning so much money and me, they don’t like what I represent. They don’t like that he’s an old style comedian attacked by sort of younger folk. It became this big conglomerate of lunacy. To be honest, I found it amazing. It was like a sociological experiment. I like it. If the news begins ‘the main news: comedian Russell Brand…’ I think, ‘good, yeah, that is the main news. It’s about time.’ I’m narcissistic. I’m working on it. I recognize that the self is a kind of construct and it’s going to dissipate into nothing, isn’t it? If you take it too seriously, you’re fucked.”
But wasn’t he just really succeeding in what he had set out to do?
“I think a bit I am. As I remember, I used to be a penniless junkie. Now I am not. Something is going right. I’m happy with it.”
Things finally moved along to the more quotidian matter of his next big projects, which includes writing a book. (Which he considers boring, hard work.) The upcoming CGI animated super-villain comedy, “Despicable Me,” “I Hop,” (starring Brand as the Easter Bunny), and even Julie Taymor’s already shot, transgendered version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” with Helen Mirren. He’s also starring in an upcoming remake of the 1981 comedy, “Arthur,” which starred Dudley Moore as a sweet-natured multimillionaire drunk falling for a waitress played by Liza Minnelli. Brand will be costarring with, again, none other than Helen Mirren, who will be doing a variation on the tart-tongued Butler played to stentorian perfection in the original by John Gielgud.
With all that going on, is he interested in branching out dramatically?
“I do not yet because, to be honest with you, the best comics actors ever — Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams — the biggest proper movie stars, it’s not like they go, ‘and this week he’s a French hunchback.’ You want him to be doing stuff where you recognize him — at first, anyway. This is my first significant part in a movie, first lead role, so let’s see if this works and then ‘Arthur.’ I think I’ll stay within that palette. I can act, you know. I went to drama school and I can pretend to have a different voice, a different height, a different head — all these things are possible, they’re not hard. It’s just this is the best thing to do at the moment.”
Australian-born Rose Byrne is best known for her role on FX’s “Damages,” which pairs the attractive, round-faced actress with Glenn Close, as well as films like “28 Weeks Later” and “Troy.” A solid talent, she is more than able to keep up with Brand on screen. In person, however, she was all too aware of the impossibility of following Brand. We can’t all be half-crazed forces of nature. Some of us are simply hard-working and talented professionals like Byrne. And you need people like that to keep a project like “Get Him to the Greek” from going completely bonkers.
So, just how did she keep her portrayal of the Courtney Love/Grace Slick/Madonna-like Jackie Q from getting too cartoony?
“That’s kind of where Nick would come in. Nick definitely set the tone. I agree, it’s easy to just turn it into an SNL skit or something like that, and that’s definitely where [producer] Rodney Rothman, Nick and Judd [Apatow] too [helped]. That very fine line of making it just the right tone,” Byrne said.
How did a traditional actress like her adjust to the amount of improvisation involved in many of her scenes, most of them on the phone, with Brand?
“I’ve done my share of acting classes in school and so on and so forth. It’s fun. It’s different. And Russell’s intimidating in his improv. You just met him, he’s amazing. He’s so erudite and bright and quick. And the thing with Jackie is that she has the upper-hand in the relationship, so I just always had to make sure that I was winning the argument or whatever it was.”
And what about Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, who turns up in the film as Jackie’s new boyfriend, Lars Ulrich?
“He’s such a good guy. Such a good sport. He’s not an actor, clearly, and immediately Russell starts making fun of him.’ Are you a hobby from ‘The Hobbit’? He really rolled with the punches.”
Byrne also had some insights, between praising director Stoller and co-star Brand, into how working on a Judd Apatow film is different from working on others. “It’s very collaborative, the way Judd Apatow works. Once you get cast then its, ‘Let’s create the character together. ‘What do you want to do?’ and ‘Who is she?’ Sort of like a think tank. Films aren’t always like that, really ever.”
She also discussed the fact that “Get Him to the Greek” is most definitely her professional singing debut. Apparently she was never asked if she could actually sing and, at a certain point, she requested singing lessons. She found singing hard but fun, and a special challenge was getting through the lyrics of songs like “Super Tight,” “Ring Around My Rosey,” and “Pound Me in the Buttocks” without laughing. “Ride me, inside me, it’s super tight” she sang earnestly for us, nicely in tune and describing her singing teacher saying “‘Come on Rose, come on, sell it to me!'”
Did she ever feel a bit uncomfortable with this kind of insanity?
“Jackie’s like 150 percent or nothing. If you’re doing a character like this, if you see even a glimmer of hesitation, it’s not gonna work. She’s the female version of Aldous Snow, is really what Jackie Q is, I think,” Byrne said. “Judd’s films often get criticized because the females aren’t as stand-up as the men. I think Jackie defies all of that. She’s just as ballsy as the guys and just as feisty and narcissistic and just as kind of foul-mouthed and all that stuff. It’ll be interesting to see how she’s received.”
A young comic actor and writer whose career is ready to take a new turn this summer with the appearance of “Greek” and a buzz-heavy title role in the upcoming comedy from indie favorites, the Duplass Brothers, “Cyrus.” The movie features Hill as the overly-dependent adult son none too pleased about the burgeoning relationship between his mother (Marisa Tomei) and her new boyfriend (John C. Reilly). The film has already caused a mini-stir with a humorously blunt t-shirt. It was also discussed, prior to having a title, right here on PH during my interview with the movie’s co-director, Mark Duplass.
An unashamed nerd, through and through, the “Superbad” star actually recognized one of the other bloggers at the table, CHUD‘s Devin Faraci, for his appearance in Jamie Kennedy’s docu-comedy “Heckler.” Hill immediately declared sitting down with us, in all seriousness, the highlight of his day and focused his attention for most of the rest of his visit on the end of the table where Faraci was. If there was a way to politely get his attention on the other side of the table, I wasn’t able to figure it out. Still, assuming you can get Hill’s attention, he’s definitely got something to say.
So, how did he approach the role of being a “babysitter to a mad man?” How did he wrap his head around that?
“I don’t know. I watched ‘My Favorite Year’ a lot,” Hill said, generating a knowing nod from me that no one saw. “I watched ‘Midnight Run’ a lot and ‘Almost Famous‘ and those were the three movies I would watch a lot to prepare.”
“A big correlation to me was I thought about what if I were 18 and with one of my heroes. I would often replace Aldous Snow in my head with Bill Murray or Martin Scorsese or someone like that and imagined what it would be like as a young guy, and being able to ask them any question you wanted or just to be in awe of them,” Hill said.
The movie is kind of the ultimate fantasy in that way. Who hasn’t fantasized about going on the road for 72 hours with your favorite rock star?”
That led to the natural question about who Hill’s favorite rock musicians are and the answer was Neil Young and, perhaps, Jay-Z. Hill likes to keep things diverse. Somehow, famed art music composer Philip Glass got a mention as well.
How does Hill feeling about being on the promotional treadmill?
“Honestly, it’s been great,” he said. “‘Cyrus’ and ‘Get Him to the Greek,’ between those two films I literally cannot be more proud of them. It’s such a delight and blessing when a movie actually turns out good. I’m sure I’ll be sitting in front of you guys one day with just a shitty, shitty movie and have to smile through a bunch of lies,” said Hill, getting a big laugh with some movie business honesty.
“It’s a joy to be able to go out and talk about them because you’re saying, ‘Hey, I worked hard on this and it actually turned out good.’ I’m super lucky to have this job, I tell you guys every time. I’m super appreciative of that. It’s fun. It’s a good group of people. It’s been tiring but it’s been super enjoyable.”
The next question came around to the topic of typecasting. Will “Cyrus” and “Greek,” which will be coming out a couple of weeks apart, free him from from forever being the “foul-mouthed, wacky slacker kid”?
“I’ve only starred in one other movie, that was ‘Superbad.’ I’m a foulmouthed, loudmouthed, obnoxious, horny teenager in that movie, which is completely appropriate for that movie. And I think the misconception is, because that’s the only movie I’ve stared in, that’s what I’m like as a human being. Probably fortunately, that’s not the case. Since then, I’ve done a lot of cameos and side characters. I’ve probably been written off as one type of thing,” Hill said.
“I understand that completely. It totally makes sense and I’d probably do the same thing. But the truth is, judge me on this year, and judge me on next year, because between ‘Cyrus’ and this movie, I think both characters are completely unrecognizable from my character in ‘Superbad’ or ‘Knocked Up,” said Hill.
“I chose not to out of respect and appreciation for my career, which I value. And, next year, the same thing doing ‘Moneyball,’ which is a straight-up drama with Brad Pitt and myself and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And then, ‘The Sitter,’ with David Gordon Green which is like an R-rated, fucked up, ‘Adventures in Babysitting’ type movie…all four characters will be unrecognizable from each other and I’m really prideful of that. I hope that didn’t sound dickish,” he said. “I’m super excited to take people’s expectations and change them.”
The next question expanded on the topic of turning down roles in movies which are, shall we say, of low quality — with Hill merrily suggesting such titles as “Boner Party 5” and “Titty School 6,” while more soberly assessing the reality that his career as a star “could be over tomorrow.”
“I looked at all the careers of the people I loved and respected. I looked at them and they didn’t do a good movie and immediately do a shitty movie. I don’t need to be super rich or super famous. That’s not why I did this. I would have probably gone into finance out of college if that’s what I wanted to do. I really care about this stuff. I’m lucky enough to not have to take any movie just to pay the rent, so there’s no need to be greedy, just do something if it’s going to be good, and I really put a lot of meticulous thought into these decisions.”
Hill went on to explain the fact that he’s also co-writing screenplays gives more options to exercise his workaholic tendencies and work on his career without being forced to act in whichever movie he’s currently being offered. That naturally led to some of his upcoming projects as a co-writer, including the comedy “The Adventurer’s Handbook,” currently set to costar Hill, Jason Segel, and Wes Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman, as well as a film version of “21 Jump Street,” the teen-friendly 80s cop show about young police officers infiltrating high schools to fight crime, which ran from 1987 to 1991 and launched the career of Johnny Depp and, to a vastly lesser extent, Peter DeLuise and Richard Greico.
Though it’s a project that has, not surprisingly, elicited some knee-jerk web criticism, Hill is high on the project and thinks he may have found his directorial collaborators. “Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who directed ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs‘ had an amazing take on the movie,” Hill said, as someone mentioned that preliminary research for the film has been going on at high school proms, which is interesting.
“The best thing that movie has going for it is that people’s expectations for it are so low that our movie’s already so much better than what shit-talkers on the Internet think it is,” Hill said. “That’s the best thing you can have. People think your movie sucks and then it turns out being pretty awesome,” which Hill admitted had been his reaction to Lord and Miller’s “Cloudy” before he actually saw it and loved it.
While Hill didn’t want to say too much about the movie or the character he might be playing, he did want to give us a glimpse into the overall approach. “We want to make a really funny, grounded high school movie with action set pieces in it. To me, that’s really cool. When they asked me to remake it, I initially went, ‘Fuck that. I’m not doing that. It’s stupid.’ Then I thought about it. I watched the show again and revisited it,” he said. “To me, there’s a real ‘Back to the Future’ element in that you get to go back and relive a very important time period in your life, and that’s what I found fascinating. And then, the big idea that I had, which [screenwriter] Mike Bacall and I cracked, which was — so, these guys are cops in their mid-20s, and they’ve gained all of this confidence since high school. Then, they go back to high school and they immediately revert back to insecure high school students again.”
“It’s not a spoof of the show, it’s honestly not. It’s not a spoof of the 80s,” but he allowed that he might have a different attitude if he wasn’t privy to what he was planning. “If I didn’t now about it, I would talk shit about it, like people on the Internet do. In my opinion, that’s the best thing we have going for us.”