June 2013 M T W T F S S « Feb 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
TagsAmy Adams Angelina Jolie Anne Hathaway Cameron Diaz Carey Mulligan Daniel Radcliffe Darren Aronofsky David Fincher Dwayne Johnson Edward Norton Elizabeth Banks Emily Blunt Emma Watson Gary Oldman George Clooney Gwyneth Paltrow Jack Black Jake Gyllenhaal James Franco Jason Bateman Jason Segel Jason Sudeikis Jesse Eisenberg John C. Reilly Johnny Depp Joseph Gordon-Levitt Julia Roberts Mark Wahlberg Matt Damon Michael Bay Michelle Williams Mila Kunis Natalie Portman Owen Wilson Paul Rudd Reese Witherspoon Robert De Niro Robert Downey Jr Ryan Gosling Sam Worthington Seth Rogen Steven Soderbergh The Avengers Tom Cruise Twilight: Breaking Dawn
Tag Archives: Danny McBride
Perhaps best known for his work as the effortlessly entrepreneurial Tom Haverford on “Parks and Recreation” — or as the swaggering, shouting stand-up Randy in “Funny People” — Aziz Ansari is now playing the best pal. Of course, this being the crime-comedy “30 Minutes or Less,” Ansari is playing the best pal to Jesse Eisenberg’s wired-to-explode pizza delivery man, cringing at a safe distance even while standing by his friend. We talked with Ansari in L.A. about improvisation, Lunchables, tipping and how true equality means getting to play flawed characters.
This script comes across your desk and you’re being told, ‘Hey, you’re the best friend; you’re the straight guy, but it’s your version of the straight guy.’ How do you put that together?
Ansari: I got the script, and I thought the premise of the movie is about two regular guys that are best friends are forced to rob a bank while having a tumultuous time with the friendship. That was a good idea. Ruben really let me make the character my own and add whatever voices I had. So I was pretty comfortable with that, taking the part, even though on paper in a sense it’s a statement part because I’m not the guy going through crazy things. I knew I could figure it out, and I think I did.
That chance to figure things out, that was moments like making up the crazy, ‘This is how we paint our guns / when we’re going to get shot in the face’ song?
Ansari: There was things that I improvised that made it in, but there was funny stuff in the script for that character. It wasn’t a boring straight man part/ There’s been a lot of hilarious straight men performances recently. I think a lot of stuff Seth Rogen does is really funny in that vein. Michael Cera in ‘Superbad.’ I don’t really think of it as written as a straight man part. We’re both characters, but he‘s going through the crazy thing with the bomb.
How satisfying is it to get slightly into the mode of being a bad teacher?
Ansari: (Laughing) You mean as in the film ‘Bad Teacher?’
As in your character.
Ansari: Yeah, I know. I’ve done a few things where I’ve worked with kids and just been really mean to kids. That’s always really fun. During that scene, I told them, ‘Let’s add something here and make it a funny scene.’ I did that text-message thing (reading a student’s text message out loud in class.) — that was fun.
Do you hang out with Mr. Eisenberg a lot to create that illusion of friendship, or do you not hang out with him a lot to create that illusion of being slightly on the outs?
Ansari: I think we hung out a lot, so we could have a rapport and have a relationship that would be what we see onscreen as a variation of our lives, back-and-forth as far as the comedic chemistry. We hung out and tried to become best friends, and we got along really well and we’re still good friends.
Is it very much the case that you know people like Eisenberg’s character, you know the man-child who has Lunchables?
Ansari: I don’t know anyone that out of control, I don’t think.
Do you feel like you’ve come to terms with the whole thing of growing up and taking responsibility for your life the way Eisenberg’s character has to, or is part of the reason why a life of showbiz appeals because of that slight element of arrested development?
Ansari: To me, if you’re doing this kind of work, if you’re successful, it’s a lot of hard work and you’re pretty smart and responsible. I don’t think you’re going to get very far if you’re poof-ing around and not really focused on the work. I think that the nature of my work, comedic or whatever, I’m smart about what I do and I work really hard, so to me it’s a regular job.
When you come onboard a project like this, and there’s people like Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, how much of you is playing comedy sponge? How much of you is listening, to go, ‘Okay, I now get how they get laughs; I now get their sense of rhythm?’ Or are you somebody who’s such an idiosyncratic performer that you don’t do that whole ‘eavesdropping on other comics’ thing, even unconsciously?
Ansari: What’s great about all of us in the movie is we each have our own unique thing and that’s what we do. To me, my answer would be no. We each have our own thing and we connect.
What kind of a tipper are you when you get to delivery food? Do you try to show a little respect to delivery nation, or do you just say, ‘No, you’re on your own; maybe you should have thought about that before you dropped out of community college?’
Ansari: In general, I tip very big. I feel like other people are jerks, so I try to compensate.
Is that a southern hospitality thing?
Ansari: Yes. Or just in general how I was raised to be a nice person.
How was shooting in Grand Rapids? It really has that great look, but also doesn’t really feel like a major metropolis.
Ansari: It was great. It was a fine town. I didn’t get a ton of time to really explore the town. When I was there, I was filming all the time, and I would just come home and rest and get up and film. I was pretty much working. It was great.
When you’re doing things like making up the ‘spray painting the gun’ song, does it vary, now and then you throw things at the wall and nothing seems to stick, and now and then you — bang! — get it in one? Are you somebody who can just do this stuff fairly instantly, or is there a lot of hidden sweat that goes into it to look effortless?
Ansari: That song, I did it a few times. I had it in my head how I wanted to do it, and then I finally hit the thing way I thought. It’s a lot of rewriting on the spot sometimes. You try, and then it can kind of work, and then you refine it and you get a version that works. A lot of times you say things in the moment and it sticks. That Lunchables that we mention, I just said that in one take. I had that idea, and I said it. That came out, and that was a one-time joke; it worked. Other times, a longer thing you might want to refine it and then get it right.
Do you find we’ve transition into this period where the irresponsible, charismatic, but slightly unlikable characters has opened up a little bit in terms of the fact that with the ‘Harold and Kumar’ films, we’re establishing that in comedies, characters who are not necessarily the white, Anglo-Saxon dominant paradigm can be slightly flawed, slightly goofed up, slightly slack people, and it’s not a pejorative judgment; it’s more like these are fully dimensionalized characters with the same right to make mistakes as anyone?
Ansari: I think that’s just people catching up with the way that the world really is. Every Asian kid isn’t really some diligent, hard-working kid. There’s Asian kids that are stoners that listen to rock music all the time that people are like, ‘Let’s see that person in a movie; let’s make a person that’s more normal.’ Not to say other people aren’t normal. I think it’s moving away from making these ethnic caricatures. They’re rounded people, and I think there’s more and more of them in recent years, and in every sitcom has that Indian guy. It’s not like the kind of Indian guy you would have seen in a movie or a TV show 20 years ago.
When you said there are Asian people who do drugs and listen to rap music, all I could think, ‘Yes, there are. I learned that from ‘Grand Torino.’ I learned that from Clint Eastwood.’ I don’t know if you’ve seen that.
Ansari: I didn’t see that, no. That’s where he’s racist, right?
It’s chock full of Korean gangbangers. It’s really a blow for equality. If there were a hypothetical ’30 Minutes or Less’ sequel, would you want them to double the delivery time or half it? Would it be ‘An Hour or Less,’ or would it be ’15 Minutes or Less?’
Ansari: 15, so there’s more tension. It would be a tough one to make a sequel for.
Last August, in a junkyard in Grand Rapids, Mich., Jesse Eisenberg — not yet an Oscar nominee for “The Social Network” — was being threatened by gorilla mask-wearing armed toughs, who closed their threats by demonstrating the explosives they’d strapped to him by exploding a stuffed animal. Over and over again.
It was all for the upcoming action-comedy “30 Minutes or Less,” of course, which sees Eisenberg reunited with “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer. Eisenberg plays a pizza delivery guy forced into bank robbery by low-life crooks Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, given 10 hours to rob a bank or be blown to bits by the explosives-stuffed vest they’ve locked to him. Eisenberg spoke with the press about keeping his energy up in the face of terror and repetition. “Sometimes it’s easier than others,” he said. “Don’t drink coffee in the morning, ’cause then you’ll have, like, peaks of energy and lows. I try to maintain, like, a low-level exhaustion all day.”
Eisenberg had also researched his character’s world: “The pizza place where we’re filming the movie, they let me go out with this guy Alex, who they thought most similar to my character. I was surprised to realize how similar he was. He was as sarcastic and self-aware as the character is. It was a perfect match for my character, also for the kinda basic logistics of how it is to deliver pizzas and who the customers are. These guys who kidnap me in gorilla masks are surprisingly not far off some of the people we met that evening.”
I noted the old proverb that nothing concentrates the mind like knowing you’re going to be hanged in the morning. Is that part of his character arc? “Yeah, the emotional center of the movie is this character who has never done anything in his life,” he said. “He has a line: ‘I’ve never even quit a job, just waited around to get fired.’ He’s in love with this girl who’s his best friend’s sister. He’s never told her. He’s just kinda ridden through life lazily. This metaphorically lights a fire underneath him to take a stand and spend these 10 hours doing everything he should have been doing the last several years.”
So, which is tougher: running from zombies for Fleischer or racing to beat the clock? “This movie is more, at least for my character, serious in tone. ‘Zombieland’ was a little more fun. This one has to be played pretty much straight. This one is a little more exhausting because it’s set in the real world — there’s no winking to the audience, with this one.”
Eisenberg wasn’t worried about finding laughs in a crime inspired by a real — and grisly — case. “I guess the more seriously you play something, if the context is funny, then it will be funny, and it doesn’t really require you to be explicitly humorous or silly. There are some scenes in this movie, because of the grave situation, that are naturally that much more funny. For example the last several days we’ve been filming this bank robbery where Aziz Ansari and I have to rob a bank and everything that can go wrong in the bank does go wrong. It’s because the two of us are so panicked and freaked out and taking it so seriously that it’s really funny.”
Also funny? Pizza delivery in Grand Rapids, as Eisenberg noted with a laugh: “Somebody gave us a $5 ’cause they liked ‘Adventureland.’” We’ll have more from the set of “30 Minutes or Less” closer to its Aug. 12 opening.
In “Your Highness,” James Franco and Danny McBride play rival princes on a quest to save a kingdom — with stops along the way for nudity, weed jokes, foul language and comedy. It’s a parody of ’80s fantasy-action films, but that also means the people in it have to be able to do fantasy-action. When I spoke with Franco and McBride, I asked Franco how specifically he trained for “Your Highness.” He spoke with serious intent: “I read all of Shakespeare every day while riding a horse and practicing (with) my sword while I held the book.” And the horse, I asked — what did it read? Franco broke into a smile: “The horse was a dumb animal, and did not read.”
All kidding aside, I asked Danny McBride if he worked hard to prepare for the action, or if he stayed inept for comedy purposes. “David (Gordon) Green, the director — I went to one or two days with sword training, and he quickly pulled me out of it,” he said. “He was like, ‘I don’t want you to have any training: I want you to look pathetic and terrible.’ He yanked me from the sword training. I was happy about that, because I am very lazy and swords are very heavy. That’s tiring, swinging a sword around. It’s not cool. I feel like I would be more of an archer.” Franco, with his greater action experience, noted, “I warned you that it would not be a lot of fun.” McBride, for his part, merely added, “Crossbows are light.”
But while McBride gets to flail and fail, Franco has to look assured as the film’s “hero,” so I asked him how hard is it to keep a straight face, to be the guy who takes everything seriously no matter what else is happening? “It’s not that hard, actually,” he said. “I like being the straight man every once in a while. I think of it as a Zen comedy, where if you do it, if you really commit to it, you’re helping the overall thing and actually can achieve some subtle comedy.” McBride, nodding as he mocked himself, chimed in: “Zen comedy. I like that, that’s good. That’s intelligent.”
“Your Highness” owes a lot to ’80s fantasy epics, a genre Franco admitted a youthful fondness for: “When I was younger, I loved ‘The Dark Crystal‘ and I loved ‘The NeverEnding Story‘ and the original ‘Clash of the Titans.’ I don’t think I’ll ever get over those. They do look very different to me now, but they still have a lot of their nostalgic charm.” As for McBride, “I was a fan of all those films and things like ‘Beastmaster‘ and ‘Troll‘ and ‘Excalibur.’ Granted, you watch those movies again and they don’t quite capture the imagination the way they did when you were a kid, but they still have a very big place in my heart. I still enjoy going back and visiting them.”
“Your Highness” doesn’t lack for special effects and production values — even if all the high art is in the service of low comedy. I asked Franco and McBride at what point on-set were they looking around at mechanical birds and wizardry and naked minotaurs and saying, “I can’t believe we’re getting away with this?” Franco laughed: “I guess we said that pretty much every day. Whatever popped up, I wasn’t very surprised by, because David Gordon Green was directing. That means that pretty much anything goes. I’m not really supposed to talk about it, but we did have the first minotaur erection ever captured on film.”
McBride, laughing, confirmed that milestone in the art. “It’s a landmark in modern cinema.”