IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Thomas Lennon talks 'The Machine,' 'Rentaghost,' and the future of 'Reno 911!'

Tuesday, 01 November 2011 15:29 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Thomas Lennon talks 'The Machine,' 'Rentaghost,' and the future of 'Reno 911!'

Actor/comedian/screenwriter Thomas Lennon’s films have earned over $1 billion worldwide at the box office, and he recently wrote about it in his best-selling book “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at The Box Office and You Can Too!” Along with his writing partner Ben Garant, the two scribes have been responsible for penning such comedies as Taxi, Herbie: Fully Loaded, The Pacifier, Let’s Go to Prison, Balls of Fury, and Reno 911!: Miami. However, it was the juggernaut success of their film Night at the Museum, and it’s sequel Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian that really put the duo on the map as top Hollywood screenwriters.

But Lennon and Garant are probably best known to fans of the beloved Comedy Central series Reno 911!, as well as its big screen spin-off Reno 911: Miami, as Lieutenant Jim Dangle and Deputy Travis Junior, respectively. Lennon actually began his acting and writing career as a member of MTV’s sketch comedy series The State, which also featured Garant, Michael Ian Black (Ed), Ken Marino (Party Down), and director David Wain (Role Models). Since then, Lennon has appeared in numerous comedic films (often as the lead’s best friend) such as 17 Again, I Love You, Man, Cedar Rapids, Bad Teacher, What’s Your Number?, and now A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas 3D, which opens in theaters on November 4th.

I recently had a chance to speak with Thomas Lennon about his work on A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas 3D, as well as his overall career. While my interview with Lennon about the latest Harold and Kumar film will run separately, I wanted to let you know now what the talented writer/actor had to say about a few of his other writing projects. Among other things, Lennon spoke to me about the future of the Reno 911! franchise, the show’s loyal fan-base, if they are planning to make a sequel to Reno 911!: Miami, his latest film starring Vin Diesel, and his adaptation of the classic British children’s series Rentaghost starring Ben Stiller.

Here is what the funny man had to say:

IAR: Hey Tom, are there any plans right now to do a sequel to Reno 911!: Miami or any future episodes of the Reno 911! series?

Thomas Lennon: You know we wrote a sequel. It’s in the back of our screenwriting book, which is called “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit.” We included the entire script that we wrote for a movie called Reno 911!: SOS. It did not get made of course. Netflix has talked about the idea of making more episodes. We haven’t really discussed that, as a group yet, like if that is something we would want to do or not so I can’t really comment how we’d feel about that yet. I’m opened to the idea of it. I think there is probably some version of it that could be fun and funny. I’m certainly opened to the idea. It certainly may be even more fun to do a mini series that is like a small movie or something that plays over ten episodes.

Sure, kind of like what Arrested Development is planning to do, right?

Lennon: Well we have a similar fan-base, although theirs may be a bigger fan-base of people that are diehard about their show.

What can you tell me about your screenplay for The Machine

Lennon: We have a couple of films in the works and that one is with Vin Diesel at MGM. We worked with Vin on The Pacifier, which was a big hit and we like working with him a lot. It’s sort of along the lines of Being There with Peter Sellers, if the main character was a Terminator robot from the ‘80s who has been put in mothballs for twenty-five years. He then goes out, has a little adventure and sort of meets a girl and stuff. It’s a very sweet little movie centered on the ‘80s Cold War.

You are also adapting the beloved British children’s series Rentaghost into a film starring Ben Stiller, what can you tell me about that?

Lennon: Rentaghost with Ben Stiller is something we really could not be more excited about. We love working with Ben, obviously there’s hardly anybody funnier. For us to work with a guy who is a great writer himself, who comes from a sketch comedy background and is just very smart, really keeps us on our toes. He’s someone we love to write for when ever we get the chance. We write every movie for Ben Stiller … if he’ll do it. Basically every single time we write a movie the first paragraph says: “Think Ben Stiller.” Then sometimes he just doesn’t do them but when we get him, we are always very excited. So this time we had a pitch and said, “Think Ben Stiller” and he said, “Yes.” So he seems to like it.

What is your take for the film? Is it faithful to the original source material?

Lennon: Yes, it’s set in England. It’s very accurate to the old series with a tiny adjustment. Stiller plays the Fred Mumford character. We’re not Americanizing it, it’s all set in London and it’s going to be a very British version of it just with Ben as the central character. I think it’s going to be a love letter to the old show pretty much, which we’ve loved a lot.

A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas 3D opens just in time for the holidays on November 4th. 

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