After the impressive performance, I had a rare chance to speak with Matt Stone and Trey Parker about The Book of Mormon (along with several other members of the press) in a candid Q&A at the theater. The two creators were first asked about the recent rumors that the musical might be turned in to a feature film. Parker discussed their plans (or rather their lack-of-plans) to the press. "We don't have any," he explained. "The only thing is that when we first started working on it seven years ago we kind of toyed with the idea of it being a Broadway show or being a movie. Obviously since Matt and I knew how to make a movie we thought we'd make a movie because we can do that pretty quickly, but we stuck with it and after we saw our first few workshops with an audience, we thought this would be cool as a stage thing."
"As we were doing scenes of course, I was always kind of visualizing it as a movie because that's just what I knew," Parker continued. "So I don't think it would be a really difficult thing, but it would also have to be a pretty different animal when we're done with it. We don't talk about it too much right now or think about it, but it's very possible one day. That's all I know." The press quickly followed up by asking if they would consider having someone direct the film adaption considering Stone and Parker's busy schedules. "No, no one else is directing it,' exclaimed Parker.
"No, I don't think anyone else would direct it, agreed Stone. "The cinematic vision is pretty strong. I mean, I think we want to do a movie of it someday but, right now, we're just trying to get our head around this (stage) version. We want to do the movie remake and we're proud that this is all an original thing, but I mean it is a lot of work so I don't know if we can be responsible for another one. We honestly don't have any plans."
"Once we made the decision to go to the theater, we made a bunch of decisions that were really best for the theater version of it," explained Parker. "It would really take rethinking. We wouldn't want to just do this on film. We'd have to really rethink it. But I think we could redo it."
The two were then asked if they had any thoughts on casting for the inevitable feature film. "Justin Bieber as Elder Price," Parker said with excitement. "A young cast would be cool," replied Stone. "Younger than the cast we have on stage because you'd be much closer. But we don't really have anyone in mind now … except for Justin Bieber, of course."
The Book of Mormon, in a sense, caps off a trilogy of projects the two have done based on the Mormon religion including their film Orgazmo, and the season seven episode of South Park entitled "All About Mormons." Parker and Stone were asked of the three projects which one is their favorite. "This one has made far more money, so this one," answered Parker. "I think the opposite of that, that one of our biggest career regrets looking back is that we didn't make Orgazmo a musical," explained Stone. "It just seemed too crazy. But looking back it would have been cool and it wouldn't have hurt its box office, obviously," he joked.
One reporter followed up by asking them if they would ever do another stage musical. "I don't know these are hard," replied Parker. "What we're learning, is that they're never done," answered Stone. "With South Park we're used to finishing the show, sending it off to get uploaded, and then it goes on the air. We are so good about wiping the hard drive and being done. It's the same thing with a movie and a stage play is just not like that. It needs to be taken care of."
Next, Stone talked about the differences between the New York and Los Angeles versions of the show. "Well there's nothing script wise or music wise that's different, it's the exact same show. But it's great because the new cast brings all this energy and they're really excited to do it. We're now doing it again and we kind of feed off their energy of discovering the show. It has its own personality. This cast has found totally new things that we never thought was there. Some stuff is just way better and they just have different strengths."
Considering that there is a 50/50 chance that we could have a Mormon President this time next year, I was able to ask Parker and Stone if they have extended an invitation to Governor Romney. "He's been invited. He said he's gonna come when he has time," answered Stone. "If he gets elected it's because of us. If he doesn't get elected it's because of us," laughed Parker. "But this show is much bigger and more important than the President of the United States."
Finally, while the musical mentions many of the unusual aspects of the Mormon religion including "magic underwear," the planet Kolob and the fact that the church did not allow African Americans to be members until 1978, it never mentions polygamy, which is often associated with the religion thanks in part to HBO's Big Love. So I asked Stone and Parker why they chose to stay away from that topic. "We wanted to do your everyday Salt Lake City Mormon, and we obviously do a stereotype of that, too. But that was sort of a misconception among a lot of people that Mormons are polygamists and they’re not actually,” explained Parker. "They obviously have that in their history and there are some fundamentalists that still are polygamists. But because of Big Love a lot of the jokes have already been done."
"I think that’s probably the main reason Mormons like the show, because they’re so sick of that lazy joke," continued Stone. "It’s definitely part of their history and it’s not like it’s not there, but it just doesn’t apply to mainstream Mormons anymore. I think in staying away from that they’re just so appreciative that there’s something mainstream that isn’t them saying, that because it just doesn’t fit most of them anymore."
"And we wanted Mormons to buy tickets and take out ads in Playbill," Parker said in closing.
The Book of Mormon is currently playing at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, California from now until November 25th.
To buy tickets to The Book of Mormon at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, please click here.