Here is what the accomplished producer and director had to say:
IAR: To begin with, can you talk a little bit about the origins of this project? There hasn’t been an anthology comedy on the big screen in quite some time and I understand it was partly inspired by your love for the great John Landis’ The Kentucky Fried Movie, is that correct?
Peter Farrelly: Correct! Although I don’t consider it John Landis’ … I would think of it as the Zucker Brothers’ because it was the first time I saw them and Jim Abrahams. But you’re right! John Landis directed that movie so I should probably give him more credit. But we wanted to do a Kentucky Fried Movie type thing and Charlie Wessler, he’s the producer, he’s been thinking about it for many years. He wanted to do it with all different writers, instead of having one group of guys write all the shorts, like on Saturday Night Live. He said, “What if you just open the world up so you could get shorts from anywhere, any country, any person, any little town.” He basically started soliciting shorts online and looking at hundreds of them, and then narrowing them down to like thirty or forty and then sending them out to big stars.
I understand that the project took a long time and that there was a lot of stopping and starting so that you could get the actors and directors that you wanted when their schedules allowed them to be available. As a producer, can you discuss how you selected the actors and the directors that you wanted to be involved in the project, and how you chose which segments of the film you wanted them to work on?
Farrelly: Well there was a lot of starting and stopping. But we knew it would be that way from the beginning because the budget was 6 million going in and I think it got up to 7 million. But we knew we couldn’t get all these huge starts together all at the same time over a ten-week period. So we would call actors like Richard Gere and say, hey, you want to do this short? He said, “Yeah, I would, but I can’t because I’m working.” We said, until when? He said, “For a year!” We said; when would you be ready? When could you do it? He said, “A year from March.” We said, we’d wait, and we did. So we shut down. We had different crews, different lighting, different scenes, different directors, and we just shut down. We had a six-month gap, and we were able to do it by waiting for the actors. As far as the actors who we wanted we shot for the moon. We thought, who are our favorite actors? Then we just went to them. Luckily, Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman shot the first one. So when we went to other actors and we said, hey, we’re doing this short thing and by the way Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman already did one. Everybody was like, “I’m in!” That gave it the stamp of approval and everybody wanted to do it. Then for the directors, we just got young guys and girls that we liked, admired, and thought were talented, and we just went to them. Once we had stars and good scripts, it was pretty easy to get the directors.
Then, with someone like Elizabeth Banks who is known more as an actress and producer, giving her an opportunity to direct, was that very rewarding for you as a producer as well?
Farrelly: Yeah, well we didn’t ask her to direct, she asked us. She said, “Hey, could I direct one?” It was like, of course, are you kidding me? Absolutely! Because she’s hilarious, she’s talented and by the way, her short turned out to be one of the best ones in the movie. She’s incredibly funny, but we knew if worst came to worst and it weren’t any good, she’d be accountable!
I’d like to ask you about the two shorts in the film that you directed, The Catch, and Truth or Dare, which both center on blind dates. Do you personally have a history with blind dates? Why did you choose to direct those two particular segments of the film?
Farrelly: No, it’s just a complete coincidence. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve been on a blind date honestly. When we started, Charlie had sent me a bunch of scripts and he said, “Pick one that you want to direct.” So I picked The Catch. I thought it was fantastic, and then of course we got Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman and that was great. Then later I think somebody dropped out of directing and just couldn’t do it. Everybody else was scheduled so Charlie called me and said, “Do you want to do this other one with Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant,” and of course I was up for it immediately.
I’m a huge fan of Stephen Merchant and the work that he has done with Ricky Gervais. I think he is just one of the funniest guys alive! I know that you have directed him before in Hall Pass, but tell me about working with him on this project?
Farrelly: Well, I also consider Stephen Merchant to be one of the top five funniest guys on the planet today. He cracks me up and he is just a pleasure to be around. He is so funny and everything about him is funny. Every cell in his body is funny. He’s incredible, but he’s also a great guy. We worked with him on Hall Pass and I try to put him in everything, honestly. Now every single thing I do I call him and say, will you do this? He’s like, “No I can’t. I just did two of your things. Leave me alone.” He’s just a spectacular guy and a huge talent. I want him to do a lead in a movie where he’s the whole thing because he can carry it. He is that funny!
You mentioned Academy Award-winner Halle Berry and I can’t remember her every being in a comedy like this before. What was she like to direct and how was she working off of Stephen Merchant?
Farrelly: Well first of all, the great thing about Halle is she’s a real lady. She has so much class, she’s so intelligent and she’s so cool. But when we sent her that script, I was a little embarrassed honestly. I thought she was going to say, “You can’t be serious?” Not only did she not say that, she called back and said, “I thought you said this was a hard-R movie? Come on and go for it. You guys came up short!” So the writers took another pass at it, and they really pushed it. She was probably the most gung-ho of anybody in the movie. She was really ready to just mix it up, shake it up, blast the thing off and break any preconceived notions you may have had about her. Stephen Merchant was probably trying to keep up with her because she had no qualms about going for everything.
Did Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi’s appearance in the film come out of your experience of working with her on The Three Stooges?
Farrelly: No actually, in this case, this film came first. I shot this at least a year before The Three Stooges. But I do have to say, and I know I’m the only guy on the planet saying this, but my experience with The Jersey Shore gang was sensational. They were great! They showed up on time, they were gracious, they wanted to work, and they wanted to try things. I don’t watch the show, but as people, I really like them. I thought they were very nice. They’re really good sports. I just expected trouble because of everything you read and hear, but they showed up on time and they did it. They were willing to make an ass out of himself or herself, and anytime anybody has that attitude they’re going to be funny.
In The Catch, Hugh Jackman’s character has his testicles attached to his chin. Was Jackman a good sport about playing that role?
Farrelly: Yes, he couldn’t have been a better sport! By the way, the makeup for those balls, that was the most impressive part of the entire movie. Because talking to him from a foot or two away, I couldn’t tell if those were fake balls, they were so impressive. When he walked out with those balls for the first time and Kate saw them, first of all the entire crew went crazy laughing. Then Kate and Hugh couldn’t keep a straight face because they realized this is going to be fucking hilarious! It doesn’t even matter what they said, you just knew it was going to be funny. When you read the script, you don’t know if it will work. The guy might come out with something ridiculous looking on his face, but those looked real, and they couldn’t have looked more real.
Finally, what was it like directing a film without your longtime collaborator and brother, Bobby Farrelly?
Farrelly: It was different, but we’ve done it in the past in short versions. You know, occasional I’ll do a commercial or Bob will do a commercial. So we have done it before, but it is a different thing. When my brother’s with me, I know when something’s working or not working because he’s letting me know. When he’s not there, I’m just going on my own guts, and I’d better just hope I’m right!