IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Griffin Dunne Talks 'Movie 43,' 'Broken City,' and Passing on 'Dumb and Dumber'

Thursday, 24 January 2013 17:20 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Griffin Dunne Talks 'Movie 43,' 'Broken City,' and Passing on 'Dumb and Dumber'

Actor, writer, and producer Griffin Dunne is truly part of Hollywood royalty. He is the son of famed investigative journalist and movie producer Dominick Dunne (The Panic in Needle Park), the brother of the late actress Dominique Dunne (Poltergeist), and the nephew of screenwriters John Gregory Dunne (True Confessions), and Joan Didion (Up Close & Personal). 

However, Griffin Dunne is a very well known actor in his own right having appeared in several feature films including the groundbreaking An American Werewolf in London, Johnny Dangerously, After Hours, Who’s That Girl, Quiz Show, My Girl, The Great Buck Howard, and most recently Broken City opposite Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe. Not to mention he is also a very accomplished filmmaker and has directed such movies as Addicted to Love, Practical Magic, Fierce People, and The Accidental Husband, as well as producing Baby It’s You, Running on Empty, White Palace, and Joe’s Apartment. Now, Dunne returns to the director’s chair with the new anthology comedy Movie 43, which opens in theaters on January 25th.

The film features several different shorts that are all tied together by one story, and were directed by a string of successful filmmakers in addition to Dunne, which include Peter Farrelly (The Three Stooges), Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand), Bob Odenkirk (Let’s Go to Prison), James Gunn (Super), Steven Brill (Mr. Deeds), Steve Carr (Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Rusty Cundieff (Sprung), Jonathan van Tulleken, Patrik Forsberg, James Duffy and actress Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games). Dunne’s contribution to the film is entitled Veronica and stars Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man) and Keiran Culkin (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as star crossed lovers who must say farewell for the last time. 

Movie 43 truly stars an all-star cast that in addition to Stone and Culkin includes such talent as Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Halle Berry, Stephen Merchant, Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Jack McBrayer, Kristen Bell, Justin Long, Uma Thurman, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Bibb, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gerard Butler, Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Terrence Howard, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, J.B. Smoove, Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Common, Seth MacFarlane, and even Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to actor/director/producer Griffin Dunne about Movie 43, as well as his role in Broken City and his overall distinguished career. The accomplished filmmaker discussed Movie 43, how he became involved in the project, why it’s the prefect time to release an anthology comedy, directing Veronica, casting Emma Stone and Keiran Culkin, screening the classic Casablanca for them before they began filming, his role in Broken City, playing racket ball with Russell Crowe, what he likes more – acting or directing, his next feature film – a documentary about his aunt Joan Didion, and why he regrets passing on playing one of the two leads in Dumb and Dumber

Here is what the veteran actor/director/producer had to say:

IAR: To begin with, I understand that your involvement with Movie 43 really came out of your longtime friendship with producer Charles Wessler, is that correct? Can you talk about how he got you involved in this unique project?

Griffin Dunne: Yes, well we've been friends since we were about nine years old. So we've watched each other's careers begin and carry on and I think I was able to sort of establish myself as an actor earlier than he did as a producer and he came to me with a script that he'd been working on called Dumb and Dumber and I remember just thinking it was the stupidest script I ever read and I couldn't even get through it and he went off and cast Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey in it. So I never actually related to his sense of humor ever again. So I've been watching him work on this thing like four years he's been working on it. We always talked about me directing one and then he said, "I think I found something I think you'd really like" and he knows my taste and thought that I would love this and so I was able to do it.

Since you just mentioned it, how often have you kicked yourself over the years for passing on Dumb and Dumber?

Dunne: Oh, all the time. It was a big, big kick. It's not like he came to me first either. I think he came to me after Sinbad passed! So he was having a tough time casting it to begin with. I think it was really Jim Carrey that really saw this kind of like crazy genius that the Farrellys had in mind. 

When I recently spoke to director/producer Peter Farrelly, he mentioned that your An American Werewolf in London director John Landis’ film The Kentucky Fried Movie; loosely inspired the idea of doing an anthology comedy like this. In the YouTube era that we now find ourselves living in, do you think that in a way this is really the perfect time to introduce a comedy in a format like this?

Dunne: I think that it's a feature to be seen in a movie theater when the market has been so saturated with the Internet for other things. I think there's something kind of bold and refreshing about it. And it's really shot and designed to be shown in movie theaters where the audience would collectively be laughing and grossed out and all the other things that go into this. I think the experience of watching a Kentucky Fried Movie hasn't changed except that the attention spans are somehow even shorter. 

The short that you directed in the film is entitled Veronica, did you have a choice over which segment you would direct or did Charles Wessler and Peter Farrelly just kind of pick that one for you?

Dunne: I think I read one other one, but I always liked this one. 

What was it that attracted you to Veronica, and what did you like about that story?

Dunne: I liked the emotions of it. The dialogue kind of spoke for itself. I always want people to say these really funny, filthy, outrageous, things, but do it as if they were delivering the dialogue from Casablanca at the end of the movie, but be really emotionally invested so that it would be even funnier. I think that that plays so great. Emma is playing it so straight and both Emma and Kieran are so emotionally invested in the heartbreak, the teenage heartbreak of this that really appealed to me because I always think things are never funny when people know they're funny. You usually can’t cry in movies if you're looking at an actor crying. So this was kind of like an experiment in that and a chance for me to work with that, and the dialogue is insane.

I understand that you actually screened Casablanca for your cast before you started shooting the movie, is that correct?

Dunne: Yeah, we all looked at it. I mean that's how strange it would be. If you were looking at Veronica and you didn't speak a word of English, you would have no idea it was a comedy. You would think from the tone of the actors and the way that they are reacting to each other, that you were looking at two star-crossed lovers who were breaking each other's hearts and will never see each other again.

Can you talk about casting both Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin in your segment of the film? 

Dunne: We made up a list of people we would love (to have in the film) and Emma was at the top of the list. She was the first person we went to and sometimes this happens, your very first choice is the one who's also available and loves the script. She was great friends with Kieran and suggested him, and that was another piece of great luck because they knew each other so well and they had such history with each other, which showed on camera. So it couldn't have been better. 

I actually had an opportunity to see Broken City recently and I was delighted to see you pop up on the screen. What was it like working on that film and doing most of your scenes opposite Oscar-winner Russell Crowe?

Dunne: It was great! It was really great! He's a real committed actor but I don't think a lot of our stuff made it onto the screen. However, we did play a lot of racket ball together and he's a very competitive guy. It was great working with somebody like that. He shows up and he's ready to work.

You are such an accomplished actor and director in your own right, at this point in your career, which do you enjoy doing more?

Dunne: Well, I think I'll always love directing. If you get material that you really love and you can cast people that you really want to work with, it's sort of almost all consuming and kind of the greatest experience. I'm sort of happiest doing that. You know I love acting. Depending on the parts, you're kind of starting and stopping, and it's hard to get a whole rhythm going. But I like them both. I'm very lucky that I'm able to do both. When one is illusive, I can always go to the other. 

Finally, are you working on a new feature film now, and if so, what is it about?

Dunne: Well, I've been directing episodes of The Good Wife while I am doing a documentary, which is about my aunt, the writer Joan Didion. I'm doing a feature length documentary about her and I'm working on that right now. 

Just to follow up on that, what is it like making a documentary compared to directing television or a feature film?

Dunne: Well, it's a whole other thing to complicate my life. It requires just as much preparation as with a feature film, but with that you kind of prepare so you can avoid mistakes from happening. With a documentary, you prepare just as much but kind of hope mistakes happen. You're just sort of dealing much more with the unexpected in a documentary. 

Movie 43 opens in theaters on January 25th

To read our exclusive interview with director/producer Peter Farrelly about Movie 43, please click here.

To read our exclusive interview with actor/comedian Stephen Merchant about Movie 43, please click here

Broken City is currently playing in theaters.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Movie 43 was produced by Relativity Media, iamROGUE's Parent Company. 

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