Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly on Step Brothers

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On the set of Step Brothers, the guys are still in their costumes – Will Ferrell in “Star Wars” PJ’s with socks tucked in his pants and John C. Reilly with an ice pack taped to his head – as they talked to ComingSoon.net about their new comedy and the freedom of working with R-rated material.

ComingSoon.net: What happened to your head?
John C. Reilly: It is for the scene. We got in a fight in the movie and we are in the recovery stage right here.

CS: Was this a drum accident?
Reilly: No, we have a big fight on the lawn and I hit Will with a baseball bat.
Will Ferrell: It was a simultaneous knock out.
Reilly: He hits me with a driver, golf club.
Ferrell: (says in unison with John) golf club.

CS: What did you guys do to the dry wall?
Ferrell: We slammed each other into it. This is all a fight over who touched John’s drum set. Whether I did.

CS: Did you?
Ferrell: I would say I didn’t, but you’ll have to watch the movie.
Reilly: I have forensic evidence. However, we have no witnesses.

CS: Does your character ever allow Will’s character back into “The Beat Laboratory”?
Reilly: He’s allowed to go back in there eventually, but never to touch the drums even when we become very close friends.
Ferrell: I can just hover in there, that’s it.

CS: Can you talk about how working on “Talladega Nights” possibly led to a more shorthand, comedic sort of thing?
Reilly: Yeah, well that’s where we developed the hand signals.
Ferrell: It is like a 300-page, Morse code like booklet that we pass out to the crew, to visitors, you guys will get it later on your departure.
Reilly: The movie is virtually indecipherable if you don’t have this book too, so the studio coughed up the cost to provide one to every audience member.
Ferrell: We are going to hand them out at the theater as well to decipher the film, but we think it will be a cool novelty item 20 years from now.
Reilly: We were friends before we did “Talladega” so we had some type of shorthand before that even, right?
Ferrell: Yeah. This whole, it is funny its been an interesting movie in that we kind of started out with a bunch of physical things and we hadn’t actually done scenes yet so in terms of the way we responded with each other’s characters we were almost figuring that out a little after the fact. Which I think would have been a lot harder if we hadn’t known each other that well.
Reilly: A lot of the shorthand in this movie too comes from the fact that we all kind of figured out the story together, Will and Adam and I, so we all told each other stories from our past.
Ferrell: And put it in the script, so by the time we filmed it…
Reilly: By the time it got in the script we all knew where the stories had come from and what the intent was.

CS: I know you guys had this concept back when you made “Talladega Nights,” so where did this idea come from originally?
Reilly: It wasn’t that far back was it?
Ferrell: No, we just had the idea of trying to work together again, but in terms of a specific idea it wasn’t until meeting back in Los Angeles and pitching a bunch of things and then it was really, we had settled on two or three options and I think Adam called us the next day and said “Here’s a totally brand new idea that we hadn’t thought about” and it was this one and we were, “Oh”.

CS: How did the writing work?
Ferrell: Actually, I shouldn’t even say this – we farmed it out to China. There are a group of writers who work, they are called the Omega Group and they are pretty close to our voice, there were some cultural things that were slightly different.
Reilly: All the script notes came from India. And they would just talk to the writers in China.
Ferrell: It was a very belabored process, but we didn’t have to do any of it, which was great.

CS: Do any of your friends make appearances, for example the people you have worked with in other films?
Reilly: When you say “friends”…

CS: I don’t want to drop any names…
Reilly: People we don’t really like that we call our “friends”?
Ferrell: I’m trying to think if any of the friends that you have on your list would be in this movie. There is, once again, an ensemble feel to this film.
Reilly: But it is a smaller cast than “Talladega” so there is less room for people to come in.
Ferrell: There are cameos of other comedic actors that we all love and know.

CS: Can you guys talk about working with Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen?
Reilly: I have always admired both of them. I did a movie with Mary Steenburgen and Richard I have always admired too so I was thrilled. I wasn’t really part of the decision to get them in the movie because it was happening when I was out of town this summer but I was thrilled.
Ferrell: Yeah, Richard Jenkins was kind of a name we talked about a long time when we were writing the script about how he would be perfect guy to play John’s dad and Mary kind of came later only because we didn’t think she would want to play my mom. She’s so young looking, but she was game. They are not only great actors, but great comedic actors in the style that we like, which is played as real as possible and to let the circumstance be the comedy of it.

CS: In the scene that we just watched, it appeared Richard was the hard ass of the two parents and Mary pretends like she is but then she kind of softens up.
Reilly: You can’t make too many assumptions about what you see because we are literally completely changing stuff up not doing the script anymore. We are making a whole big pallet of things to choose from and they both, Richard is really upset because we just got in a fight in this scene but he is by no means the hard ass in this movie. Both parents…
Ferrell: Trade off at times.
Reilly: The reason that they are able to stay where they are at in their lives is because both parents let it go on.

CS: Can you talk about the freedom of working in R-rated environment and not having to hold back.
Ferrell: We just kind of both came from doing R movies before this, but still I’ve never gotten to work with Adam in this setting. It is great to not have to edit yourself in that way just because “Anchorman” and “Talladega” we were always like “Is that too much? Do we need to find an alt for that?” That being said, we still find ourselves trying to do a couple takes that are a little less stocked with the F word just in case we have F word overload. We are like addicts who finally get to say bad words.

CS: Do you think the environment is changing at all in comedy that films are being made that are R-rated.
Ferrell: In regards to comedy? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think with the success of like every summer there has been a couple R-rated comedies that have done so well I think it is so nice to see that people are turning out to see these movies and it doesn’t seem to be as big a stigma with the studios anymore. You know PG-13 used to guarantee a certain box office success and I’m sure they could pull up the statistics to still support that in a way, but it is nice that these other really creative movies that also happen to be R-rated are getting a nice shot.
Reilly: You know the cable TV effect too, you know watch Bill Maher or Jon Stewart, these guys say basically whatever they want even if they beep it out it used to be they couldn’t even say it to get beeped. I think that is part of it and I think also just so much of media in general is PG like regular radio and regular TV. It is so controlled for so long and I think people have a craving for the truth or like honest expression and people swear more often than they did at least it seems like they do.
Ferrell: It is funny when you get comments back like “That was rated R? Why was it rated R? It didn’t seem that bad.” So I think it is a comment on the rating system as well.
Reilly: There is something too about the background of a lot of the people who are doing these kind of R-rated comedies now, I know – this is probably true of the Groundlings. I don’t know them, but I’ve heard Adam say…I say “Man, we go really dark sometimes with the language or the scenarios we just let our minds go wherever. So that’s the rule of improv is not about limiting where you are going to go with it, you follow it all the way to the conclusion you are heading toward and that’s what he said, “Oh man, at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade)” or whatever there isn’t a show that goes by without abortion or anal sex or whatever. These are the taboo subjects that come up in comedy. That’s what people go for so it is not so much that we want to be more racy for that reason. We just start improv-ing and coming up with crazy scenarios and end up doing stuff that is more on the edge and it is not so family friendly.
Ferrell: Whether or not we ultimately have it in the movie, it allows you to explore and then come back to another area.

CS: We were talking to someone earlier who said the comedy in this is generally darker. Is that true or is it maybe a little harder in concept?
Ferrell: I’m not the best one to ask because I never understand. I will watch a movie that is quote unquote dark and not get the qualification of what is dark and what is not.
Reilly: It doesn’t seem dark to me [laughs]. It is about two guys who are sort of stuck in their childhood, you know. So it has a certain innocence to it, but I guess we do swear and stuff so if that is dark, that doesn’t seem dark to me. What is darker to me is a movie about dismemberment and taking people hostage and torturing them.

CS: There is none of that in this film?
Reilly: Dismemberment? No. Hostages? No.
Ferrell: No, I don’t think so.

CS: Well, you still have a few more days on the shoot so you could.
Ferrell: Yeah, we could add that in.

CS: Can you talk about leaving the nest yourselves? Were you the types to drag your feet?
Reilly: No, I couldn’t wait to get out.
Ferrell: I could totally relate to this. I lived at home for three years after college. I had the benefit of a very patient mother who was like alright.
Reilly: You had a cozier situation, I had five brothers and sisters so by the time I could at all get out I wanted my own space, which I never had at home.

CS: Was that right at 18?
Reilly: Yeah.

CS: Do you guys plan to work together again? Maybe “Land of the Lost”?
Reilly: You got something for John Reilly in that?
Ferrell: We are probably going to do a musical together. “Fiddler II.”
Reilly: “Hello Dollies” or “Two Dollies.”

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