It’s almost ten at night when Kevin James – comedian, screenwriter, and, now, producer joins press in his “resting” carrel after a day of shooting hostage scenes for his new movie, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, in which he plays the title role. James made a name for himself starring in the sitcom “The King of Queens,” and his fame spread with memorable parts in hit films like Hitch and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
If the gathering crowds at the Burlington Mall, where “Mall Cop” is being filmed through the end of May, are any indication, his comic star is rising as high as, say, Adam Sandler’s (the film is produced by Sandler’s Happy Madison productions). Dressed in the downtrodden garb of a security guard and sporting a new, uncomfortable moustache, James is nevertheless all enthusiasm and handshakes when he sits down to talk to press about facial hair, tanning beds, and why he wanted to ride a segway.
ComingSoon.net: Mall cops can’t have guns. So how does your character fight the bad guys?
Kevin James: He uses the mall against them. And the segway. He knows the mall so well, he turns them on themselves, all different types of things from sporting goods to this is what I’m so excited about! You go into a Brookstone or a Sharper Image, you can grab anything. He could grab a knife but he doesn’t do that, which is cool. He defeats them without using any real weapons. And trying to keep the bad guys real is a challenge too. It’s a fun mix of trying to be scary and intense and just having fun with it.
CS: We heard something about a tanning bed
James: I get caught in a tanning bed. My wife came up with that one. She said, “It would be funny if you got stuck in a tanning booth and, throughout the movie, got progressively tanner.” It’s such a nightmare because I’m always wondering how tan am I.
CS: Did you improvise while you wrote the script?
James: Yeah. I plan it out, think it out, once I knew we were doing the movie I got a segway delivered to my office. I was falling all over it. Just using that as a funny tool. We had to write it pretty fast due to the strike. We just, thank god, when I think something’s funny, when I feel it’s a funny area for me, it writes fast. This thing, we had too many ideas.
CS: Why did you decide to use real athletes rather than stunt doubles?
James: We were trying to find something different than having typical European guys take over the mall. That’s what we’re having fun with. We thought it would be cool if these younger, tough guys took over the mall. That’s something I hadn’t seen.
CS: Were there any mishaps that ended up being useful that you could incorporate into the film?
James: I said to the crew, “always keep rolling, whatever’s gonna happen will happen.” The first day we were shooting there was this dog chase scene, and I got scared and hit the curb and totally wiped out. The whole crew started running after me. They thought I was hurt and I wasn’t. I said “keep rolling!” There’s another scene where I’m on the segway with Jayma, who plays the love interest, and I lost control of that, and I was certain no one could stop it. Like the boy who cried wolf.
CS: Did you want to do your own stunts?
James: I’m afraid of heights. I’ve had a really bad track record with heights. With “King of Queens” they based a whole episode on a roller coaster. They were going to film my reactions to being on a roller coaster. We set up, we got there, we closed off the whole park, and I couldn’t do it. I just get so scared.
CS: We’ve been told you do a great fall in this.
James: They lied to me. They said, “We just need a little shot of you falling where it’s you and not the stunt guy.” I said “OK, and if I feel comfortable enough I’ll go a little higher.” I went up, the first time was like twenty feet which is really high for me, and I said “that’s about as high as I can go.” They said “OK,” and we did another take, and they raised me up higher. I know that because when I was falling I remember thinking to myself “I should be hitting now and I’m not hitting.” It kills my stomach. Some people get a rush. Not me. I hate standing near the second level, I’m not kidding.
CS: The moustache is it real?
James: I didn’t want to do a fake one. I hate that glue, spirit gum on my lip. I would be so angry every day. I didn’t think my lip could handle that, so I grew this one over a weekend, concentrated really hard. It feels like a horseshoe. I can’t wait till the end to shave it off.
CS: Is it hard acting and producing at the same time?
James: With something I’m so close to, I love it. When you’re writing this and producing it you have a vision already. I’ll come into some scenes, and (they tell me what to do), and I’m like, “I know. I wrote it.” I literally picture it while they’re setting up the shot. I’ve envisioned it so clearly that when they set it up a different way I’m like, “I don’t know that I can enter from the left.” It’s just weird. Most of it is coming out great, the way I envisioned it. We’re laughing about little things, finding levels of how ridiculous we’re being. It’s got a lot of elements, action movie, romantic movie. I’m psyched to put it out there.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop opens in theaters on January 16.