Jody Hill not only captivated audiences with the directorial debut of his self-financed indie film The Foot Fist Way, but received high praises from peers Will Ferrell and producing partner Adam McKay who took on the project as the first movie for their production company Gary Sanchez Productions. Hill is now directing his first studio feature Observe and Report, which is based on a script he wrote about a mall security guard who attempts to catch a pervert. The Warner Bros. comedy stars Seth Rogen and Ray Liotta, and ComingSoon.net sat down with the director to talk to him about his new film.
Q: What kind of comedy are you going for in this movie?
Jody Hill: I don’t know if I would say this is broader. It’s certainly not going to be for everybody. It’s a little more specific than when you say ‘broad comedy’ and the movies that makes me think of. In a way it’s kind of like “Foot Fist” in that there are moments that are uncomfortable and this kind of stuff. And also, there’s other types of things. There’s a lot of genuinely sad moments or action moments that I think people are going to come into this thinking we’re getting ready to see this comedy with Seth Rogen and when they leave, hopefully they won’t know what to think. I think it’s going to break genre rules throughout.
Q: Where’d you get the idea for this movie from?
Hill: I don’t know really. My dad used to own some stores, these coffee stores that were in malls and I saw him fight with a security guard one time. I always remembered that so I thought that would be funny.
Q: What were they fighting over?
Hill: Warning tickets. There’s a scene in the movie where Seth gives the guy a warning ticket because he parks in the loading zone and the guy’s a store owner. That’s kind of the fight there because my dad kept getting warning tickets and he was a store owner.
Q: This is clearly going to be rated R, so can you talk about the freedom working with Seth?
Hill: Seth’s great. I’m a big fan of films from the ’70s and that keep the dialogue real loose and roll with it. It’s more important about the character than the actual dialogue. Seth is kind of, maybe it’s because he comes from a comedy background, his style, it’s just adaptable to mine. I’ve never worked with Seth before but it’s been real easy because if I’m like, “Oh, well just go off on this topic” – he’s right there with it. What’s good is in this movie I think you’re going to see a range from Seth that you haven’t seen before. Seth’s always been great, but here he’s not playing it’s a much different type of roll than like the stoner-slacker guy. You have a guy that’s trying to live by a code, he’s focused on doing the right thing. It’s kind of opposite than what he’s done before.
Q: How did you arrive on Seth for that because it is outside of what his usual thing is?
Hill: I don’t know, whenever I wrote this I had Seth in mind to play this role. We had made friends right before I pitched it and I’d been a fan of his since “Freaks and Geeks.” I thought he’d be good for the role, he kind of looks like a mall security guard. I thought he’d be funny. He’s really good. He cries in this thing and there’s parts where he and Ray Liotta have a genuine fight. I say it rivals any fight that’s out there in terms of how hardcore it is.
Q: What’s it like working with a studio budget versus trying to come up with money to fund the movie yourself?
Hill: It’s kind of crazy. I think the rental fee on one of those cranes is more than what I made my first movie for. It’s weird at night when they break out the lights. You’ll look up in the sky and be like, “Wow, those are ours,” we did that. In one way it’s a lot different in terms of like when you look around and see the scope of it. But in other ways it’s kind of similar where you talk to your DP and your main actor, then everyone uses the walkies and it spreads out from there.
Q: You’ve been able to bring a lot of the same people from “The Foot Fist Way” onto this one, is it important to you to have the guys around you, friends?
Hill: Yeah, definitely. I think maybe 10 or 11 from the crew are all from North Carolina School of the Arts, where I went to college. Tim the DP, Matt the camera operator, our sound mixer Chris. Even a lot of the actors, like I don’t know if you guys saw “Foot Fist,” but the guy who does the demo and knocks the guy out, he plays the pervert, Randy you have some of his nudity to look forward to.
Q: Speaking of nudity, we heard that you guys are going to have male nudity in this one. What do you think all of a sudden all of these movies are pushing that? What do you find so great about it?
Hill: Ummm who doesn’t like male nudity? The movie’s about a pervert in a Texas mall, and Ronnie’s here to save it. I didn’t do it for shock value and I don’t know what other people think when they do it. But for me it just seemed like, we have a pervert in the movie, you might as well show the pervert flashing people. That was about as much as I thought about it.
Q: Can you talk about casting Ray Liotta and what he brings to this?
Hill: I grew up watching Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas,” so when I heard he wanted to do it I just jumped at the opportunity. Plus, something about Seth Rogen and Ray Liotta just sounds so crazy, it’s almost like I had to put him in the movie just so I could see what that looked like. It’s great. Ray Liotta though, I think people are going to like. He yells at Seth and they fight. It’s that angry Ray Liotta where you think he might murder somebody. It’s really going to be cool.
Q: “Foot Fist” was also about a mall culture with the chain dojos. So do you have a third part of the mall culture trilogy?
Hill: You know kind of. I’m glad you ask that because that is kind of the thought process. I’ve thought about doing a third one but there’s definitely something similar. I’m interested in doing something it’s more like average, ordinary people who are given a sense of power but yet don’t have any power. I’ve always been fascinated by the guy you meet, no matter what he does, like the ticker taker at the movies who like, will yell at you for being five minutes late because he can. It’s that kind of guy, there’s something tragic and funny about it. I’ve been talking to Danny about maybe doing a third installment.
Q: Do you have any other ideas, anything else in your back pocket?
Hill: Yeah, I have a few, but I’m going to wait until this one’s finished. I’m going to write the next one before I set it up anywhere so I can kind of keep control of it.
Q: Is that sort of the plan for your whole career is to be writing your own stuff or do you ever see yourself directing someone else’s stuff?
Hill: I like writing my own stuff. If a book came along I would maybe do that. I don’t see myself making comedies always. I was never into comedies growing up. I don’t come from an improv background. I just kind of fell into it because I had an idea for a comedy with “Foot Fist Way.” I probably will end up writing most of the stuff I do, but who’s to say? I mean, if there’s some great big summer blockbuster that seems cool maybe I’ll do that, but for right now I’m enjoying this.
Observe and Report opens in theaters on April 10th.