Bruce Greenwood and Ron Livingston are two big shot execs who host a monthly dinner to make fun of people in Dinner for Schmucks. To have any sort of rising success in the company, employees must invite someone to dinner so they can be made fun of. ComingSoon.net talked to Greenwood and Livingston on the set in Los Angeles about their latest roles.
Q: What did you like about the script?
Bruce Greenwood: Well I’d heard about it before I’d read the script. I heard who was involved… Steven [Carell] and Paul [Rudd] and Jay [Roach], and a host of these other funnymen. It’s kind of like, “Gee, maybe I’d better think twice. Okay, sounds great.” And then I read the script and it was just laugh out loud funny. And then when you get on the set, they’re inventing stuff all day long and I feel like I should be buying a ticket to be here working.
Q: And what about you Ron?
Ron Livingston: Well I’m sure you guys know about the set up by now, but it’s your basic predatory capitalist. The guys that work there throw a dinner every month. It’s a contest to find who can bring the biggest idiot and then they spend the whole night surreptitiously making fun of these people. It’s a great
script and it kind of functions as a metaphor. Like everybody has a great fear of being made fun of and so I think this movie is a little bit about that. And by the end of it you’re not really sure who the idiots are, the people that are being made fun of, or the people that kind of seem to have this need to be finding someone to make fun of.
Q: Do they have this need to find people so that they’re not made fun of? Do they have to make fun of other people so that it doesn’t happen to them?
Greenwood: That’s a very deep question. (Laughing) I think the answer is clear.
Q: So is there a prize for whoever brings the biggest schmuck?
Greenwood: Well, there is a notch up the corporate ladder if you manage to impress the boss with the most raging half-wit you can find.
Livingston: Mostly I think its bragging rights. You get the bragging rights for the month.
Q: What kind of company is it?
Livingston: It’s a financial company. The old school leverage buy outs. You know, find a perfectly good company, buy it and carve it up. Which, in a way, is the same thing that they are doing to the people that they are bringing in. Just bringing ’em in and carving them up.
Q: How do you guys find these idiots?
Livingston: It’s all set up pretty hysterically.
Greenwood: Most of them are journalists aren’t they? [Laughing]
Livingston: Yeah, that’s pretty much act one of the movie, you see how they find these people. They just sort of fan out and they turn up.
Greenwood: They’re everywhere. And some of them are us. You know, I think I have great ideas sometimes I just don’t share them. [Laughing]
Q: Is the story supposed to take place in New York or L.A.?
Livingston: It’s set here in L.A. And then of course the story sort of follows Paul who’s kind of caught in the middle of this whole thing. It’s not quite to his taste but of course he has ambitions and he wants to fit into the company. So against his better judgment, he’s going along with it and he finds Steve Carell and at which point, hilarity ensues.
Q: We were told that you are kind of the rival to Paul. How so?
Livingston: I’m one of the rivals. Paul has a lot of rivals. I’m probably jackass number four. Yeah he’s got Jemaine [Clement] plays [one] I think he’s got a love interest rival. I just basically play the insecure threatened guy at the company that sort of makes it his business to try and take the new guy down. I don’t know if Paul actually sweats when he calls [Laughing] But that’s my angle.
Q: What’s Jay Roach like to work with?
Livingston: Jay’s fantastic! He’s one of these guys that comes from the operator side of it so he knows the lens and he knows the frame. You get the feeling he’s a great big kid with the imagination of it all. It’s always great to work with a director that seems like he’s having fun all day long. Especially in a comedy because it makes it a lot easier for you to have fun all day long. That seems to be Jay’s approach.
Q: How’s it been for you?
Greenwood: He’s just so easy going and the vibe on the set is just so relaxed. You never feel pressured to do something quickly, and we’re just free to kind of play around and find stuff that works. He creates this environment where everybody feels as though time doesn’t exist. So it’s not what you usually find on a set, it’s a lot of people looking at their watches, and if they are not looking at their watches, then you can see them grinding their teeth wishing they could, you know. And this isn’t like that at all. And yet we’re still making the dates. We’re not behind or anything its just. he creates that really balanced, safe environment where there’s tons of enthusiasm and no pressure.
Q: What’s it like to improv with these guys?
Greenwood: [Laughing] Watch and learn, you know. I’m at school here.
Livingston: Yeah, I don’t think it is so much improv with them as trying to keep up. When Steve and Zach [Galifianakis], and Paul Paul is fantastic at improv. When those guys get going, you just kind of hang on to your chair and try to not drop the ball.
Q: This project must have been kind of a welcome change of pace for you Bruce.
Greenwood: It’s like a different smoke for me for sure. Generally I’m reasonably serious. This can’t be considered too serious. The characters of course take this deadly serious, but I’m just used to much straighter fare so it’s been a real joy for me.
Q: Ron, are there any other characters that threaten him beyond Paul? What’s his relationship with Bruce’s character? Does he sort of live in fear of him or is he a suck up to him?
Livingston: I think that its kind of fun to play about this whole environment in that these guys are all sort of vultures, they’d eat each other for lunch given half a chance. So they get along swimmingly, but you always get a sense that if the chips are down, nobody’s got anybody’s back.
Q: Have either of you seen the original French film or play?
Greenwood: Yeah, I haven’t seen the play but I’ve seen the film.
Q: How close tonally and story wise is it?
Greenwood: Have you seen it Ron?
Livingston: I haven’t. I own it and I made a point of it to watch it I have a rule that if I play a part I don’t want to see anybody do it better than me before I do it [Laughing] But I prefer to wait.
Greenwood: There are a lot of elements that are parallel, but this is a much bigger, much more rambunctious, crazy, crazy comedy. That was very contained, it only happened in a few rooms. This spreads out all over town. And there are many more characters here.
Q: Now how dark does the comedy get? Are we looking at an R rating?
Livingston: No, I think it’s going for a PG
Greenwood: No we’re ducking profanity for the most part, which is difficult. [Laughing]
Livingston: I think they want to make it into a fun, family movie.
Greenwood: Yeah, it’s got a big heart.
Livingston: You know, that teenagers can see.
In the end, the movie got a PG-13 rating. Dinner for Schmucks opens in theaters on Friday, July 30th!