Back in January, ComingSoon.net spoke with the creators of the comedy anthology The Ten, and with it finally being released in New york and L.A. on Friday, we’re running it again for anyone who missed it.
There was a moment in ComingSoon.net’s interview with David Wain, director/co-writer of The Ten, and his writing and producing partners Ken Marino and Paul Rudd, where it seemed like things were getting out of control. Of course, that shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who saw their movie, a wildly outrageous comedy that tells ten stories based on the ten commandments, each one more insanely funny than the last.
For the uninitiated, Wain and Marino were two of the founding members of “The State” comedy group, who first worked with Paul Rudd when they made the summer camp comedy Wet Hot American Summer. As hard as we tried to maintain order when we sat down with the trio at the Sundance Film Festival a few days after the film’s premiere, the trio have a conjoined stream-of-consciousness not unlike The Beastie Boys. If anything they say sounds too incredulous to be true, well, let’s just say that giving serious answers to any of our silly questions was the last thing on their minds.
ComingSoon.net: How quickly did the script come together once you had the idea of doing ten stories based on the ten commandments?
David Wain: It was like a nine or ten year process, actually. Each story took so much emotional toll on us in creating it, that it really took a year of work before we could really feel like we could move on.
Ken Marino: The thing is that I met David in ’87 and I had been working on five commandments at least a year before I even ran into Dave. When I met Dave, he had five commandments, and then we got together and we were like, “Let’s make it ten commandments.” And then after that, about a year passed we’d work on each commandment, and then we’d throw the whole thing away, and then the last day, we just wrote the whole thing in about twelve hours.
CS: Excellent. So are we supposed to figure out which one of you wrote which five or is it really obvious?
Wain: I basically did the Don’t and he did the Do’s.
Marino: I did the “Thou Shall” and “Honor Thy”
CS: Paul, you’ve worked with both these guys quite a bit since “Wet Hot American Summer.” How did you end up coming onto the film as producer and then giving yourself the plum role of making out with Jessica Alba and Famke Janssen?
Paul Rudd: Well, it was back in ’87, and I didn’t know Ken or David at that point, but I had been wanting to kind of produce and act in these things that weren’t quite commandments, like ten of them. Then, I met these guys, and they were sort of starting to put their commandments together. As they would write them, I would workshop them, and I went through making out with a lot of different people before Jessica Alba came on.
Marino: Jessica Tandy.
Rudd: Jessica Tandy, yes.
Marino: Jessica Simpson.
Wain: O.J. Simpson
Marino: Homer Simpson
Rudd: Don Simpson, before he died. Who else?
Wain: Who’s the singing group?
Marino: Ashford and Simpson?
Rudd: ABBA. (laughter)
Marino: Jennifer Hudson.
Rudd: Jennifer Hudson, yes, the Hudson Brothers.
Wain: I have to congratulate Jennifer Hudson on her Oscar nom.
CS: Ken, did you go through a simultaneous process before you ended up making out with Rob Corddry?
Marino: Yeah, I made out with Jessica Simpson, Jessica Tandy.
Wain: And I also as preparation for some of the visual style we were using, I made out with Jessica Tandy, Jessica Simpson, O.J. Simpson, the same kind of group. We sort of paid them once and then were all able to make out with them.
CS: David, you co-wrote your last movie with Michael Showalter, so what was the biggest difference writing with Ken?
Wain: (obviously distracted) I was just noticing that “Teeth” has a really great poster, they have booklets, like all sorts of great stuff.
Rudd: We have nothing!
Wain: No, nothing.
Marino: We’ve got a button!
Rudd: And it’s a sh*tty button! We got a sh*tty little button.
Wain: I’m sorry we got sidetracked. Michael Showalter, Ken Marino and I all worked together for eight years together in “The State” so we all have a similar shorthand of comedy that we invented, that we learned from each other
Rudd: It’s not nice to make fun of people with short hands, David.
Wain: No, well, I’m not making fun, it’s like
Marino: Making out that there are people with short hands.
Wain: I mean, don’t get me wrong. We had a cleaning woman who was black.
Rudd: I see, I see.
Wain: Working with Ken is obviously a different half of the sensibility, but we all share a lot, so it was not a difficult transition.
CS: But Ken, obviously David and Michael had been working together as Stella for many years, but you’ve been off doing your own thing, so was it hard getting back into this sort of thing?
Wain: He never was out of touch or anything.
Marino: Yes. Well, David and I, before this happened, we just finished a movie two summers ago that Paul and I were in and David produced it. We worked on that film for a while. We talk about working on things all the time, so it wasn’t like a long period of time to get back into it.
Wain: Also, Ken and I wrote a lot of sketches together on “The State”, so we had developed a specific writing partnership at that time.
CS: When I talked to you for “The Baxter,” we talked about the different factions of “The State” now, there being the New York group and the L.A. people
Wain: And those factions were really just a reality of geography that happened after the group disbanded. During the time of “The State” being active, the factions would change daily. They never were specifically permanent.
CS: So where are you these days, Ken? In New York or L.A.?
Marino: I live in Los Angeles.
Wain: And I live in New York. Thank God for the internet.
CS: Yet you were able to get all the members of “The State” back into the movie, even just for cameos.
Marino: Everyone was in it except Mike Jann, who we got a picture of him in it because he wasn’t around when we were shooting it. He was in Europe somewhere shooting.
CS: But you shot the whole movie in L.A.?
Wain: The whole movie was shot in New York. We shot all in New York, except for a couple days in Mexico and a couple days in L.A.
CS: Can you talk about getting actors not really known for their madcap comedy into the style of comedy you do? People like Liev Schrieber, Jessica Alba
Wain: Oliver Platt.
Marino: Winona, Famke
Rudd: Michael Ian Black. (laughter) I think that was part of the appeal. We wanted to get good actors. A lot of this material was so extreme that to play it seriously we all thought was the best way of making it work.
Wain: I also think some of the funniest performances in all movies are done by serious actors, whether it’s Dustin Hoffman
Rudd: Or Jim Carrey.
CS: How did you get an actor like Liev to be in your movie? Was he a fan of “The State” or your other work?
Wain: He’s a downtown New Yorker, we see him around. I’ve known him very loosely over the years, but we went to him through the normal channels, his agent, and he responded to the material. He was actually a sub for me in our live Stella show one time many years ago. I wasn’t there. That’s why we needed a sub.
CS: Paul, at one point did you want to be more of a serious actor but then got sucked into this comedy world by these guys?
Rudd: I still consider myself a dramatic actor. I still want to do it.
Wain: “Three Days of Rain.” There was a Broadway show starring Paul and Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper.
Rudd: But I’ve always been a big fan of comedy. I always wanted to do that kind of thing when I was younger, like a child, and it just so happens that in the last few years, I’ve been in a couple films that were successful that were comedies and I’m a big fan of these guys, and I’m a big fan of that whole Judd Apatow group, and I’ve been able to get involved with both of them. It just has happened that now I’ve been doing a lot more comedy, and it’s really fun. I think they’re the most fun to make, that’s for sure.
Wain: (taking over the interview) What was it like being younger, like a child?
Rudd: It was really hard, because I felt as if I was so introverted.
Marino: How long did you do that for?
Rudd: Be introverted as a child?
Marino: No, just be a child? How long were you a child for?
Rudd: Oh, God. At least eight or nine years.
Marino: That’s a good chunk of time. Why did you stop?
Rudd: I had enough, you know? I kind of just naturally grew out of it.
Marino: It was time to move on.
Rudd: It was like a new chapter in my life. All of a sudden, I turned, I dunno, like thirteen or something
Wain: If my life was a chapter in a book, then this chapter would be called “Sundance ’07”
Marino: If your life was a chapter in a book right now, what would it be called?
Rudd: Chapter 27. [Ooo that clever Paul just name-checked one of the festival’s most anticipated films!] but that’s just because
Marino: You’re a big Leto fan.
Wain: Because you shot John Lennon, didn’t you?
Rudd: Because I shot John Lennon and I’m a huge Jaret Leto fan.
Wain: “Panic Room”? Forget about it! Just fast-forward to his parts!
CS: Somehow you’ve kind of become this comedy lynchpin, part of these different groups like Will Ferrell’s gang, Judd Apatow’s group and with “The State” splinter groups on both coasts. How did that become your thing?
Rudd: Well, you know, some of these things just happen organically. I will say that what started a lot of things off was “Wet Hot American Summer.” Adam McKay (director of “Anchorman”) was a big “Wet Hot American Summer” fan.
Wain: He was basically just a pretty face before that.
Rudd: I’m still just a pretty face.
Wain: “Object of my Affection,” “Clueless” People were like, “Whatever,” then “Wet Hot American Summer” and they were like “Oh, he’s really funny with the right script.”
Marino: With the right direction.
Rudd: And when he surrounds himself with funnier people. I think some of these comedy things are really the only things I truly pursued. I’m too lazy to really pursue anything else.
CS: Are you guys surprised by how “Wet Hot American Summer” has found an audience over the years? I still remember when it was playing in its one theatre in New York, one screening a day, but since then, it’s become this movie with a lot of fans.
Wain: I’m convinced that more people watched “Wet Hot American Summer” this year than six years ago, when it came out. It seems to be a growing phenomenon. I think it’s the classic cult film paradigm where it came out to very little attention and over time, through DVD and passing it around and downloading and midnight screenings and college and so on and so forth, people started to catch onto it. I think that something about it speaks to the outsider in people. A still very small but passionate group of people love it.
CS: I can’t believe that it was six years ago already.
Wain: Sundance ’01.
Marino: That would be the chapter of that year.
Wain: No, that week. I have to do a new chapter every week.
Rudd: That book has got to be huge!
Wain: Well, some of the chapters are four on a page.
[They continue like this for a few minutes while we wait for them to get this bit out of their system and ask another question.]
CS: So is this moment–your new movie premiering at Sundance–the big climax of the book?
Wain: God, I hope not! I’m only in my thirties here!
CS: Going back to the movie for a second, which was the hardest commandment to come up with a story for?
Wain: The truth is the hardest one was probably adultery, for which we had written a completely separate story and then it was later we folded it into the narration bit. Paul’s story carries throughout the whole movie and then becomes the adultery commandment.
Marino: And is one of my favorites.
Wain: Yes, it’s definitely the simplest one, it’s just two people talking on the street, but it’s definitely a favorite because Paul and Famke’s performances are so great.
CS: This is a very ambitious production even when compared to “Wet Hot American Summer” so how did you figure out where to start?
Wain: Basically, it was definitely a huge puzzle in terms of scheduling, but we certainly did not shoot the commandments together. We shot whatever shot we needed from whatever thing we needed in a mish-mosh. The Paul Rudd narration stuff, half of it was shot a couple weeks before any other shooting in L.A. and then half of it was shot in the middle of the shooting period in New York. Whatever we could
Rudd: Yeah, because I would have to work around Jessica Alba’s schedule and Famke’s schedule, but then we’d take a week and shoot like the Cat-scan story or Oliver Platt.
Wain: We’d change locations and even change actors’ parts just to make the puzzle work. It was definitely logistically challenging. Actually, the finale sequence, where everyone sings together, we would shoot a lot of those little pieces of it like in the suburban house location when we had this one actor.
CS: How were you able to get the gigantic 10 Commandment tablets from one coast to the other?
Wain: All fake.
Marino: Oh, I’m glad you thought it looked real. That’s great.
Rudd: Half of our budget went to those. We had to hire a special plane. We took them out on the Spruce Goose.
Marino: It’s hard to find big stones like that.
CS: You guys also have “Diggers” coming out soon, right?
Marino: Yes, “Diggers” is coming out April 20th. David produced it, Paul stars in it, I’m in it, I wrote it. It wil be at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. As soon as we leave here, we go there. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. That’s a very different toned movie. It’s kind of like a “Diner” type movie set in 1976 on the south shore of Long Island. It’s about a clam-digging community that’s dying out and it’s about these four friends who are dealing with that change.
Rudd: You described that very well actually. [We’re] two of the four friends, Ken wrote it, Ron Eldard and Josh Hamilton play the other two guys.
Marino: Moira Tierney and Lauren Ambrose and Sarah Polson are also in it.
Wain: It’s amazing. It’s so good. I was a producer but I was doing the “Stella” series at the same time, so I wasn’t on set as much, but it’s like this insanely moving drama that also makes you laugh throughout. It’s a really beautiful story.
Marino: Magnolia is putting it out, but it’s an HDNet film. Comes out four days later on DVD and their channel.
CS: I’m sure you guys are sick of answering this question because it gets asked all the time, but are you any closer to some kind of “State” reunion?
Wain: I think there’s always been a possibility in the air for ten years. We all do reunite in “The Ten” and “Reno 911!: Miami” and there’s a DVD of “The State” in the process that MTV’s doing.
Marino: Logistically, it’s just very difficult to get everyone together. Everybody’s working, but we all want to do it. We always talk about it.
Wain: We’re all still friends. We all still like each other and working together, and we do continue to work together in different configurations. Question is whether we logistically could ever do it as a whole group again, but the entire 11 members, everybody in “The State” [appear in “Reno 911!”].
Marino: Paul’s in it and he’s hysterical in it.
Wain: Paul has a big, real part in it.
Marino: “The State” basically does cameos in it, and Paul’s one of the villains in the movie.
CS: At this point, if there’s ever a “State” reunion, Paul will probably have to be a part of it.
Marino: Without question.
Rudd: I’d be like Oliver to “The Brady Bunch.”
Marino: Oliver was awesome!
Rudd: I’m like your Robby Rist, and I’m psyched that I know his real name.
Wain: What’s the dude’s name on “Happy Days” at the end? Ted McGinley? You can be on “The New State.”
CS: Wow, that’s tough. So can you just throw Paul onto the “State” DVD using computer tricks?
Wain: You can. In fact, I’ll have one of the tech guys do it.
Marino: Did you really watch “The State”?
CS: I did! I used to be a huge fan.
Wain: (doing Ken’s catchphrase) “I want to dip my balls in it!”
CS: I’m sure Ken loves having that yelled at him every day.
Rudd: But I do think part of the reason is not because of “The State” but because Ken is always really dipping his balls in things.
Marino: I’m constantly putting my balls in things, and out here, it’s tough, because it’s very cold, and it’s hard to get through the layers to get my balls out because they shrivel up.
Rudd: Now is it true that Fox Searchlight paid, what was it, like $4.5 million for your balls?
Marino: Well, there’s a bidding war on my balls right now.