Dane Cook returns to theaters next Friday, September 21, in Lionsgate’s Good Luck Chuck. The comedy is about a guy who is popular with the single ladies because once they sleep with him the next guy they date will be the love of their life and soul mate. It might be great for the gals, but Chuck wants to break the curse that keeps him from finding his own true love. ComingSoon.net talked to Cook about his standup comedy routines, making films and working with Jessica Alba, who plays Chuck’s love interest, and Dan Fogler, who plays his friend Stu.
CS: What was your average day like while working on the set? It had to be great working with Jessica Alba.
Dane Cook: Jessica Alba never ceases to amaze me. The thing about her which was so rewarding is – I come from the world of standup comedy, and in that world when you are on stage it’s about going for it. You can’t hold back and you have to really be willing to put yourself on the cusp of fear at all times. Watching her and working with her, we not only laughed our asses off quite a bit, but she really came in there and said, “I don’t care how I look. I don’t care about the ego. What’s funny?” When your co-star says that and it’s Jessica Alba, then you know that you are making something great together. We had a blast. Everything meshed and on top of that we just a great story with a really unique and clever twist. We could shoot the scenery quite a bit.
CS: Which Jessica was a better kisser? Alba or Simpson?
Cook: I am definitely not going to comment on that. They are both great people and I consider them both very good friends. I guess the term ‘you don’t kiss and tell’ would apply.
CS: I want to ask you about your character’s relationship with his buddy Stu. How does Stu help or hinder Charlie’s kind of quest in this movie?
Cook: That’s a great question because when we got underway and Dan Fogler came in, who I was already a fan of, I thought this could be one of those real classic buddy movie moments. Granted we have an R-rated comedy on our hands, but what can we do to give it elements of that real classic best friend and true best friend roles. It always comes from love. Everything you do whether it’s being a buffoon, or whether it’s being the guy that throws your car keys in the air and you grab them in the moonlight. You go, “thanks man. I’m going to get the girl.” Dan really brought elements of both to his character. He really was the guy who sometimes got on Chuck’s final nerve, but at the same time he also sets me up with some really great moments with Alba’s character. Dan came through with what I think is a classic buddy movie character.
CS: Since you have done comedy and drama films have you discovered that you prefer one over the other?
Cook: I am definitely not going to kick a dramatic script out of bed, so to speak. I am interested in doing anything and everything that I can to squeeze that creativity out of my brain. I love being on stage if I’m not on a set. If I’m at home I’m usually in my office editing or reconstructing my website or whatever it might be. I just love putting out creativity into a performance. If the right script comes along, I’m certainly reading comedies and dramas now and I’m ready, willing and able to give it a shot. Hopefully something that challenges me and scares me a little bit, but there’s always going to be comedy there. I look forward to doing many more.
CS: What was it like working with the penguins? I hear penguins can be evil, evil creatures.
Cook: We had five penguins and then they used CGI and made it into like a thousand penguins. The five that we worked with I almost liken them to puppies. They were very friendly. Granted they are much like horses. They don’t think about when they are going to pooh. They just kind of do their business, but I found them to be not persnickety at all. They were very fun and smart to play with.
CS: With all the movies you’ve done lately, where does standup fit into your future plans?
Cook: I am getting back into the standup as soon as I wrap here. I’m in Boston currently filming with Kate Hudson on “Bachelor No. 2.” Kate, myself, and Alec Baldwin wrap on October 15. Then I’m putting together a massive comedy tour that will coincide with my new comedy CD’s release. So look for new dates right around November. I hope to hit maybe eighteen to twenty-five cities. We are putting it all together right now. Seventeen years later standup comedy is as crucial, it’s my nutrition. I adore it. I love it, it’s glamorous to me. To this day the idea of standing on a stage without anybody editing, without any standards of practice I can say what’s on my mind directly to people for the purpose of laughter. More than you know I am getting back into it and I’m coming back full force.
CS: Do you know what cities yet?
Cook: We are releasing a list of cities probably within the next week on my website and through a big press release.
CS: Any plans to have the comedy festival in Las Vegas this year?
Cook: I would love to. I mean I’ve got a great relationship with HBO and even if I can swing through for a guestie, as we call it, I’ll definitely try to break away from the set and go down and see some of my friends and some of the best comics working today.
CS: New York?
Cook: Definitely New York. I am an East Coast guy. If I don’t hit the old stomping grounds, then I’d have hell to pay. I’m coming back big.
CS: Let’s hope you are coming to Atlanta.
Cook: Atlanta has been good to me. I used to come down and do The Punchline quite a bit so I’m coming back.
CS: Why do you think that all of a sudden the name Chuck is famous again?
Cook: Yeah, isn’t that weird? It’s like, I think there is a TV show coming on, and of course, “Chuck and Larry” being out in theaters. I guess the Chucks of the world united and maybe next year there will be Harolds everywhere.
CS: Do you find being a comedian that you have been sent a lot of dummied-down scripts? Do you think comedies are actually bankable again?
Cook: I think it is tremendous. I knew that after “Wedding Crashers” and “40-Year-Old Virgin,” for me, I put my fist in the air because I don’t like being restricted. When those movies were successes I looked at it as my window of opportunity. After many years of saying “no,” to not all bad scripts, I’ve certainly had my share of ups and downs. The big ones, the important ones are due to the success of everything from “Knocked Up” to “Wedding Crashers.” Now you have the opportunity, I know even with “Chuck” or even with “Bachelor No. 2” which is going to be R, with “Chuck” it was like, yes; we have an R rating but let’s use it to an advantage where we can still have big heart and get big laughs without being vulgar and salacious for no reason. We’re telling a great story and we get to do it with a bit of a freedom with the language which to me is enticing.
CS: This question is not related to anything in the world we have talked about but who do you think has had the best mustache in Hollywood history?
Cook: The best mustache has got to be Burt Reynolds. I’m a “Smokey and the Bandit” fan and Burt rocked the ‘stache.’
CS: How much did Mark (Helfrich), the director, let you and Dan go off the script and how much did you wind up adlibbing?
Cook: We definitely had our share of being let off the leash, so to speak, but again I’m a performer and especially with the collaborative effort of a film that wants to see it on the page first. I’ve been in situations where somebody says, “Oh, just go in there and make it up as you go.” When you are working with a team of people not everybody is thinking on the same parallel of thinking. If it’s on the page, which Josh Stolberg wrote a great script that made me laugh out loud pacing around my house reading it, you get onto the set, you do it as it’s written a couple of times, then you might say to the director, or Mark would say to us, “Are you feeling anything else? Is there any other truth that you can throw in here?” When I finally watched the final movie I can definitely say there is a big chunk of in the moment spontaneous comedy that you can’t have written. It’s a moment between two actors or an ensemble that an audience feels even more than what you are saying. You are going to see a movie that has a solid script but also has moments where Dan and myself, even Jessica, get to just let it fly. The results will be up on the big screen.
CS: I want you to talk about the travails of doing some of those sex scenes?
Cook: Sex scenes were interesting because we had to do a montage that people see in the film. I think one of the wildest montages, a sexual romp in that arena. It is weird. I mean doing a love scene is awkward enough with a team of union guys standing around. When you are doing scenes like that you are scantily clad. You are basically wearing these tiny felt bathing suits and no strings can be seen so we are wearing something like Kermit the Frog flesh. It was Looney Tunes on the set doing those scenes, but when you see how it all comes together, then it’s not so bad at the end of the day. You won’t be blushing hopefully.
CS: What is your favorite sex scene?
Cook: In one sex scene there is a woman I have to test the curse out on to see if I truly have the blessing or the curse, depending on who you are, to make all women find their soul mate after they bed me down. Mark and I had quite a good time setting up that scene. I don’t want to give anything away but that was fun.
CS: What’s the deal with the penguins? You’ve got two films with penguins in them.
Cook: It certainly wasn’t in my contract that it had to be penguins. I didn’t try to change it but I had done “Farce of the Penguins” for Bob Saget so I thought that just maybe I’ll just keep the theme alive. People seem to enjoy these little critters and why not throw them in “Good Luck Chuck?” The favorite penguin and the smartest was called Lugsies. He was cool. He would dive when you told him to and he was quite entertaining on those long boring setups when you are sitting two hours on a fake SeaWorld set. We’d play with these penguins.
CS: What was it like working with Mark Helfrich on his directorial debut?
Cook: Mark’s IMDb of editing gigs is fast. You’d waste all your printer paper on it. This is a guy that would step on the set with such a distinct clear laser precision idea of how everything should be cut and focused. The benefit was he knew how to talk to the actors. He knew how to sit there with us and really find value in scenes. By the end of the first few days of filming I felt very capable in the hands of Mark. He’s got a very bright future as a director and always as an editor. Comedies are all about timing. It’s so much about, yes, it’s got to be aesthetically to the eye, and it’s got to be lit properly. You want your locations to be glamorous, but comedy is about timing. If you don’t have that as a director, if you don’t get it, you are in a world of sh*t. Mark stepped in there and he was at the helm. I was really proud to say that it was his first comedy and hoping that it does well enough that we get to do it again.
CS: With your film career and resume expanding who has been the coolest actor or comedian you have worked with so far?
Cook: You know I did a movie with Steve Carell and that comes out in October called “Dan in Real Life.” It was myself, Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche. I played brothers with Steve and we are in a bit of a love triangle with Juliette Binoche. We both love the same woman. I was such a fan of Steve before, but when I finally knew that I was going to be brothers with him I just didn’t even want to talk to him about comedy. You don’t want to get into somebody’s head because you are so amazed at their approach. But seeing him do drama with me in scenes and seeing him switch it off and do scenes comedic, I had a howl with Carell. I hope that people will enjoy that movie as well when it comes out. For me personally as a fan, with the down time getting to know him a little bit between scenes, was very memorable.
CS: What are some of your favorite buddy comedies?
Cook: The one that I probably watched to the extent where (maybe it’s unhealthy) was “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. It was almost the template for me. I adored Steve Martin growing up–wanting to emulate Steve Martin growing up. For me, John Candy as well–Uncle Buck and his whole repertoire. When I would watch “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” it reminded to try to tell stories that, yes, you can have big laughs, you know the scene when they are about to crash and he is Satan and Steve Martin is a skeleton and it’s so broad and it’s so ridiculous. Then moments later he is talking about John Candy losing his wife. It’s just about wanting to get home. I want to tell stories that have big laughs and big heart. I don’t like sketchy skitty comedies that dissipate two months after you have seen them. If I can continue to build a career that people trust that I’m going to bring quality I’d like to continue to bring more movies like “Good Luck Chuck” that allow me to tell a story that hopefully will be on your DVD on a shelf years from now.
CS: How much of your specific standup comedic personality can you bring to the big screen to give your fans what they want while telling a story on film?
Cook: It’s interesting because I do look at it as such a different entity, you know, the game plan to your approach. When it comes to comedy standup specifically, I just want to have the element of truth. I think the people who do enjoy my standup comedy and the people who get it and are taken in by it see that I am a guy that has a love of the game. I stick to the basic real principal of comedy. Get f***ing laughs. It’s a simple equation for meget laughs. Tell any story, any way, any how, whether I’m being irreverent or witty or vulgar, I don’t care as long as I can get a story across. I feel like I am taking you on a journey. If I can do that in a different way, in a film it is obviously about subtleties and music and ensemble choices, although different when it comes to comedy, the same thing that I am bringing to my standup is steeping myself in something real and holding on to it. So I have done that with Chuck. I know that for the first time, even much more than an employee, which for me I was kind of the center of that and a lot of comedy was around me. Chuck is me bringing my physicality but also bringing my heart to a character. I think that question would be better answered once you and my fans and fans of film see the movie. I think that I could answer it in an even more specific way for you.
CS: Are you familiar with Mark’s book (“Naked Pictures of my Ex-Girlfriends”) and have you talked to him about making a movie from it?
Cook: I have Mark’s book. We did not discuss the possibility of film but Mark is quite the photog. I found the book to be very entertaining. Now knowing Mark even more so I’m really getting Mark’s sensibility and his approach whether it’s photography or other forms of creativity.
CS: What is it that puts you on that cusp of fear that you have talked about before doing a certain film or going onstage?
Cook: I come from an improv background. I started in sketch for four years back in Boston and I have always liked the feeling of something being created for an audience. When I go see a band I don’t like a set list. I like to feel like the show is for me. When you do that in comedyI stood on stage on Madison Square Garden and when my audio CD comes out in November there is a six minute rant in there that I didn’t know what I was going to say. I had a premise, I had a mood and I went for it. If you look at that really I could have failed miserably in front of twenty thousand people who went we don’t get this, where are you coming from? Knowing backstage I have nothing planned but I do have a premise in a certain segment that’s what I’m talking about. You are creating that laugh and that moment is because I am sharing energy with that crowd of people. I’m giving you something right back that you are giving me right now. I want to continue doing that as a standup comedian.
CS: Being from Boston what are your thoughts about this whole scandal with the Patriots which apparently it turns out they were cheating? The NFL commissioner just ruled that they did cheat. What is the mood in Boston right now?
Cook: Sullen. It’s Sullen. I’ve got to be honest with you right now. I’ve been on the set all day. I did read the back pages of the paper and it’s the first time I have heard it in such a specific manner. I’m going to get into that tonight, but on set a lot of our crew are Boston guys. There is certainly a downtrodden vibe. It is incredibly sad as a fan, of not only football, but being a fan of the New England Patriots my whole life–that blows. I’m going to have to read a little more about it to be insightful for you.
CS: I understand that your family background is Irish. Do you know where in Ireland your family is from?
Cook: I have never specifically gone back and done a heritage tree, but I do know that some of the family was in and around Dublin. I went over and finally visited there last year.
CS: Are there any plans for you to work more with Dan Fogler in the future?
Cook: Working with Dan, and I’ll say it honestly to you guys, I said to Dan; you know we have made a really great comedy. I have seen it with test audiences. Now it is up to the movie gods and the timing of whatever it is and what the public wants. If people come up to see this movie and support it I said to Dan let’s do it again. Let us hook it up and try to get something going for next year. That question will be answered if people come and the asses are in the seats. Then we might have another shot. If nothing else I can sit here and say we have made one of the funniest movies of the year. I’ve seen a lot of those movies. I’ve seen “Knocked Up.” I seen “Superbad,” and I know we hang with those guys. We are telling a great story with a lot of big laughs.
CS: Do you have any serious type scripts on your desk right now that you are going to be doing?
Cook: I’m developing a film with Disney that is being written as we speak. It’s a father/son film. Without giving too much away, it is a bit more serious. It’s a dramedy.