Whether it’s the shoe phone, or it’s just seeing the bumbling Maxwell Smart get into a pickle while trying to save the world from disaster. You know the classic show “Get Smart.” And now, Warner Bros. Pictures is remaking it into a feature film, starring Steve Carell as Maxwell (Agent 86), Anne Hathaway as Agent 99, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a new character – Agent 23, and Alan Arkin as The Chief.
And one note many people don’t know is James Caan has a cameo as The President of the United States. One of the crew people said he had shot a scene earlier that week and was just tremendously funny.
Get Smart is an origin story and tells how Maxwell Smart became an agent, and how CHAOS grew to become the super terrorists they are. Apparently, co-creators of the original series, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry were “quite pleased with that approach,” said Steve, who’s also serving as an executive producer on this movie.
A few months ago, ComingSoon.net was on the Los Angeles set of the flick where we had the chance to see some filming and talk with the cast and crew. As we walked underground (where the set was), we could see an elaborate maze for a training exercise – this was for the scene they were shooting. The writers, Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, joked with us that “You could really hide a body in here and no one would ever find it; it’s like a dungeon down here.”
All the cast was in full armor gear just laughing and waiting to shoot each other (for the movie, of course); we were told that when they started filming, it was going to get pretty loud because of the gun blasts. Director Peter Segal prepared the scene by doing a walk through – the whole time, the dialogue between Steve, The Rock and co-stars Terry Crews and David Koechner was hilarious.
David and Terry were picking on Maxwell (Steve) calling him ‘Maxi-Pad’ and other names which can’t be written down or repeated – if you catch my drift. It was all during a training session between Terry and David and The Rock and Steve.
Once the scene started, we had a chance to really hear the words; you could tell it was early in the movie because Maxwell hadn’t become an agent yet. One of Steve’s lines to The Rock is, “I really want to be out in the field, really shooting someone with real bullets.” At this point, Max was still working in the office, and had not completed his full agent training yet.
During the same scene, The Rock gets captured and literally picks him up over his head. Now, these aren’t just regular dudes. Think about it, The Rock is around 220-230 pounds, and this guy was lifting him over his head as if he was nothing – it was truly impressive. But after shooting guns at one another and getting tossed around, their real work began – The Rock and Steve had to sit down and talk to us.
Steve was funny as usual joking about getting the part, and his choice to play such an iconic character. “It’s been a long time coming. When Warner Bros. initially called me in, I thought I was coming in to audition. I heard that Will (Ferrell) had been attached. For some reason or another, he was no longer attached and that they were looking for somebody else. They just came out and said, ‘We’d like you to play Maxwell Smart.’ And it was one of those moments I could not believe, it was one of those quintessential life career moments that was like, ‘What the hell is happening? How did this come to pass?’ So I’ve been pinching myself ever since then. It’s great and it’s been ever since then.”
Both The Rock and Steve were long time fans of the original series. “I was a big fan, absolutely,” The Rock said. I like any type of comedy that is physical, self-deprecating comedy. I love that because I think, if you are really trying to be cool, then it’s hard to be funny, like really funny. The way Don Adams played that, very self-deprecating, giving himself up for the joke, I love that. And the gadgets were pretty cool too, which you see in this movie, updated ones, too.”
“It was incredibly smart,” noted Carell. “I thought it was an excellent show. I thought it was very different than other things on television. It was smart and silly at the same time, which is a tone I enjoy. And it also had a lot to say politically and culturally, and at the time, America was in the midst of the Cold War, so I think the show was very relevant.”
Bringing it to the modern era was also something both of them were looking forward to – mostly because of what’s going on in the world today. “Ironically, the times have changed, but remained the same in a lot of ways with the advent of nuclear prolification and worries about North Korea and other countries with these nuclear capabilities. These same sort of Cold War mentalities keep popping up; so I don’t think it’s exactly the same, but there’s certainly a relevance,” said Steve.
Once The Rock and Carell were cast, they had to find the other agents and enemies. Getting Anne Hathaway as Agent 99 was one thing Rock found eerily familiar. “99 was hot; that never changes with 99. She was hot then and she’s hot now. Anne has been outstanding, she’s incredibly talented. She’s gorgeous and she’s very, very funny as well. That’s a nod to her ability and her security that she’s able to be self-deprecating. She’s great and you’ll see that in this movie. She’s a trooper. When it was time to go to work action-wise, she was all for it at all costs. She didn’t want to use a double, she was terrific. As a matter of fact, we have a past in the movie – we had a relationship in the past, Agents 23 and 99, so I was a lucky man!”
As for Agents 86 and 99, they had that relationship on the show; in the Get Smart movie, it takes a bit of convincing for Steve to court Anne. “Yeah, that’s pretty much the common sort of relationship because she has no respect for him because he’s an analyst and he’s not a field agent to start with. So there’s a little bit of an inversion there because she really is the one with experience and she is the one who takes the lead and there is a bit of friction because he’s quite competent in his own right, and he wants to take the lead and so there’s a little battle of wills. And it’s fun, and they’re friendly adversaries to begin with. She’s an excellent 99, and one of the things that surprised me about her is that she’s an excellent improviser and that she’s really funny and she’s very, very cool. On screen, she comes across as a very competent super-spy, and she just brings this attitude with her on screen. And then as soon as the cameras are off, she’s just as silly and crazy as anyone you’d meet on the set. I think she’s doing an excellent job.”
Because The Rock is a new character in this movie, he was able to play around a bit more with his style. “Agent 23 is the world’s greatest agent, who has this tremendous relationship with Max; he’s like my little brother. He looks up to me and I look out for him. We have a wonderful relationship need me. There’s a bond between Max and Agent 23 and you see that start to grow in many ways throughout the movie.”
And his weapon of choice isn’t bad either. “I’ve got a desert eagle that’s huge. It’s amazing, it’s outstanding. Steve has his shoe phone and I have my desert eagle.”
One thing about being a producer on the film is Steve was able to change a few things about how we all saw Maxwell Smart. Of course, in the series, he was a bit clumsy and a bit of an idiot. But, Steve did not want that aspect of him to be in this movie. “Not bumbling at all,” he says. “When I signed on, the tone I wanted to strike with the movie is dead on target – create what is essentially a comedic ‘Bourne Identity.’ It’s something with action, real jeopardy, stakes that exist, and within that, you find comedy. And it can be very silly, but at the same time, you have a sense of reality – or a parallel reality. There is no such thing as CONTROL – or is there? We don’t know. But it’s a heightened reality, but it’s a reality nonetheless, and that’s the way I saw it because I think it will be inherently funnier if it comes from a place of truth in a way, without over stating it. It is after all ‘Get Smart’ and it’s a comedy and it’s really funny and silly.”
With that silly comes the blooper reel, and The Rock says he already knows he’s all over those clips. “Throughout the movie, I’ve played it very real and if something is funny, I’ll smile in the scene. It does reach a point where it’s difficult. With Alan Arkin, there’s a couple of scenes where you clearly see why he’s a two-time Oscar winner. He’s endlessly funny and very entertaining. It’s hard, you’ve got to bite your lip. I spent a couple of hours rehearsing the action sequences we’re going to do to make sure there are no injuries and everybody knows where everybody is supposed to be – that’s important. But, with comedy, so much of it just relies on ad-libbing and timing and seeing if a joke falls flat, how are you going to change it? Maybe there’s a facial expression that Steve makes – he makes great facial expressions that I can counter off of.”
And the comic that Steve is saw the genius in The Rock. “He’s so funny – see, that’s another person you’d never know, that’s something he’s not known for is being a comedic performer. And he’s an incredibly intuitive and smart guy and he gets it. And what else is great about him, too, is he doesn’t push it and he doesn’t try to be funny, he just is and there’s a discernible difference between people who are trying, and you can see them working hard to be funny – and someone who just naturally understands it, and I believe, he completely does.”
With no originality anymore in movies, the inevitable question of a franchise being built out of Get Smart came up. “There will be at least 10; I will play this part until I am 83,” exclaimed Steve. “I have no idea, it’s so early to tell. That depends frankly if anyone comes to see the movie, but boy how it’s been so far, I’d do another one in a second. It’s just been a lot of fun. Just based on that, I think people will come back and do another one regardless of how well it did in theaters. But yeah, I think that’s where they’re going.”
You won’t have to wait too much longer to see what all the buzz is about. Get Smart opens in theaters June 20th.
And following that is a side extra video called GS: Get Bruce and Lloyd, starring Masi Oka (Bruce) and Nate Torrence (Lloyd). They’ll be reprising their characters from the film, along with a few more surprise guests.