Jody Hill emptied his savings and took out numerous credit cards to finance his indie film The Foot Fist Way, which began generating buzz last year at Sundance. The first-time director recruited his college friends Danny R. McBride and Ben Best to star in his low budget comedy about a small town Tae Kwon Do instructor whose life falls apart after his wife has an affair. While Hill was overjoyed his flick made it into the highly-regarded film festival, he was that much more elated when he learned Will Ferrell and Adam McKay loved the movie and not only wanted to serve as executive producers on the film, but made The Foot Fist Way the first project for their company Gary Sanchez Productions.
The movie has become quite the unexpected sensation in Hollywood and ComingSoon.net chatted with the guys about their lucky break:
ComingSoon.net: Who can kick whose ass behind the scenes?
Jody Hill: Adam and Will actually sandwiched me one day after a
Ben Best: That wasn’t a fight though. That was more of a sexual fight.
Hill: Yeah, I did say sandwich.
Adam McKay: You have a black belt don’t you?
Hill: I do. I do.
Danny R. McBride: I was a ranger for many years. 27 years I was a ranger.
Hill: Ben always has a 9 millimeter on his ankle.
McBride: And a chip on his shoulder. That’s a deadly combination.
Best: That’s a bad combination.
CS: Did you get into a lot of fights as a young kid?
Hill: Yeah I guess so. Yeah I got into it. I really wasn’t good at it. Yeah, I got into it when I was a kid.
CS: Can anybody break some bricks?
McBride: We could. You guys have some here?
CS: What did you guys think was funny about Tae Kwon Do?
Hill: Tae Kwon Do was what I took so that’s why I did. I think there’s something funny about a strip mall kind of franchise business approach to martial arts rather than some type of zen.
Will Ferrell: These guys were so specific in the world that they kind of captured, that’s where the humor comes in.
Best: I don’t think we were necessarily trying to look at Tae Kwon Do and say that’s funny. I think it’s more of the strip mall dojo instructor that is dispensing wisdom in this ancient martial art to kids that are basically after school, day care or something.
Ferrell: In small town North Carolina.
McBride: Concord. That’s how everybody says the name there. ConCORD.
Ferrell: If anyone is from the Tae Kwon Do association of America here, we’re not making fun.
McKay: Will Ferrell says bring it on.
CS: Have you had any feedback from the Tae Kwon Do association?
Ferrell: I think you guys did, right?
Hill: Yeah, they gave us their approval. They said they’d be happy with it.
CS: How did you all come to work together to make this film?
Ferrell: It started with these guys.
Best: We all went to film school together at the North Carolina School of the Arts. After that we all kind of scattered.
Ferrell: Recently shut down for embezzlement.
Best: For seven years we were just kind of making ends meet barely and then Jody luckily had been saving up money because Danny and I sure weren’t. He came to town and said, “Hey you want to make a movie?” and I was like, “I need to do something because it’s falling apart.”
McBride: Rehab wasn’t working. Let’s make a motion picture.
Best: Yeah, let’s make a motion picture.
McKay: You saved money?
Hill: Yeah, I saved about $30,000. Then I applied for as many credit cards as I could get. It’s funny because they start you out with $17,000 if you have good credit. Then on your fourth or fifth credit card it’s like $500. I got a bunch of those and just I paid for the movie and it got into Sundance. Then shortly thereafter, Will and Adam saw it.
Ferrell: Somehow it was one of those films that kinda didn’t get picked up for whatever reason and we were like, “How did this not get distributed?” We’d just started Gary Sanchez. It was kind of the perfect thing for us to be our first film to be involved with.
CS: And now Danny how been in five or six other films so did you see a star was being born?
McBride: They definitely tagged me for commission so I paid these guys 10% of everything.
Ferrell: Which is standard.
McBride: That’s what they told us was standard, yeah. It usually happens that way.
Ferrell: It does. We had a private detective on Danny for about a month and a half.
McBride: Nice guy. Very nice guy.
Ferrell: Yeah you got to know him.
McBride: I did.
Ferrell: And he gave us a lot of very valuable information about him that we’re not allowed to talk about.
CS: What has this ride been like for you Danny?
McBride: It’s been pretty insane. When we made this film our only kind of goal was when we were in college we would just sit around and drink beer and watch movies. We’d watch the same movies over and over again and we really just wanted to kind of make a movie that maybe that would be the lifespan of it. That we could make something that some guys in college would sit around and drink some beers and enjoy. For it to get into Sundance obviously blew our minds. I live in Virginia and Ben lives in North Carolina and every time we come back out to L.A. we would hear of all these other people who have suddenly seen the film and we’re so disconnected from anything that was happening here. It’s definitely been a pretty insane ride and now I’m running around with this gentlemen from dinosaurs on “Land of the Lost” so it doesn’t seem real.
CS: Will when did you first see it and when did you decide to get involved?
Ferrell: I first saw it in my hotel room when I was shooting “Blade of Glory” in Montreal. I immediately urinated on myself which has never happened to me watching a film before. So my first reaction was I have a medical problem. So I went through a series of tests. I went to Scripps Institute for a battery of tests.
McKay: What kind of tests?
Ferrell: Psychology, physical, checking your urine, bladder, a weightless chamber. All these things. I was like this is way too much. I feel like this is overkill. Turns out I was perfectly fine. I continued watching the film. Meanwhile, Adam you were watching the film as well. I called you up.
McKay: I had seen it. I was at home. It’s the kind of movie that makes you breathless. You just watch it and you get so excited. I called him [Will Ferrell] up and he was at the Scripps and I couldn’t reach him afterwards because you were doing the tests.
Ferrell: Yeah, I was in my hospital room.
McKay: Then they went through a second wave of tests.
Ferrell: And Adam called me literally screaming. [Imitating Adam] “Oh my God, oh my God. Adam, is your house on fire, what’s going on?” Call me back when you calm down.
McKay: About three hours later I called him back and I’m like, “My house was on fire” and he raced over there and I’m like, “No I just like this movie.” That was it. We literally went over to these guys’ houses and gave them a brief case with $80,000 and the deal was sealed.
McBride: Welcome to Hollywood, now let’s get that tattoo.
McKay: It was made in 1981. No, you guys made it, it was two years ago?
Hill: Yeah, we made it in summer 2005. It was at Sundance in 2006. These guys came on around early summer of 2006 I’d say. Then just getting it all together takes a while. The movie’s maybe a little dangerous. It takes delicate handling so it looks like they’re doing it right.
Best: They’re definitely handling it delicately.
McKay: Honestly, we forgot we bought it.
Best: For a whole year we kept calling and calling.
Ferrell: Like, “Who are these guys? Oh s**t, we bought that movie.”
CS: Why is it dangerous?
Hill: Well, for one, we shot it on 16mm. The budget is probably what a light costs on a normal movie. Lots of bad words. A few kids get demolished. And there are no stars in it except for Danny, who at the time we were selling it, was Bust-Ass from “All the Real Guys” which that movie made…
McBride: 10 bucks in the theaters. It was a huge box office success.
Best: So we knew we had gold. We were in the money.
Hill: As it gained more fans in the wake of Will and Adam, then the demand for it rose.
Best: Danny and I were like, “Let’s do this, let’s take this huge risk, use all of Jody’s money and make this movie.”
McBride: And memorize these lines, yeah.
Best: Well, that’s hard, man.
Ferrell: You know, we have very appropriate, moderate expectations for this film. We’re just looking for like an $80 million opening weekend. Nothing big. Maybe $300 million overseas.
McKay: Goes to IMAX second week.
McBride: I’m looking for the cover of “Time” magazine.
CS: You’ve got Paramount Vantage. How did that happen?
Ferrell: That’s where our production company is at. We have our deal with Paramount Vantage.
CS: How many films have you done?
Ferrell: Is this six or seven?
McKay: If you count this, we produced it but we weren’t involved on the ground floor, so
Hill: You ever heard of this film “There Will Be Blood”?
McKay: Yeah, “Black Snake Moan,” “Another Stakeout.” We’re doing “Yet Another Stakeout,” the third one.
CS: Has Chuck Norris gotten wind of the Chuck the Truck thing?
Best: Man, I keep waiting for the phone call.
Ferrell: Where he challenges you?
Best: No, where he accepts me into his family I’m hoping.
CS: Who stole the Magnum P.I. Ferrari?
Hill: That Ferrari actually was a friend of my dad’s. That car, he’s owned it for forever. In middle school, we used to drive through town with it. When it came time to do the movie, we dragged that Ferrari down and he let us use it.
CS: Could there be a “Son of Foot Fist Way”?
McBride: Like “Muppet Babies,” you mean? I think so, yeah.
McKay: Would it be all you guys as little kids and high voices?
Ferrell: That sounds like fun.
CS: Who came up with the name?
Hill: It’s the literal translation of Tae Kwon Do.
McBride: So some Korean guy.
CS: Have the five of you ever considered doing something together?
McBride: This is actually a press conference to announce the new season of “Surreal Life.”
Hill: We actually, Will and Adam and their production company, Gary Sanchez, are producing a TV show together, called “To Be Decided.”
McBride: Right now it’s called “East Bound and Down.”
Best: It’s on HBO.
Hill: For HBO.
CS: And you’re working with Seth Rogen?
McBride: I was in this movie “Pineapple Express” that my buddy David Green, another guy that went to School of the Arts with us, directed.
CS: What’s the HBO show about?
Hill: It’s about a fallen baseball hero who returns to his hometown to try to…
Best: Find his heat.
McKay: Like a John Rocker guy, like roids and inappropriate comments, burns every bridge, goes back home, sleeps on his brother’s couch, has to teach gym class, but it’s on HBO so it’s really f**ked up and sh*t.
CS: Is that a “Smokey and the Bandit” reference?
Best: That is.
McBride: We actually didn’t have a title and we just were getting ready to go into production. We had to have something to put on the slate.
Best: Yeah, I don’t think we can use it.
McBride: I was like I don’t think you can name a TV show after the theme song to “Smokey and the Bandit.”
Hill: It was something like, “I wish we had a cool name like ‘East Bound and Down.'”
McKay: And he’s not even headed east. He goes south. It makes no sense whatsoever.
CS: Is it a strange coincidence that David Mamet has a martial arts movie out?
Best: I don’t find it.
CS: Great minds think alike?
Best: It’s more like someone trying to rip us off.
McBride: You guys know this was made in 2005.
Best: Watch out, Mamet.
Ferrell: There’s a new game in town. It’s called you’re out.
CS: In “Land of the Lost,” where do you find room for humor with special effects and action?
Ferrell: Well, Danny and I have been replaced.
McBride: We’re totally CG characters now.
Ferrell: The adventure part of the movie is obviously the straight man to the comedy that we’re doing. It’s actually kind of a perfect backdrop. You’ve yet to see that type of movie with people running throughout it and realistic looking danger stakes and then comments the whole way through it.
Best: These guys in that situation.
CS: What was your experience with Nick Nolte on “Tropic Thunder”?
McBride: Oh, it was pretty incredible. I couldn’t picture a better person to spend three months in Kauai with.
McKay: What did you learn from him?
McBride: Just a lot of his wisdom was passed on to me. Survival skills. Hair styles.
Ferrell: You guys went out into the bush.
McBride: We did. He told me that we were supposed to do this training thing and it wasn’t organized by the production at all. Just me and him in the bush, lost.
The Foot Fist Way opens in limited theaters on May 30.