Nearly 20 years and a dozen films have passed since Peter and Bobby Farrelly made their debut with Dumb & Dumber. With the release of this Friday’s Hall Pass, the duo aims to prove that, while their characters may technically be more mature, not a whole lot has changed regarding their over-the-top look at the world.
Based on an original idea and script from Pete Jones, the writer/director behind the “Project Greenlight” film Stolen Summer, Hall Pass inspired the Farrellys to begin with a “real world” approach to a high concept idea: two best friends, played by Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, are given by their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) a one-week “hall pass”: permission to see other women as a hopeful cure for the restlessness they’re experiencing in the marriage. As should be expected, things don’t exactly go as the husbands plan.
“That was one of the things that we really wanted to do,” says Jones, “to really base it in reality and try to create a situation where you might believe that these women might actually give them a Hall Pass.”
“His dream, actually,” quips Peter, “was that there would get to be Hall Pass Day the first friday of every August.”
“I was hoping it might revolutionize marriage,” he deadpans back, “We’ll see.”
Though the cast is rounded out by supporting roles for actors like Richard Jenkins, Stephen Merchant and Nicky Whelan, finding the Wilson/Sudeikis dynamic was vital to accurately representing two men in the midst of a mid-marriage crisis. Admitting that growing up with several brothers is probably what draws him to ensemble comedies, Wilson adds that he’d like to avoid the look of his character, Rick, as much as possible in real life.
“I remember my older brother, who is actually in the film, coming to Atlanta where we filmed and seeing me in my wardrobe and saying, ‘You look so bad!'” Wilson laughs, “Just putting on the clothes made you think, ‘God, I’ve got no game.’ When you’ve got pleated jeans and orthopedic type shoes, you don’t feel very sexy.”
Jason, meanwhile, was drawn to the script for the resonance that he hopes the film’s plot will have with married moviegoers.
“I like that the question will be bandied about,” he explains, “Just the commercial alone probably causes some sofa discussion or some pillow talk between couples. ‘Would you do that?’ ‘Honey, what would you do if I gave you that?’… I like that it poses that question, because marriage is in an interesting place with the high divorce rate and people talking about the sanctity gay marriage and people talking about this rampant cheating going on. Tiger Woods and the internet and the Chris Lees of the world… I liked that it posed that question and doesn’t necessarily answer it outside of for the characters involved.”
One of the major rewrites to Jones’ original screenplay was to expand the role of the female characters, something that Peter Farrelly says his wife demanded after reading the first draft.
“[She] wife read it and said, ‘I hate these f–ing women,'” the director recalls, “I said, ‘Why?’ and she said, ‘Because if you get a Hall Pass, I get a f–ing Hall Pass. That’s bulls–t!'”
“His wife’s a truck driver, by the way,” adds Bobby.
Expanding the roles for Fischer and Applegate and letting the women get in on the Hall Pass action, the Farrellys found that their story had a lot greater appeal for women and the brothers agree that it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to label the film a “chick flick.”
“[They] would often say that to me,” says Wilson, “That we’re making ‘Mystic Pizza’ here.”
Chick flick or not, Fischer found the experience of working with the brothers a dream come true.
“When you’re a little kid and you’re daydreaming about what making movies must be like,” she says, “what you’re daydreaming about is a Farrelly Brothers movie. Their set is so fun and so easy that it made me feel exactly as I always wanted to feel on a movie set.”
Outside of a very free atmosphere for on-the-spot improvisation, the brothers are famous for the weird games they come up with to pass the time. From betting on made-up sports to games involving dice and birthdays, Sudeikis recalls that what was happening off-camera was stranger than what was happening in the film itself.
“It would be ridiculous stuff,” he says, “There’s a scene we shot outside with a basketball court. We had a basketball. No. We’re not going to use the basketball. We’re going to use a football and try to throw that into the basketball hoop.”
As for the practicality of a real-life Hall Pass, the newly-married Fischer is quick to shoot down the concept.
“It’s a horrible idea!” she says, laughing at it even being brought up, “Are you kidding? It’s a wonderful premise for a film, but it’s a horrible practical idea in your life. Don’t do it.”
While the film makes a joke of men looking for women at the local Applebees, Fischer does offer some advice for single men on the prowl.
“Bed Bath and Beyond!” she says, “We’re all there. There’s a ton of women there. Target. Go where women go. The cosmetics counter. The MAC counter at the mall… Whole Foods! The slutty women are at Whole
“The more wholesome ones go to Trader Joes.”
Hall Pass arrives in theaters this Friday, February 25th.