Set Visit: Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler ARE The House
From the creative minds behind Neighbors comes a new comedy about one of the biggest challenges of parenting – putting your kids through college. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler star in The House as Scott and Kate Johansen, parents who would do anything for their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins). They discover just how ride-or-die they can get for their child when they find themselves unable to cover all of her schooling. With the help of their divorced friend, Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), they start an illegal gambling ring and get in too deep.
ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to check out the set of the New Line Cinema release to chat with the stars as well as writer Brendan O’Brien and writer/director Andrew J. Cohen.
Sitting in Frank’s house, which they transformed into a suburban casino replete with light-up neon signs, tacky Vegas-esque furniture and card tables, you get a sense of the level of excess the Johansen family reaches in their idea to make money on the side. While it may have all started with good intentions, Will Ferrell described their journey as in the vein of Breaking Bad or Casino. “Amy and I establish ourselves as the suburban family which is so proud of their relationship with each other and their relationship with their daughter. Life is great and then as we explore this premise and we get deeper and deeper into the lie of what we’re doing, the dark side of both of us comes out, so that’s kind of the fun turn that we basically kind of dissolve into De Niro and Sharon Stone from Casino,” he explained.
Poehler agreed: “The characters really like each other. It’s a marriage that’s working and it’s a team that they kind of embolden each other along the way. They both lose their minds together and separately. It’s a good example of: It’s never too late to make a bad decision with someone you love.” She motioned to the over-the-top room behind us.
Attending press had just gotten done seeing a scene where they call out a card counter and threaten to show him what happens when you try to cross the proprietors. “What’s interesting is the characters in this film, because it’s a comedy, start to lose their way, and start to think that they’re a certain type of people that they’re not.” Poehler referred to the scene in the Red Band trailer where the couple goes full mobster and the cheater ends up with a missing finger. “But, yeah, we’ve been playing around too with like how excited this couple is by their newfound dark side. There are times when Kate plays it really cool and then there are other times when her cover is kind of blown.”
Co-writer Brendan O’Brien asserted that having Kate and Scott be a unified force was inspired by his and Cohen’s relationships with their wives. “Andrew and I are not the kind of guys who sneak out of the house to go play poker with our buddies. We hang out with our wives. Our wives are kind of like the co-conspirators in our lives, and we sort of share everything with them. If we had a major problem, we wouldn’t be going behind their backs to solve it. We would need their help, because they’re way smarter than us and have way better ideas than us.” This can be seen in their previous work, which brought him to the point of working against old tropes. “’Neighbors’ definitely sort of helped make that very clear. The audience loved when Rose and Seth were on the same team. And with this movie, it’s their daughter they’re trying to help and to kind of shut the wife out of it seemed kind of boring. When you have Amy Poehler, why not have her in every scene that you can?” he said.
Just from seeing one major scene that day, Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are pure comedy dynamite together. There was a sense that because they had worked together before on SNL, the two could easily jump into any situation together. “We immediately had a shorthand from day one of filming,” said Ferrell, “And I think just being comfortable around each other leads you to believe that we really are a couple and that we kind of have each other’s back. It’s kind of the one of the fun things about this movie, despite the high concept. It’s really about this couple who are going on this misguided adventure together, but they have each other’s back. It’s really about them kind of rediscovering why they like each other so much in their marriage.”
Along for the ride, and providing a house to hold this suburban center of vice, is their friend Frank, who treats the Johansen’s as his surrogate parents. Jason Mantzoukas affirms that his role isn’t so much as a solid partner but as a second kid they have to take care of. “I’m like that terrible, bad idea friend, and they’re susceptible enough to the situation they’re in that they’ll listen to him.” In return for their putting up with his man-child antics, Frank comes up with the grand casino idea with good intentions. “He’s a gambling addict, who lost all of his money gambling, so he thinks he knows about casinos.” Explained Mantzoukas: “And then the idea comes about – like what if we were, instead of the gamblers at the casino, what if we were the casino, wouldn’t we always win? And so that’s the kind of scheme of the movie.”
“Probably the straightest character is really Ryan, who plays Alex, our daughter,” Ferrell laughed. “She represents the audience a little bit, in the sense of trying to figure out what we’re up to – why we’re behaving so strangely. And yet even she gets to have fun by exploring, like–my parents are disappearing late at night and not explaining their actions, then I’m going to do the same thing.”
“It’s that fun structure of a couple putting themselves in harm’s way and like challenging themselves to see like what kind of lengths they would go for their kid,” Poehler added. “We kind of both get to be crazy and l like that they are on each other’s side. It’s kind of what you need sometimes in life and comedy to take big risks and big chances, so they both act like maniacs, and it’s really fun to be that way with Will.”
At the day’s end on set, after seeing all the different takes Poehler and Ferrell gave director/co-writer Andrew Cohen, you start to see the relevance through the madness. To Cohen, it all came from considering the worst case-scenario when planning his his kid’s future. “I was doing like a scholar share fund for my kid, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, imagine if I blow this?’ And so that’s what we’re faced with in this movie is that they blow it, and then what do you do, like you still have to get them into school, right?”
See if the Johansen’s lofty ambitions crash before they can send their daughter to school in The House, opening in theaters on June 30!