Exclusive Interview: Peter Farrelly on Movie 43

After co-directing some of the biggest comedies of the ’90s with his brother Bobby, director Peter Farrelly has taken on his own project, Movie 43, an anthology comedy he put together with long time producing partner Charles Wessler, who goes all the way back to Dumb & Dumber with the Farrellys.

Movie 43 promises the same level of raunch as some of the brother’s biggest hits, but what’s amazing is the star-studded cast that’s been assembled for the collection of short comedies. Farrelly himself directs two of the segments, “The Catch,” about a blind date between Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman, and “Truth or Dare,” another dating segment featuring the unlikely pairing of Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant. The rest of the movie is a who’s who of big name Hollywood from the past thirty years including Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Anna Faris, Ricchard Gere, Dennis Quaid, Emma Stone, Johnny Knoxville, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Naomi Watts, Uma Thurman and even Seth MacFarlane!

Last week, ComingSoon.net got on the phone with Farrelly to try to figure out “What is Movie 43?”

ComingSoon.net: I know you’ve been developing this for a long time because I remember hearing about it maybe five years ago. Is that possible?
Peter Farrelly:
Yeah, we weren’t shooting at that point, but we were talking about it. But it did take a few years because of the way… Charlie Wessler produced it along with John Penotti and myself and from the beginning, they knew the only way to do this was to be able to work with the actor’s schedules. So in other words, when they call someone like Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman and say, “Hey, would you want to do a short in this compilation film?” They might say, “Yeah, I’d love to but I can’t do it for a year and a half” then they’d say, “Okay, we’ll wait.” That’s how we did it. We had all different crews, all different directors so it was easier to just shut down so we’d go sometimes a year without shooting one and then you’d do like three or four and then you’d wait six months and do a couple more. That’s how we did it.

CS: I read that “Kentucky Fried Movie” was a big inspiration and that’s a really funny movie, but it’s different since that had one director, John Landis, and one group of writers, but you had a lot of different writers writing stuff and then a lot of directors.
Farrelly:
It was really the brainchild of Charlie Wessler and he started thinking about this a few years ago, about doing sort of a “Kentucky Fried Movie” thing except with a wraparound. “Kentucky Fried Movie” went from short to short to short and in today’s low attention span world we’re living in, if you do that, after an hour people are like “Okay, I don’t want to start another short.” Which is why we have this wraparound that connects all these shorts. There’s something that you’re following, which is the search for “Movie 43″ which keeps you invested right to the end. (Note: A couple of days later, we got a call back from Farrelly saying that they had decided to go with a different wraparound, one involving Dennis Quaid as a down and out Hollywood producer who is pitching ideas at a studio, going from room to room pitching to the likes of Greg Kinnear, Seth MacFarlane and Common, getting more desperate as he goes along… and apparently he’s carrying a hand grenade.)

CS: By the way, I haven’t seen the movie.
Farrelly:
Right, I know this kind of movie and horror movies, they figure they don’t even have to show it to people.

CS: The trailer’s pretty funny and I think it’s easy to get some idea what to expect from that.
Farrelly:
Well, I promise you this is what is going to happen. This movie is going to score about a 13 on the Rotten Tomatoes scale and being at the movie is going to be like being at a rock concert, because it really is an unusual thing. It plays through the roof because it’s so out there that people are like, “Oh my God.” It’s not going to get good reviews, but it’s going to be a huge thing for college kids.

CS: Why wasn’t Bobby involved with “Movie 43″? He just decided to sit that one out?
Farrelly:
Bobby, he lives in Massachusetts, I live in California. He has other interests. He plays a lot of hockey, he plays a lot of golf. He has more of a normal life where this was something that Charlie and I had just been sort of dabbling with on the side for the last few years.

CS: How did you guys go about picking the directors? You have a really interesting batch that includes people like Steve Carr and Steve Brill and Bob Odenkirk, who direct a lot of comedies, and then you have Elizabeth Banks who never directed anything as far as I know.
Farrelly:
Right and by the way, hers is one of the best ones. She’s really good. She’s got Chloe Moretz and really nailed that one. As far as the scripts go, Charlie just read hundreds and hundreds of scripts or he’d see something online that cracked him up and he would contact those writers and say, “Hey, I really like this. We’re doing a movie. Do you want to write a short?” People were submitting them and we’d pick the best 12 or 15 of them. There was one group of writers, a guy named Rocky Russo and Jeremy Sesenko who wrote three of them but other than that, we were just grabbing stuff pretty much from unknown people. Then Charlie went to directors he admired and up and coming people we could afford and got them to do it.

CS: It’s pretty amazing what you guys were able to put together for what I assume is a fairly low budget, getting all these actors and directors, was a lot of that Charlie’s doing?
Farrelly:
Charlie is one of these guys—he’s a bit of a Gatsby-like character because you might not have heard his name but everybody in Hollywood knows him. It’s weird. He knows everybody. You’d be sitting in a room and no matter who comes up, he’s like “Yeah, I worked with that guy.” “What?! What do you mean you used to work with them?” He was a P.A. on “Star Wars” and over the years, he’s gotten to know everybody so pretty much everybody in the movie were acquaintances of his that he could just call personally and say “Hey, listen do you want to do this thing? It’s only going to take you one day.” And they’d be like, “Yeah, sure Charlie, I’ll do that.”

CS: I assume you got first pick of the segments to direct and you decided on the two blind dates ones?
Farrelly:
Those were the ones that I personally liked the most. I just thought those were really good and they sent out stuff and said “What do you want to do?” “I want to do those.” By the way, there were a couple other ones that they didn’t even make that were fantastic. They only had a $6 million budget but the good news is that if it does well, we already have so many more scripts so we can probably knock off another one.

CS: You and Bobby are kind of known for your raunchy humor, but in movies like “There’s Something About Mary” and “Shallow Hal,” you do include nicer character moments and romance. Are you able to fit that stuff into a shorter format?
Farrelly:
Not really. (laughs) There’s not a lot of heart in this movie. It’s really kind of just balls to the wall humor. It’s flat out laughs and not a lot of character development, but it’s really funny, really good. But no, you’ll never weep.

CS: Going back to the cast, Kate Winslet, until she did “Extras,” no one could imagine that she’d ever do something like this. So did you or Charlie already know she could do raunchy humor.
Farrelly:
First of all, any great actor I know can do comedy. When I started doing this years ago, people would say from the first movie we ever did, “Dumb & Dumber,” the studio was fighting Jeff Daniels ’cause they’d say “Nah, nah, nah, you gotta get a comic actor.” I said, “What does that even mean? They’re not writing it. If you have a great actor, they can do comedy. Trust me.” Jeff Daniels can do comedy. They were talking about names that were just big comedy guys and back then, a couple times I tried to get De Niro into a movie and they were like, “Are you crazy? He doesn’t do comedy, he does drama.” Of course, he’s this big comedy guy now. I’ve always believed that any good actor can do comedy. As for (Kate), I didn’t know her but like in the first ten minutes that I met her, I realized that she has a really dark, twisted sense of humor and this was going to be a lot of fun because she really wanted to go for it… as did Hugh, as did Halle Berry. You knew that Stephen Merchant would of course. Halle Berry, I remember when she read the script, the first draft of hers, she said, “Oh, c’mon guys, you have go to for it a little more. I feel like you’re pulling back.” So we were like, “Oh, okay, we’ll take another pass at it.” She really wanted to cut loose.

CS: The short format is an interesting one because they don’t normally have much of a venue other than film festivals. Is it all about putting them together in an anthology like this to have more comedy shorts in theaters?
Farrelly:
The only way you can do them is on like “Funny or Die,” but there are limits to what you can do on “Funny or Die.” There are rules and regulations and ratings, that kind of thing, where this… I guarantee that there’s never been anything like this where you have such huge stars doing such outrageously deep R, borderline NC-17. This kind of short where you’re so R-rated with such big stars, I don’t think it’s been done. You can’t really do it on “Funny or Die,” push it this hard and in that way, this is definitely a ground-breaking movie.

CS: I wanted to ask about the rating while you’re working with Relativity. How hard was it to get it down to an R? Did you really have to go in there and cut stuff out?
Farrelly:
No, not really, because the rule is that there’s some sexual stuff in here but if it’s for titillation, it’s for NC-17, and if it’s for humor, it’s an R. This is definitely all for humor so it wasn’t really hard, but I have to tell you, it’s a hard R.

CS: You mentioned “Dumb & Dumber” and I was reading in the notes that Griffin Dunne (who directs one of the segments) turned down a role in that. I keep hearing of other actors, like Nicolas Cage, who said they turned that movie down as well. Were a lot of them approached for this movie?
Farrelly:
I honestly don’t even remember. I always take kind of a zen view of casting and I really don’t remember people who passed. I kind of turn it over to the universe and figure, “Wow, I guess that wasn’t meant to be.” It doesn’t sit with me. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I was offered ‘Dumb & Dumber,’” and I don’t remember it but I’m sure they were because everyone was offered “Dumb & Dumber.” Without question everyone in town, because it was four or five years and there was no one that we could think of that wasn’t offered it. Until Jim Carrey finally read it and said, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll do that.” And then it got done.

In case you missed it, you can also read what Farrelly had to say about the sequel they’ve written to the very first Farrelly comedy, Dumb and Dumber To, and his thoughts on a potential sequel to last year’s The Three Stooges here.

Movie 43 opens on Friday, January 25.

(Photo Credit: Adriana M. Barraza / WENN.com)

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