“There’s definitely one scene that will be the riskiest thing I’ve ever done,” Will Ferrell grimaces. “…[I]t was an idea that Adam McKay came up with and we still haven’t shot it. In fact, it’s being saved for the last day.”
“When they pitched that, [director Etan Cohen] didn’t say who it was,” laughs Kevin Hart. “So he’s telling me and I remember just looking at him like, ‘Who is doing this?! Will? Oh! This is going to be great! I thought it was me!'”
Although they’re keeping mum on the details of the precise scene in question, Ferrell and Hart revealed quite a bit last summer when ComingSoon.net paid a visit to the New Orleans set of the upcoming hard-R comedy Get Hard. The directorial debut of Tropic Thunder and Men in Black 3 scribe Etan Cohen, Get Hard stars Ferrell as James King, a naive but well-intentioned hedge fund manager, who winds up getting convicted of financial fraud. Ordered to a maximum security prison in 30 days, King decides that he needs someone to help him get ready for incarceration and turns to Hart’s Darnell Lewis.
“The backbone of this whole thing is this story of a guy with a guilty conscience, who has taken this money under false pretense,” Ferrell continues. “I’ve assumed for horribly wrong reasons that he’s been incarcerated… because I’m a statistical freak and my character read somewhere that one out of three African Americans has been incarcerated in their lifetime.”
“That’s the crazy thing,” Hart adds. “He’s not a racist at all.”
“He’s about to punch me in the mouth,” Ferrell continues , “but then I offer him enough money to change his life, so he’s having this struggle going home to a family who is like, ‘Is that the right thing? I know it’s a lot of money, but is that the right way to obtain it?’ He’s like, ‘Why should it matter to you? He’s a crook!’ So we’re kind of asking all those questions, while we’re saying and doing horrible, filthy things.”
“I think it’s crazy,” explains Edwina Findley, who plays Rita, Hart’s character’s wife. “My character thinks it’s absolutely nuts what’s going on, you know. I’m not for it, at all, but then [this scene] is the first time that she gets to meet Will’s character face to face. I think she begins to develop a compassion for him and also an understanding that something has to be done. We can’t take advantage of him anymore than he’s trying to take advantage of us.”
Constructed on a soundstage, the day’s scene has Ferrell, Hart and Findley acting opposite young Ariana Neal, who plays Hart and Findley’s character’s daughter, Makayla. Following a seemingly disastrous training session, Darnell has invited James to his own home to clean up his wounds (that is, remove the shiv from his head) and share a family meal.
“I’d like to say it was the baboon,” Ferrell says in the scene, “But, frankly, I did it to myself.”
With James’ prison sentence looming, Darnell has turned the businessman’s fancy Bel Air wine cellar into a prison cell. The earlier night saw a staged faux prison riot. Where the baboon comes into play, however, is anyone’s guess. It’s safe to say, however, that Hart’s character won’t share any onscreen moments with it.
“I’m not going near no damn baboon,” says Hart. “…I’ll tell you how bad I am, I saw them walking. The trainer had the baboons by the hand and they were walking. I made the driver stop the car until the baboon [had passed]. I said, ‘I don’t want to see no attack. I don’t want to be a part. If anything happens, I don’t want to say I was there.”
“You’re never going to see Kevin Hart with Bear Grylls on an episode of ‘Man vs. Wild.’ ‘Here we are with Kevin Hart in the Yucatan Peninsula, trying to survive in the jungle!'”
“It can just rip your face off with his fingers!” Hart continues. “Of course I want to be next to it, no!”
“It’s only happened several times,” Ferrell deadpans.
As the scene progresses, Rita gets a first hand look at the kind of lies her husband has been telling James. Disgusted with him, she begins to egg him on, encouraging him to share his own reason for having been locked up. Unbeknownst to James, Darnell hasn’t ever received so much as a parking ticket and instead does an emotional first person account of the plot to Boyz n the Hood.
“It’s very difficult keeping a straight face with those two,” says Findley, “especially the scene we’re working on now. At rehearsal, I have to get all my laughs out right now, so when they start rolling, I can shut it down and be the authoritarian that I am. I’m kind of a straight man to Kevin’s antics, but there is one scene that you’ll see in the movie where I sort of loose it and you’ll get to see that side of me.”
“You’re dealing with people who love comedy,” Hart explains. “Our director is a writer. A comedy writer. With him coming in as a first time director, one thing he understands is jokes. How to place them. How to give them. How to pitch them. The both of us receive it well. If we’re not coming up with things ourselves, there’s never a shortage of it… there’s so much stuff on the cutting table to pick from.”
Cohen himself took a stab a rewriting the script for Get Hard, which was originally scripted by Jay Martel and Ian Roberts.
“[W]hen I approached the rewrite, I had in mind movies like ‘Trading Places,’ had become about, a little more social satire and have a bit more something to say,” he says. “…[T]his seemed like an opportunity to say something about class and be able to says something about the American economy while doing crazy funny stuff, so that was kind of the goal with the rewrite.”
The film also has the full advantage of having been planned as a hard R from the beginning. That means that the final cut may contain some seriously over-the-top gags.
“We kind of went into this knowing that you’re dealing with prison, you can’t sugarcoat it and make it PG-13,” says producer Chris Henchy. “It was as simple as that… If you’re going to do it R, make sure you have scenes that warrant the R rating. We make sure we have scenes that warrant the R rating. Prison is not PG-13.”
That likely has something to do with that mysterious scene Ferrell calls the riskiest of his career. At this point in the production, that scene is just a few days away.
“I’m always in these situations where I forget to separate what is pitched as an idea to the fact that I’m actually going to have to execute it,” he laughs. “I remember reading ‘Old School’ for the first time and reading about my character is going to streak. I’m, like ‘Oh yeah! That’s funny! I remember when people used to do that!’ Then it’s the day you’re in the robe, standing there naked and they’re about to yell action. ‘Why did I agree to do this?'”
Get Hard hits theaters March 27.