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The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Cast, production team speak on making ‘MacGruber'”

    Lisa Beth Earle/ Arizona Daily Wildcat 

Will Forte takes photos for fans at Gallagher Theater after the free screening of MacGruber on Thursday, April 29. Ryan Phillippe, Jorma Taccone, director, John Solomon, writer, and Brandon Trost, cinematographer, were also there to show their support for the new movie and meet fans.
    Lisa Beth Earle
    Lisa Beth Earle/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Will Forte takes photos for fans at Gallagher Theater after the free screening of MacGruber on Thursday, April 29. Ryan Phillippe, Jorma Taccone, director, John Solomon, writer, and Brandon Trost, cinematographer, were also there to show their support for the new movie and meet fans.

    After Thursday’s free preview screening of “”MacGruber”” in Gallagher Theater, the Arizona Daily Wildcat had an opportunity to sit down with members of the production team, writer-director Jorma Taccone, writer John Solomon, cinematographer Brandon Trost, actor Ryan Phillippe and actor-writer Will Forte discussed the importance of ’80s films, creating a complete character out of a comedy sketch and the camaraderie, not bromance, that developed while filming.

    How did you get hooked up with the film?

    Ryan Phillippe: They invited me out of nowhere to do a read-through before the movie was even a go-movie. I guess they wanted to hear it out loud and so they got a guy who always plays soldier roles. After the read-through, I called my agent and said, “”I wish they’d let me do this kind of movie.”” Because every movie I do is really heavy. When you’re on a dramatic film, you tend to carry around the weight of the film or the mood of a particular scene and that is draining. This was just a blast.

    What’s the dichotomy like when you are playing all of your lines completely straight and everyone around you is just going crazy?

    RP: There’s a part of you that’s like, why can’t I do the silly stuff? You wind up seeing the movie through my eyes because he is the only sane guy in it. It kind of grounds the film. I mean, I get some laughs.

    Well, your lines become hilarious in the context.

    RP: Yeah, exactly. And I’m the guy who should be in charge. I’m the real soldier and I have to deal with this moron. The comedy comes from my reactions.

    You’re entering a comedy group of really close-knit Saturday Night Live players. Did you ever feel like an outsider?

    RP: Not at all. I didn’t know what to expect, but Kristen (Wiig) and Will (Forte) could not be more decent or down-to-earth. Will is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. They just embraced me. They were excited I was there and that we were making this movie. Val (Kilmer) was excited. Powers (Boothe) was. I mean, we didn’t get paid a lot to make this movie. Like, I probably cleared a couple thousand dollars to make this movie. I did it because it was something new and I’m such a fan of this kind of film. Of all the things I’ve done this is probably the one I’m most excited for my friends to watch. I want them to smoke or have a drink and sit in the theater and watch it.

    Not going to get all your guy friends to go see “”Crash?””

    RP: (Laughs.) Not as much.

    ***

    You have a 60-second sketch where MacGruber essentially dies each time. How do you turn that into a full-length movie?

    John Solomon: Well, that works on the show where it can be a little sillier. But if you’re going to watch a movie, MacGruber needs to be a real person. He can’t blow up every three minutes. You’re not going to be invested in that.

    What did you do to prepare to make a straight-up ’80s action comedy?

    JS: Well, we know all of those movies. Jorma, Will and I just love all those movies. We got to have the scene where the hero goes into the villain’s house and confronts him in front of his partygoers. We need to have a gathering of the team. It just became fun thinking of all those scenes from Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Chuck Norris movies.

    So I imagine there was a fair amount of ad-libbing on this —

    JS: Not so much. There wasn’t because we didn’t have any time. It was so fast that if we spend a lot of time screwing around and doing improv, we wouldn’t make our day. We would rewrite while we were shooting, but on the set was fast.

    How long did it take you to write the script?

    JS: About three months.

    So three times as long as shooting the film?

    JS: Yeah.

    Early reception of the film has been incredible. It currently holds 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Are you surprised that critics are receiving the film so well?

    Jorma Taccone: We have 100 percent?

    Yeah. Does that surprise you?

    JT: Yes. We’re still just so excited that we got to make this movie at all. That people like it is a wonderful thing. For us, it was a harder tone. We were worried people might not get it.

    At what point do you draw the line between it being a parody or an homage?

    JT: Personally, I like that we are playing with conventions. We all love those movies so much though, that I think it’s more of an homage.

    One of the things the film sells so well is that MacGruber almost always messes up, but every so often, he is perfect for the job. How do you balance that?

    JS: That was hard, because our instinct is to make him fuck up. Everyone loves him when he fucks up.

    JT: Yeah, you want him on drugs, just spiraling out of control, angry, just every problem. What did you call him the other night? The king of the issues?

    JS: Oh yeah, he’s just more interesting the more desperate and personal problems he has.

    JT: Even that is an homage to Riggs from Lethal Weapon. I mean, we started to notice that we were playing with conventions we didn’t even know. Like, I was watching “”Rambo III”” like a month after we wrote the script and I was just like, “”Oh my god,”” the scene where they go to the monastery to get MacGruber is exactly like when they get Rambo.

    Huge ’80s soundtrack in the movie. How expensive was that?

    JT: I think that since our budget was so low, people just knew that we couldn’t spend that much. But we had to contact a lot of artists directly. Like, I had to go to The Black Keys and show them scenes from the movie and explain why we needed their song. And I know Michael Bolton was really excited. It was weird to hear that Michael Bolton was interested in MacGruber.

    Is there any truth to the rumor that Val Kilmer is impossible to work with?

    JT: We had heard a ton of stories about that and I was so nervous on the set. He is the sweetest man on the planet — could not have been nicer. He came to the set on days he wasn’t shooting just to hang out.

    JS: One day, there was no reason for him to be there, and he showed up in a white suit and a huge white cowboy hat in the middle of Albuquerque and a bolo tie to top it all off.

    JT: He is a genuine friend to us. He sends the most insane e-mails you could imagine. He’s really good friends with 50 Cent too, so he sends amazing pictures of those two with like a giant pistol.

    ***

    During the sex scene, it is straight out of “”Top Gun.”” How do you set up your work without just ripping off the source?

    Brandon Trost: First of all, I’m glad you got it. This movie is all of my favorite movies. Die Hard, Predator, Robocop, all these old classic ’80s movies. They’re not the best, but they’re my favorites. I really hoped they wanted this movie to look like those old ones, because the joke is that without the volume on, this movie looks like an old Bruckheimer-Simpson movie. The concern was that it would be too intense for comedy. But I don’t think it does. We had so much creative freedom, it was marvelous. Our budget was just small enough where the producers were just like, ‘oh, it’s cute they want to make that movie, we’ll let them do whatever’. I feel like I’ve made one of my favorite movies. Like, I’ve seen it a dozen times and I still love it.

    Yeah, I was sitting next to Will and he was just eating it up. You always hear about stars hating their work or watching their movies.

    BT: Will has seen this movie so many times it’s ridiculous. He is devoted.

    This was shot entirely in Albuquerque, but the setting is like 18 different places. How much of a challenge was it to mask the one locale?

    BT: People have been doing that forever in L.A.

    Yeah, but this is Albuquerque.

    BT: Yeah, there are definitely times we couldn’t hide it. The great thing about Albuquerque is that it is widespread. The opening scene is in a gypsum mine. The graveyard isn’t actually a graveyard. That was a park with a Frisbee course. The monastery was an old adobe-like Indian reservation. If we had looked any other direction it would have looked stupid, like the kind of place kids go on field trips.

    The special effects are so tongue-in-cheek, did you have any play in that?

    BT: Well, yeah, my dad did the special effects. I grew up in the industry and my dad does physical effects. It was actually kind of awesome to show up every day because it was like, ‘Hey kid!’ ‘Uh, hey dad, can you put that over there?’ You notice there is smoke in every single scene. That was my doing. We have to have smoke in every single scene and wet-downs. There is smoke in the kitchen scene. It’s “”True Romance.”” It’s all those movies. I love smoke. I put smoke in everything I can. But we never referenced everything explicitly. I never pulled stills. Everything we shot was from memory of how we think stuff happened. We knew what vibe we wanted, but not to mimic a scene.

    ***

    At what point in preparing for the film did you freak out over the transition from basic concept to plot-driven film?

    Will Forte: When we heard they wanted a script. Just like everyone else, when you hear they’re making a MacGruber movie. Like, what are they going to do? He blows up every time. We thought he (Lorne Michaels) was crazy. But we’d be crazy if we didn’t give it a shot. We decided, let’s not worry about the sketches or follow any of the backstory. Let’s give ourselves 100 percent freedom to go everywhere and it was so much fun. It was very liberating.

    Did you start off with the R rating? Did Lorne just say, “”Yeah, 10 mil and an R rating, that’s fine””?

    WF: Yes, I think because the budget was so small. Lorne was very supportive throughout. It’s very rare you get the amount of freedom we got from the studios. We just kept thinking that at some point, they would say, “”You can’t do this,”” and that point never came.

    Once you get past naming a character Dieter Von Cunth, what envelope is left?

    WF: (Laughs.)

    There is some heavy bromance in the film. How much spills onto the set?

    WF: Well, there were a lot of women on the set. Those action movies from the ’80s are just bromance. That’s all they are. It wasn’t a bro-ish love, but there was a really good camaraderie. It was really the most pleasant experience. Everyone was very respectful. At the core, we’re all like best friends. We’ve known each other forever.

    The last film you wrote and acted in was “”The Brothers Solomon”” and that one didn’t get received so well.

    WF: Yes.

    But this one is getting great reception and stands to resurrect the glory days of SNL. How does that feel?

    WF: Exciting. We didn’t go in with any concerns about how it measures up to SNL movies. Because automatically, it will be classified as an SNL movie and they’ll just talk about how great “”Wayne’s World”” was. We didn’t want that pressure. We wanted to make the best movie, not the best SNL movie. No matter how it does financially, we’re all very proud of the movie.

    I was told that Val Kilmer was super fun to be around and that he and 50 Cent are like best buddies. I need to know more.

    WF: He is such an awesome guy. We had so much fun working with him. I can’t believe now that I get calls and texts from Val and they will always be these fun, threatening e-mails. A couple times he sent me pictures because him and 50 Cent were making a movie with some guns I think.

    You hope. People seem to forget he was in “”Top Secret”” and is a great comedic actor.

    WF: Oh yeah. He is, that guy is one of the best people at making nuanced characters. I could not believe he agreed to do this movie. (Laughs.) He was always a hero of mine. I was watching “”The Doors”” movie the other day and I remember thinking how cool I thought he was when I first saw the movie and then I was like, “”Wait, you were just in a movie with that guy!””

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