Peter Farrelly Talks Movie 43, in theaters this weekend
Peter Farrelly, who usually directs alongside his brother Bobby, is flying solo with Movie 43, which finds him helming two of the short segments that make up this anthology comedy starring most, if not every, big name actor in Hollywood. He is also a producer behind this epic tale about a down-on-his-luck filmmaker trying to make his own Movie 43 after 42 failures. Peter's segments include "The Catch" with Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet, and "Truth or Dare" with Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant, both of which revolve around blind dates gone bad.
We recently caught up with Peter for a chat about the film, in which he went into the history of the project, and shared some of its secrets. Here is our conversation.
Back in 2010, we got some photos of Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant standing outside of a hospital, and Halle Berry looked as though she'd gone under some drastic plastic surgery. First question: Is that scene still in the movie, because the trailers don't hint at it at all. And two: Why has it taken more than three years for us to finally see Truth or Dare?
Peter Farrelly: Those scenes are in this movie. Yes. They are quite in the movie. Those photos are from "Truth or Dare", the short with Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant. They meet on Match.com, or that same type of dating site, and they quickly go through the whole, "Where are you from? Where did you go to school?" All of that. And very quickly, Halle says, "This is bologna. Why don't we play Truth or Dare?" And they start pushing it to degrees that you wouldn't expect, including getting plastic surgery on a date. All that good kind of stuff. By the way, this movie was shot over the course of three and a half years. We have so many huge stars in this thing; we knew it wouldn't be feasibly to shoot it in a ten or twelve week period like a normal movie. They're just not all going to be available. What we had to do...Producer Charles B. Wessler, who pretty much knows everybody, he would call Richard Gere and say, "Hey, Richard, do you want to do this balls to the wall comedy we're doing?" He'd say, "I'd love to. Except, I'm busy for like a year." Charles goes, "When are you available?" And he goes, "Not until a year from April." Charles goes, "Well, we'll wait." Because we had all different writers, all different directors, and all different actors, we could do that. We'd shoot for three days, shut done, go to lunch, come back a few days later, and get a different crew together. We would shoot for another three days. And on, and on, and on. It just took us forever to make the movie. But that is the way we planned it. Also, it is a six million dollar movie. We had no budget. Everyone got paid scale. All these big stars, their agents and managers didn't want them to do it. There was no up side. We had to bend over backwards to accommodate them. Do it where they were available, when they were available. Some of the shorts were shot in Australia, some were shot in New York, some were shot in Los Angeles. It was an interesting process.
I know this is a comedy, but do you have that sort of Crypt Keeper character that is tying all of these comedy shorts together?
Peter Farrelly: There is. The reason there is, is because...This is like a The Kentucky Fried Movie type thing. But in the last decade the world's attention span has diminished so greatly, you can't just have short after short after short. Because at some point, maybe an hour and five minutes in, people are looking at their watches, thinking, "Do I want to start another short?" So, yes, we have a wrap around that glues it all together. We pop back to it every three episodes. There is something happening in this wrap around which I can't get into...Because it gives away too much...But it keeps you interested in that. You wait until the end to find something out. Again, that is all I can reveal. But it is a fun thing.
But the stories, they are all interconnected in a way?
Peter Farrelly: No! They are not interconnected. They are all on their own. Each short is its own thing. Its because there is something happening where these shorts are popping up, people are finding these shorts for some reason. But there is no connection between the shorts. They are each on their own. But there is a tonal...Something that glues them together.
Back when you set out to make this movie in 2009, the anthology film had kind of fallen by the wayside. Now, they are quite popular once again in the horror genre, with V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. This is the first comedy anthology in quiet a while. What gave you the foresight to see this trend starting to emerge?
Peter Farrelly: I actually didn't know, until this moment, that they were starting to make a resurgence. I grew up on The Kentucky Fried Movie, The Groove Tube, Amazon Women on the Moon. That type of thing. No one had done it in a while. Charles B. Wessler, our producer, said, "They haven't done anything like this in a while. We need to do something like this!" So he started it. But we wanted to do it different. The Kentucky Fried Movie was the Zucker Brothers and James Abrams, and it was all directed by John Landis. We wanted all different writers, all different actors, and all different directors. We wanted to just have a fun movie. We went all over the internet looking for talent, writers and directors, and pulling them in, and putting it together.
Those movies you mention...They are more in the spoof genre, from what I remember. Movie 43 doesn't look like a spoof...
Peter Farrelly: That is true. This is not tonally the same as a Zucker Brothers movie. Those were more spoofy. This is not like that. It is more like a Saturday Night Live skit if you didn't have censors. Or Funny or Die. There are certain limitations...I love Funny or Die, but you can only go so far, or they won't run it, you know? This is like balls to the wall, hard R, anything goes comedic shorts.
You and your brother kicked off the 'gross out comedy' genre of the 90s, and then you kind of distanced yourself from that. Those hard, gross movies kind of fell to the wayside, but now, as everyone becomes nostalgic for the 90s, were seeing a resurgence. Were you ever happy about the term "gross out comedy" being applied to your work, and what do you think about this type of comedy coming back hard and strong?
Peter Farrelly: I have noticed it coming back. I'm not sure that it every completely went away. The reason I don't like the term "gross out comedy" is because, that is not what we intended. We never thought, "Hey, let's gross people out. That will be funny." We really just wanted to make people laugh. My argument has always been...The There's Something About Mary hair gel scene with Cameron Diaz...To call that gross out humor really simplifies it. Because that was a well constructed joke. We set up a lot of things to get to that moment. Its not because its gross that its funny. Its because its funny that its funny. Sometimes gross out humor is funny. Sometimes it's just gross. What's funny is when it's unexpected. In Dumb and Dumber, when Jeff Daniels sits on the toilet, the reason that's so funny is because, until that point, you've seen people going to the bathroom a zillion times. But they would always cut away. For us to hold on him while he let loose, people were stunned. They didn't see it coming. That's what made it funny. It wasn't expected. Now it is expected. At that point, it just becomes gross. It is more complicated than just grossing people out. You do see it a lot nowadays. Sometimes it works really well. Like in Bridesmaids. There is some disgusting stuff in there that is hilarious. But it's not hilarious because it's disgusting. Its hilarious because its hilarious, and it just happens to be disgusting.