Team America speaks!
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have never been afraid to skewer celebrities. Ben Affleck got a hand job from Cartman, Mel Gibson smeared his feces on the wall and the late Christopher Reeve sucked stem cells out of aborted fetuses on South Park. Now, in Team America: World Police, a coalition of actors from the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G. for short) try to stop the heroes from annihilating terrorists because of their liberal Hollywood politics. They all die horrible, bloody deaths.
One of the actors ridiculed in the film is Sean Penn, as he describes the chocolate rivers that flowed through Iraq before America started bombing it. Penn was apparently so outraged that he wrote a letter that appeared on The Drudge Report slamming Parker and Stone.
“We looked at it,” Stone said. “It was just like he missed the point. I don't know, he shows himself to be exactly what I think we did in the movie. If you read the letter, it’s almost like [a satire itself]. People have actually told me, they’re like, ‘Did you guys write that letter? That’s like exactly what he is in the movie, exactly what you guys have been saying.’ I was just more baffled than anything. I was trying to read it, trying to understand what he was trying to say.”
Parker added, “We were baffled too because, I mean, we read the letter and it was like okay, well, he seems to be pissed off. But there’s no single thing he could have done to help this movie more. And now we’re on the front page of everything again. It’s like, you go to Drudge Report, big picture of Team America, Sean Penn’s letter, and I’m just like, ‘Thanks.’ I mean, we’re seriously like, ‘Dude, thank you.’"
Stone thinks Penn’s comments were a thinly veiled attempt to offset his own insecurity. “When he reacted, he said he’s not mad about being in the movie, but he obviously is,” Stone said. “I mean, there’s so much vitriol in the letter, but the thing is, he said it like, ‘I don't care about my own image and stuff, but when you encourage people not to vote’ – which isn’t what we did – ‘You cross a line’ and all this stuff. But what we said was, we talked in Rolling Stone how we thought that encouraging uninformed people to just vote, just to drop a ballot in a box, I just think that’s stupid. I just think it doesn’t help anybody. If the campaign was a get informed, get to know the facts and then vote, then that’s totally cool, but just trying to shame people into voting or threatening them with death, I don't think is the best way to get the country in it. We don’t mean on either side. Anybody. But there’s democrats doing vote or die, republicans do it in church drives. They both go out looking for uninformed voters who vote basically completely on emotion to try to get them on their side. And I just don’t think that’s a very civically responsible thing to do.”
Parker jumped in, “And it’s obvious that what he’s really pissed off about is we made him into a puppet and had him eaten by a panther. That’s what he’s mad about.”
“So he tries to do the same thing that all those people do, which is just wrap himself in the voting thing,” Stone concluded.
Parker laughs the whole thing off. “It’s hysterical because nothing could make us happier. Sean Penn’s pissed, like Spicoli’s pissed at you. F*cking right on, dude. What does he think, that we’re going to be like, ‘Dude, Sean Penn’s really mad at us. What should we do?’”
The boys are equal opportunity offenders, as even their allies appear as maniacal celebrities in the film. George Clooney, who championed their short The Spirit of Christmas, and Michael Moore, who featured Stone in Bowling for Columbine, are some of the stars who appear as puppets in Team America.
“Most of the people in the movie, we have no personal relationship too,” Stone said. “We don’t know any of these people personally. A couple of them, we do, like George, I know Matt Damon, he’s a great guy and I think both those guys are great actors. For us, it was not so much a statement personally on what they were as people, although Sean Penn had turned out to be totally right. It’s more commenting on, and it’s something that we personally have dealt with that it almost sounds corny, like a personal story for us, the idea that when you’re a celebrity, when you have situations like this, it’s like everything you say, you know everything about everything. And all of a sudden, in the buildup to the Iraq war, when we were writing the fourth draft of the script, you’re actually trying to figure out what’s going on in the world. And as lame as TV news shows are, at least there was something there. Then all of a sudden, in your TV news show is Janeane Garafalo. And it’s not like she’s telling jokes about the Iraq war and it’s not like somebody’s writing a song. It’s all of a sudden they’re on Crossfire debating the issues. Just the ridiculousness of that is where the FAG thing came from. It’s not anything about Matt Damon.”
So Parker and Stone stick to making movies about politics rather than jumping on the talk show circuit. And in a spoof about action movies, the villains that the actors become had to meet their action movie fates.
“We had drafts of the script that were more political,” Parker said. “And as soon as we started reading through them and stuff, we were just like, ‘You know, who f*cking cares?’ Every time we got to a scene, we knew that what should be driving the scene is seeing something we’ve all seen in movies before, and satirizing movies way more than we satirize [politics] because it’s funnier and it’s more interesting.”
Stone added, “And that’s where FAG comes in. FAG, the actors in the end, they just have to assume a role in an action movie. That’s why they have to get shot. Everyone has to be their role in an action movie.”
Marionette creatures the Chiodo brothers enjoyed the chance to destroy the actor puppets. “That’s the joy of a puppet movie,” Edward Chiodo said. “You want to make a puppet movie, if you can, blow them up and shoot them. Puppet carnage is the best.”
“Each gag was rigged,” Charlie Chiodo explained. “We were told what it was going to do. We had to cut the skulls apart, load it with latex, rubber, blood, sometimes real meat, sometimes some dried fruit looked really good.”
Michael Moore’s puppet was specifically stuffed with ham. “Michael Moore was pretty funny because we did it from a lot of different angles,” Stephen Chiodo said. “And once they blew him up and all the ham splatted on the Team America window. It’s just very funny.”
Edward Chiodo added, “Susan Sarandon was particularly joyful.”
Charlie concluded, “And Tim Robbins went off in a blaze of glory.”
With all this mayhem against celebrities, one actually wanted to participate in the film. Alec Baldwin, who serves as the leader of the FAG coalition in the film, offered to record his own voice. “We found a guy that did it better,” Parker joked.
“It would just change the whole meaning of the thing if they were in on it,” Stone added.
Team America: World Police opens Friday, October 15th.
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