David Zucker Talks Scary Movie V, in theaters this weekend
Having directed Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4, comedy legend David Zucker, known for re-inventing the spoof genre with such classics as The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad and Airplane!, returns for Scary Movie V, the craziest sequel in this franchise yet.
Though he's passed the directorial reigns over to Malcolm D. Lee for this latest installment, David had a pretty heavy hand in Scary Movie V's production, co-writing the screenplay and serving as a producer. He was involved in almost every aspect of the movie, which was still being worked on when we spoke with him last week.
David Zucker called us from an ADR session, explaining that things are continually being added to the movie up until the last minute, including new scenes that parody Evil Dead, which only just came out in theaters last week. That's the way it goes in the spoof business, especially in this age of instant gratification and social media.
We chatted exclusively with David about the lasting affects of his work, some of which is long remembered after the movie it is spoofing has quietly drifted into the ether of pop culture. We also talked about the hiring of Malcolm D. Lee, a first time dabler in parody known for his more straightforward dramatic relationship comedies like The Best Man and Soul Men.
How does David Zucker continue to strike a nerve after so many years? Here is our conversation.
By coincidence, I was taking to my nephew earlier today, who is 15. That Old Navy commercial came on, with Julie Hagerty. And he started telling me how much he loves Airplane. Then he admitted that he'd never seen any of the movies it spoofs. Why do you think your movies resonate so long after the ones they are parodying have sort of passed, or left the pop culture consciousness?
David Zucker: Well...We usually spoof movies we think are unintentionally funny. That doesn't mean they aren't good. In Scary Movie 3 when we did Signs and The Ring...I think those were good movies. Although, they were stupid. They had their moments of being stupid. They are popcorn movies. But, like with all the Airplane movies, I think you have to have a certain affection for the genre to spoof it. There are some genres that I don't get. I'm not interested in. So I don't want to spoof them. In doing my movies, we like to do it so that you don't necessarily have to be familiar with that genre, or those other movies. The jokes work on their own. Most of the jokes in Airplane!? They do work on their own. Unless the reference is so specific...Like, I think we spoof a coffee commercial of the 1970s. In Airplane! Nobody gets that now.
It does work in bringing that nostalgia back, though. It also makes it unique and interesting for younger audiences, I think. It gives them a sense of that time period...
David Zucker: Yes, true...
In terms of Scary Movie V, some of this stuff that you spoof is straight up garbage. Inception? That movie will be around forever, but some of this other stuff...Like the Ethan Hawke movie, Sinister, that has already been forgotten by the kids...
David Zucker: Which one is that?
Sinister, the snuff movie with Ethan Hawke. And The Devil Inside Me, what is that even? These movies come and go, they're like fast food entertainment...
David Zucker: You are right! Those movies are one-offs, and they get a lot harder to spoof. The way we do Sinister is with a pop culture reference that is so overwhelming, I don't think you even have to know about Sinister...I hadn't seen Sinister. Not until I was directed to spoof it.
Do you actually sit down, as the writer of Scary Movie V, and watch all of these movies that need to make it into your comedy?
David Zucker: Well, some of this stuff, like Evil Dead...Its not even out yet, and we have to spoof it. We just spoof the trailer. The internet makes it easier. Look, some of the jokes in Scary Movie V are going to work better two weeks after it opens than the week that it opens. By then, more people will have seen Evil Dead. We do a very funny scene. It has a very funny take on Evil Dead. It will certainly help if people have seen that movie.
You've continued to go back and shoot extra scenes for the movie, right?
I don't want to name names, but some spoof movies come along, and they are just awful. Almost unwatchable. What is your secret to making a good spoof movie or parody that will stand the test of time?
David Zucker: I haven't seen those other movies...But from what I hear, they do a lot of jokes that are just referencing the movies they spoof. They don't do, what we call, knocking down the post. You have to make jokes. You can't just throw out a reference. We learned this all the way back when we did Airplane! We were surprised that some of our references just didn't work. It wasn't until we made the joke that we got the laugh.
Why did you decide not to return as a director this time out?
David Zucker: The last two? I did two The Naked Guns, I didn't want to do a third one. I think two is my limit to direct. Then I just don't want to direct that one any more. It just takes up too much of my time. I don't want to do it.
Let's talk about the man you hired to take over this franchise. I've seen most of Malcolm D. Lee's work, and they are a far cry from this. The spoof world is a whole new avenue for him to go down. Though, he hasn't been pigeonholed by a particular genre either. He is all over the map. Is that what made him the right man for the job? That he isn't locked into a certain mindset?
David Zucker: Right. Here, he had to learn on the job. He seemed to be the one we liked the best. He seemed to be a good fit. Not necessarily because of his resume. No one has a resume that would fit this. Any director...Peter Segal came into do Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, and he had to learn on the job. No one who ever takes these jobs is not not surprised at what happens in the process. You know what? I need to cut this short. We still have people looping, and I have to go direct them (laughs). I actually have to go direct something myself now!