Talking the craft of entertainment with Garry Shandling in one of the most interesting interviews you'll ever read
The career of Garry Shandling is constantly changing - from a writer to a stand-up comedian to an actor. For the first time, he's brought his talents to the animation world in DreamWorks' Over the Hedge.
Garry plays the role of Verne, the turtle; he's the timid leader of a group of animals living in the 'forest.' But, when his extended family is invaded by RJ, the raccoon (Bruce Willis), Verne begins to feel left out.
We spoke with Garry about the role, and about bringing back The Larry Sanders Show on DVD in one of the most interesting interviews you'll ever read. He walked in the room after lunch and was just ready to talk. Normally, we start the conversation - not this time, Garry started the interview.
And also usually, when an interview is over, the actor or actress or whomever we're speaking with gets up and leaves. Once again, not the case; you'll notice when the publicist announces the end of the interview, Garry continues to talk and talk and talk for about 6 minutes longer than we should have had.
Here's how our chat went:
Garry Shandling: I am tired, but Bruce came in and did the last room with me and he did most of the talking. But don't worry, you'll get out of here in time to beat the traffic; there's no way to beat the traffic anymore, is there? Isn't that shocking, there's no way to beat the traffic anymore. There used to be a way to beat the traffic - I see, I'm the oldest person here - but there used to be a way to beat the traffic. It wasn't that long ago, and I'm not that old; the thing is, I don't believe it was this bad 5 years ago. Is that enough of the interview? So, this and one more I've heard; but you've got enough, you got Bruce, you got Wanda. You don't need anything else from me except (pause) - and I didn't know Bruce was being so laid back; he's down in here, but you just watch out cause I'm just getting ramped up. I mean, I think you deserve more than that.
Where did you find your inner-Verne?
Garry Shandling: Well as I heard him say it, I can't express the struggle to find what the voice is in these - in my case, even though I had the whole script when I started. This all started with Jeffrey Katzenberg coming up to me at the Lakers game and saying (very excitedly), 'Hey, I found a voice for you to do.' And I said (very unenthusiastically), 'Oh, ok, I want to watch the game.' That's very true. And then I went to his office and he put puppets on, and I was like 'oh.' I'm not kidding; I'm as shocked as you. Then he said, 'We're going to do this Over the Hedge movie and I want you to do the voice for it.' And I told him, 'I don't really do voices; I don't talk like a turtle or a raccoon.' And he was extraordinarily enthusiastic and I got scared because I didn't bring any puppets. So I didn't know how it - I've never had any puppets on my hand; he had puppets. So he seemed enthusiastic and so I got 30 pages of a script and he explained the story to me, so I didn't know what to do. And so we started up and you realize, 'Wow, what is this really about?' And that's when it becomes that process that everyone talks about that's very confusing and a challenge to find out what the story is and what the character is; you realize, 'How do I make this funny?' And I don't think Verne is as funny as I can be, but I think that part is about playing some emotional beats that are story. But other than that, I think I'm more of a turtle than him. I do; I'm not up on -
It was three years ago when you found out about this?
Garry Shandling: Yes, I'm shocked by that number. Did you say 'three or four years ago?'
Yes, three years ago.
Garry Shandling: Yeah. And you know when you hear it's a session every month, you go, 'Wow, that's an easy job.' No, it isn't, because it lays inside of you and it lives inside of you and they're still sending pages and you have a session and you're still wondering, 'Man, what is that character.' You gotta do your work and look at the pages. And they allowed me to re-write some, and adlib some, and we talked about story as we were going, and it's an overall commitment to a big situation. And I had never done an animated movie before so I didn't know what was going to come.
What did you do to prepare for the role?
Garry Shandling: I have a complicated process of studying the internal search that the character has and what he wants and where he's going and what the relationships are and (pause) I wish it hadn't been animated, I wish I could have played the turtle because (long pause) -
Have you had a chance to see the whole film?
Garry Shandling: Yeah, I saw it about two weeks ago, I think; and it kind of flies by, I think. And I think there are some really funny people in it, really funny people (pause) - but you know, I don't have kids so I don't know. They say kids are going to like it and I don't know what kids like and don't like cause I don't have kids; this may be as close as I come, having kids is kind of like doing this.
Did you remember some of the lines you had while you were watching it on the big screen?
Garry Shandling: No, cause I'm experienced, and I write a lot, and I knew everything I said and everything I wanted in there, and everything that was excluded. And Karey (Kirkpatrick) and Tim (Johnson) are supportive; and in December or January, we looked at a rough cut and then we started to make some major adjustments to the character and put in a lot more jokes and that was a very intense two-month time period that resulted in a lot more re-voicing and a lot more writing. So that was up until January. And what did you ask me?
When you saw it, was it like a whole new experience?
Garry Shandling: No, and when they asked me; I looked at a rough cut the first week in December and everyone said, 'What'd you think?' - Are you ready, should we leave, are you good? Done? - You know, there's no rule about filling up the whole time you're supposed to be sitting here. You know, all kidding aside; no, no, no, no, but I mean, have you ever considered you can end early? Have people ever thought of that?
People have before.
Garry Shandling: And how does it work? The person getting interviewed said, 'I gotta go.'
Garry Shandling: But have you ever said -
Garry Shandling: Yeah.
No, we'd say, 'thanks for coming; we appreciate it.' But very rarely, but sometimes.
Garry Shandling: Because - that's a valid option, right?
We're not going to say it now. Unless you say it, but we're not going to.
Garry Shandling: Because you never know if that one last thing you say is going to be the thing. You know, that's - right; I work that way, too. But that's a fine line, that's what indulgent directors do; they say 'one more take' after 100 takes. Not in this movie, really; just because they're hoping for that one last take is going to be different. - What was your question again, now? What did you ask me again?
The writing; when you saw it on the big screen -
Garry Shandling: So I watched the rough cut - cause you don't want to stop yet, right?
Garry Shandling: Cause I was saying you have that option, right?
We could just pass questions around on a piece of paper to you.
Garry Shandling: No, I have no - I saw the rough cut and they said, 'What'd you think?' Cause they all came up to me and asked and I said, 'No, no, no, no, no; it's exactly what I thought it would be. It's got that gap of problems, but it's good where it should be.' We're talking about story and character; we did a lot of work from December to January. When I saw it two weeks ago, they put in a lot of that stuff we worked on, Tim, Karey, and me. And - so, I was just meticulously watching - I don't react that way about most things. I would watch and go, 'that's right' and I can fill a pad like that with notes.
So how many notes did you have for Jeffrey when you first saw it?
Garry Shandling: This pad was filled, seriously. And he called me up the next day and said, 'I support this; go, go, go, go, go, go do this with the guys.' It's with these guys, there's not secrets, I'd still have notes; and I think they do a remarkable job putting all these people together and make it - that's what you have to remember, they've got these things scheduled, they've got all these people working hard. I saw them working hard; they really mean well. They got all these voices, and the animation, and the animators; it's a miracle that it comes together, really.
Do you know where you want to take Verne for the sequel?
Garry Shandling: I think Verne should host a talk show; I'd reconsider that.
The Verne Sanders Show.
Garry Shandling: Yeah, The Verne Sanders Show. Oh, The Larry Sanders Show DVD's come out in November, which I've been spending this entire time doing the voice over the last two years putting these DVD's together. And there's these features on the DVD's which are completely - and it will give you an idea of why I had such a struggle. I've been working on this thing where I take two cameras and I said, 'Give me two cameras and I'll go and talk to the people I want to talk to,' like Sharon Stone. So there's Sharon Stone, Seinfeld, and Jon Stewart, and Alec Baldwin; I actually went boxing with Alec Baldwin - he's double my weight, double my size. And It's not edited, it's just like this; it's unslick, and just is. And I have no intention, when I go in and talk to them, whatever happens and whatever the relationship is, it's just shot. What's interesting is, cause Sharon Stone is interesting, but there's places where it just stopped (pause) - like that, like real people. But we don't edit, so there's a half hour, 45 minutes with those people; it's fairly interesting with those people. Then going to, 'What is this?' I'm all the way down here, being who I am. Was there a question? Yes, Verne Sanders; he's going to host his own talk show.
Do you have a favorite moment in Over the Hedge?
Garry Shandling: (long pause) Well, that whole sequence where Verne gets thrown over the airplane because he doesn't stop screaming for three minutes; I can't get enough of that. When's the last time you think I screamed like that in real life? But I hope - the test will be when turtles see the movie; they go, 'Yeah, nice; how about including us in the next one, get us out of the zoo, get us into show business.' How are animals going to feel when they watch this; that is my concern, that is my concern.
---- The interview is over; the publicist has called the end to the interview, but Garry does not get up ----
Garry Shandling: Let's see what happens if I keep going; let it keep going for a few minutes. Let's let it keep going for two minutes, but we're done.
I happened to see Special Thanks To Roy London - (Garry sighs) - did you not like it?
Garry Shandling: No, yes; it's just gut wrenching for me, this movie. I had a mentor named Roy London, who was a teacher; he passed away and they made this movie about him. I can't watch the movie; it destroyed me. I can't watch it. What'd you think?
I thought it was great; I didn't know anything about him before, but I thought, 'wow, what a guy.'
Garry Shandling: Yeah.
Too bad he didn't write any books or anything like that; seemed pretty amazing.
Garry Shandling: Yeah, you're right. Well, you've got to get a copy; I don't know how you'd get a copy, I don't know how they're going to release it. Your instincts are right; you've got to have that, get it.
So you don't know anything about distribution?
Garry Shandling: You know, it's coincidental, the director emailed me this morning and I didn't have time to open it cause I was coming here, so maybe that's about that. It'll never be commercial, but it's about acting and life; it's shocking.
Do you have anything on the DVD about him?
Garry Shandling: Roy London? Yeah, Sharon talked about him again. But the Special Thanks to Roy London came from the end of The Larry Sanders Show; every episode at the end says 'Special Thanks To Roy London.' That's where the title came from. And then the DVD taught about human behavior and that's what the Sanders show was about; people think it's about a talk show host and a talk show, and it isn't and I think that's revealed in the DVD in a very indulgent - We're still done; honestly, we're completely done. The sooner I leave you, the sooner I have to go into the other room.
It's the last one, though.
Garry Shandling: Is this the last one?
The next one is.
Garry Shandling: And who comes in here, then?
We're done after you.
Garry Shandling: That angers me, because who likes to work?
Garry Shandling: Nah, that's not an answer.
I like to.
Garry Shandling: How often do you get to do this, where you get to interview people? How often?
About three to four times a week.
Garry Shandling: Do you get jaded at all?
No, this is no hardship.
Garry Shandling: This isn't the hard part? The hard part is -
Putting it together.
Garry Shandling: See, there's no difference; it's all the same. People go, 'is that what happened?' It's exactly the same; you come and you do the interview and you have to figure out what story you're going to tell and I'm so with you - the reason I've been carrying this (his notepad) around, is in case I say something funny, I'm jotting it down so when I go on The Tonight Show, I'll already have something. Cause I can't sit there and write it all out; it's all the same, but it's just in different situations. Why did I get upset?
Cause we're leaving before you.
Garry Shandling: I am kind of upset.
We're still working; some of us have more work to do.
Garry Shandling: You know why I got upset - because I related that process of having the raw material and separating it is daunting.
It's frustrating; trying to come up with something new.
Garry Shandling: It is; well, we're all in the same boat. Now, when you're in these things interviews, do you make notes of what you think is something?
Garry Shandling: (whispers) How am I going to do this? (regular voice) I work with professional people who stack up the tapes, like they stack up the interviews; they don't circle anything and they're just hurting themselves in the end process. They don't understand how tough it is; you gotta know if something happens on the fly, you've got to know intuitively, circle it. Now, I realize I'm keeping you from leaving; I'm unbuttoning my pants. Thank you very much.
Over the Hedge is in theaters now; it's rated PG.