The Farrelly Brothers discuss remaking Neil Simon's classic comedy
The Farrelly Brothers have gone and done something stupid. They've remade the Neil Simon comedy The Heartbreak Kid. A film some consider a classic. Even they admit it was a lofty challenge. The good news is, they've come back from the editing room with an outrageous masterpiece all their own. This is by far the funniest film they've put together since Kingpin, and they've even managed to top the finer moments of their groundbreaking hit "There's Something About Mary."
We recently met up with the two directors to discuss what exactly goes into making a Farrelly Brothers film. Here is that conversation:
We're talking about a movie today. It's called The Heartbreak Kid.
Peter Farrelly: Oh, all right. The classic one, or the flubby one?
The classic one. This new version is way better.
Peter Farrelly: Remaking this movie was stupid. I'm the first to admit it.
Do you guys ever fight?
Bobby Farrelly: We do get on each other's nerves. We've been doing this for a long time together. There are times when it is a pain. You have someone else you need to run things by, instead of being the only person in charge. The amount of times that has happened is very small compared to the amount of times I've said, "God, am I glad I have this guy next to me. He is a person that I really need to consult with on this movie. He's the one guy that I need to pick his brain. I need to find out what he thinks." It's really way more helpful than a pain in the neck.
Does the older brother usually have the bigger voice?
Bobby Farrelly: Yeah, he's the bigger brother, so I listen to him. But, you know, we compliment each other in ways that are hard for me to describe. I think it works out better for the both of us.
Have you stayed in contact with the people that you make your films with?
Peter Farrelly: It's a weird thing about this business. When you make a movie, or do anything, you are together for three months and you become like a big family. Then when it's over, everybody goes his or her own way. I think I've seen Cameron Diaz three times since we shot that movie. We've kept in contact with Malin Ackerman. We've been very close. We'll see what happens in a year or two. She has a lot of resentment towards me. We put her through some hard stuff. There was this time when she had to eat so much. We shot the breakfast scene, and she had to be munching away the whole time. We did a lot of takes. I felt really ill watching her. She was eating eggs. She would have to chew them, and then spit them out. She must have had about twenty eggs.
Why did you choose Malin?
Bobby Farrelly: There were a lot of things that went into the decision. We had Ben Stiller to begin with. The obvious thing you do when you have a movie like this, is you think of who could play opposite Ben Stiller. So you start going through this list of A list actresses. The type of actresses that don't even audition. You just offer them the role. We did throw some of their names out there. We know they're great. We've seen them in other things. We know they're good. But this is such a wild role, we really wanted to see someone read for it. We wanted to see someone audition. We thought, lets start auditioning some of the actresses we don't know as well. Lets bring them in and see if someone blows us away. We saw something, like, one hundred and fifty girls. And all of these girls were really talented. They were just below the radar. And she was the one. She just popped out. We really did believe her when she was reading the lines. We felt that you could fall in love with her. She could do the wacky stuff. She had it all. The trick was whether we went with someone who wasn't as well known to people. We thought it was probably better, because people will really believe that this is a real person. As opposed to someone you've already seen in so many other movies. That's what these two girls are up against in their next couple of movies. People will think of them from this movie. Both of these young ladies are very brave. I think if we had of switched the roles, they both would have been very game. We could have gotten a "cock me" out of Monaghan.
How did Malin handle the sex scenes?
Peter Farrelly: We took our clothes off during the scene, so that she would be a little bit more comfortable. It was hard for us not to laugh. It's not very often that you shoot a scene that is funny as you are shooting it. A lot of it comes together in the editing room. But this was funny all by itself as a master shot. That's probably the funniest scene we ever shot. We were holding ourselves. Because Malin totally committed. She was just making stuff up. We would tell her, "That thing you just said. Say that again in the next take." We were feeding her stuff. But it was hilarious. And it didn't seem that awkward, even though she was partially unclothed. That's because it was so funny. The crew would be laughing every take. That's opposed to having an actual sex scene in a drama, where it's all about the sex.
Now, what about some of these sex terms? Where did you guys come up with some of those?
Peter Farrelly: The Swedish helicopter was something Malin came up with. It was something she invented. We were making those up. Except for the jackhammer. That is a real thing. That was something that was brought down to the United States by the Canadians. It came from Canadian hockey players. That's where we learned about it. You'd meet these players, and they'd go, "Hey, you ever do the jackhammer?" That was an actual thing. And "cock me" came from an old girlfriend of mine. I remember the first time I ever had sex with her, I was thinking, "Cock me? Wow! I like that."
Can you talk about the supporting cast you have here?
Peter Farrelly: I think this is the best cast from top to bottom that we've ever had. I don't know why that is. I think we were just lucky. A guy named Rick Montgomery is our casting agent, and he just nailed it. These are good people. That family from Mississippi? I am so proud of that family, because they seem so real. Those are all just great actors. Roy Jenkins, he's the guy that has the Subway restaurant franchise. This is a guy you can see every night over here at the Groundlings. In Los Angeles. I saw him in a commercial for the Holiday Inn, and I said, "Get that guy." It was amazing. Carlos Mencia and Jerry Stiller were just brilliant. Jerry is an old pro. You expect that from him. He's also the nicest guy on the planet. He was great. Everybody was great. And Carlos Mencia really surprised me. We wanted him, but I was a little nervous about it. I'd seen his stand-up, and I didn't know if he could act. We worked with him a couple of times, and it seemed like, on the day we were shooting, that he was better than I expected.
How did Eva Longoria get involved with the project, and why the decision to keep her uncredited in the role she played?
Bobby Farrelly: Well, that was just because we didn't have to pay her as much. We had done a number of reshoots on the ending. We were trying to get it just right. There were a lot of people trying to get us to come up with the traditional Hollywood ending, where he gets the girl and they ride into the sunset to live happily ever after. But we never felt that was the right ending for this story. About a guy on his honeymoon who is chasing another woman. That's not what Neil Simon did in the original. They didn't even come close to that. And this doesn't call for that. He's a bit of an anti-hero. He doesn't deserve to have all of this happiness at the end with out going through a certain amount of trails and tribulations. So we came up with the ending where he has made the mistake over and over again. Being as it was shot in Mexico, we threw out a couple of actresses' names and Eva came up quickly. And she agreed to do it.
Carlos claims that you guys shot a sex scene with him and Malin?
Peter Farrelly: The scene where he puts his penis in her hand? That's not true. But it's a nice story. We did do an end credit sequence. Did you sit through the end credit sequence? Because you should. We have two good gags in there. The donkey. Halfway through the credit sequence we see her having sex with the donkey. Yes. We don't actually show it. We show her going, "Yes, right, finally, you're doing it." And we pull back to see the donkey in the corner wearing a bathrobe. He's smoking a cigar. It's a very broad joke over the end credits. We did it twice. We did it once with the donkey, and we did it once with Carlos. The donkey seemed funnier.
Did the donkey have a fake phallus?
Peter Farrelly: That was real! No, no, that was a female donkey and we put a strap-on on her. That was a big strap-on. That was the joke. The guy that we named the donkey fluffer in the end credits was Jimmy Shaye. We always jack him like that, you know? Back in Massachusetts, when we did There's Something About Mary, when Ben gets arrested at the rest area. You can hear a cop yell, "Jimmy Shaye, is that you?" We always give him some jab. This time out he was the donkey fluffer.
Is there ever any pressure to top your last best joke?
Bobby Farrelly: We have felt that pressure in our careers with our movies. Especially after we did "There's Something About Mary". We did feel like people were expecting us to do more. Then we made Me, Myself & Irene and we felt like we were competing against ourselves. Just from a strategic point, we thought, "Let's do some different kinds of movies that aren't necessarily about that. So that we don't have to out do ourselves." So then we made a lot of other movies that were more like PG-13 movies. They were definitely sweeter movies. they didn't have those outlandish things. When this script came across our desk, we thought that this one was ripe for some sex comedy. And it hasn't been done in so long. I don't remember the last time it was done in the states, to really get into this area of sexuality and make some jokes about it. It seemed ripe, and it was clearly R rated stuff. That allowed us to get really outrageous.
Was this sort of your way of getting revenge on the typical Hollywood sexy blonde?
Peter Farrelly: Honestly, we didn't know if she was going to be blonde, or brunette, or red-haired. We read Malin, and I didn't know her from hole in the wall. She came in, and we were like, "Who is that?" She was phenomenal. We almost didn't hire her because someone said, "She's too young, she's only nineteen." We thought that was too bad, but then it turned out that she was in her twenties. We thought that was fine. It's just that she was the best. She was the best person that came to the door. If a woman came to the door, and she was any color, any shape, any hair color, she would have been the one. The best was going to get it. And she was the best. People ask us if we were looking for a Cameron Diaz type, and we weren't. It was a massive coincidence that two of the women we've worked with are so similar.
You weren't intentionally trying to switch up the balances from the original film?
Peter Farrelly: No, we weren't. A lot of people think we are doing it that way. And it worked out in the sense that we wanted him to marry a beautiful woman up front. In the original, he marries a frumpy woman and then dumps her for a beautiful one. We wanted him to marry a beautiful woman from the get-go.
What is your own personal reaction to what Ben Stiller is doing in this film?
Bobby Farrelly: I would call the original movie unapologetic. It was what it was. It didn't say, "This guy is right. This is the way life should be." It was just a story about some people who had flaws. And it was unapologetic. When Charles Grodin told Cybil Shepard that he was married, we were just coming off the Sixties, and she was like, "Cool." She was unfazed by it. In today's day and age, if Ben's character said, "I'm married." And Michelle's character said, "Cool." People would have thought she was a sociopath. This isn't the Sixties anymore, with free love. There's just no way it flies. We had to have it where he keeps attempting to tell her that he is married. And he was surprised by how quickly he was starting to have feelings for her. You know? So, He did try to tell her once. And then he tried to tell her again. But he wanted to wait until he found the perfect moment to tell her. That's where he makes his mistake. There was a time when he had an opportunity, but didn't. He did try.
Did you have someone in your own lives that reminded you of Martin, Danny McBride's character in the film?
Bobby Farrelly: You know, I can't say that we had someone so much in the family. In the original movie, Eddie Albert played the Martin character, and it was the girl's dad. He was very protective as a dad is about their daughter. The first thing we encountered with this one was, we didn't want to remake Meet the Parents. We thought, how about we get a brother? Then we decided it should be a cousin. We wrote the character, and it was this guy who was jealous. However, the way that Danny McBride played it, I give him full kudos. We didn't envision it that way. He really is a good actor. He makes some good choices. I enjoyed the way he played it. I thought his take on the material was very original.
The Heartbreak Kid opens this Friday, October 5th, 2007.