Recently, MovieWeb went out to Phoenix, Arizona to attend the press junket for the Rob Schneider vehicle The Benchwarmers. In honor of spring training, this event was held at the Tempe Diablo Stadium where various members of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could be seen practicing America's Favorite Pastime. The Benchwarmers is a tale of three older men (Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder) who were "benchwarmers" when they were kids. After standing up for a young boy on the baseball field, they are approached by the boy's father (Jon Lovitz) to participate in a league whereby they "will play in a tournament against the young baseballers as a way of helping his son and other nerds like him to exact revenge against the bullies of the world." Whoever wins the tournament will "get the greatest stadium ever built."
Opening up this round of discussions was director Dennis Dugan. As this project is a Happy Madison Production, Dugan was already quite familiar with Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and the rest of the gang, since he'd already directed most of them in films like Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy.
To open this discussion he was asked about The Benchwarmers political statement. Dugan then declared himself a "liberal" and said the film was really a tale on "good vs. evil." He then called the movie "a dream project" because Dugan had been a "benchwarmer" himself when he was younger.
Throughout the film there are many references to pop culture both in the past and the present. For example, in the film Mel (Jon Lovitz) drives KITT from the popular 1980s TV show Knight Rider. This got Dugan talking William Daniels who voices the artificially intelligent car. They would have ideas for what the voice would say and Daniels would be be quick to tell Dugan, "KITT wouldn't do that... he defends his way of doing it." There's also a lot of Star Wars memorabilia in the film, to which Dugan said, "Lucasfilm was completely cooperative.
Then Dugan talked about working with such comic talents as Schneider, Spade and Heder. "You've just got to keep the herd in the same pasture. We do the script first... by then they all have fifteen ideas and you just go... it's unending with those guys."
"I gave up fighting it. I like doing it." Dugan stated when asked about making a film like The Benchwarmers which, while having it's heart in the right place, is really just a fun, comical film. "It's just silly. I think this movie has a lot of heart." He then punctuated this by explaining his motives even further, "I like making people laugh. I do my serious work when I do TV."
When asked what might be in store for consumers on an upcoming DVD he laughed, "I don't know. We try and put all the good stuff in the movie you're gonna see." Lastly, he closed out by discussing Robot #7 from the film, who is sort of an amalgamation of all the helper robots we have seen throughout movie and television history. Dugan explained that there were was actually a "real guy" inside the robot, and that by doing that there was obviously more that they could do with him since he wasn't electrical.
Next up was Jon Lovitz who has the kind of personality that provokes laughter just by entering a room. He explained that at first he thought he was going to be playing the Clark role in the film (Jon Heder's character), but then he realized they wanted him for Mel. He described his character as the "heart of the movie." Lovitz then talked about how great it was to work with Reggie Jackson who plays one of the coaches in the film. "He signed autographs... he's a genius, he's so smart and articulate... he's great to work with."
Lovitz then went on to discuss some of the pratfalls of being a working actor. "You get offered stuff," he started, explaining the choices and reasons for why actors take certain projects. "You look at the part, the script, the money... you commit a slot of time for three months... they can't pay you what you're worth... then they want you to do a press junket for the film like you're a big star." Lovitz then discussed working with Happy Madison Productions and his old friends from Saturday Night Live. "Thank God for Adam! He hires his friends and keeps us working."
Lastly, Lovitz closed out by discussing his role in Richard Kelly's (director of Donnie Darko), Southland Tales. He described his role as a "psycho cop" who is completely "unrecognizable." In the film, Lovitz had to do a scene where he has to intimidate Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The actor said the only way he could do that was if he tried to act "insane." When the actor asked Kelly what he should tell people the film is about, Kelly told him "tell them it's about the end of the world." Lovitz adds, "It's a bunch of stories and we see how they're all connected."
Having done a different role in Southland Tales, Lovitz states that he "would like to" do more of those but it's in his "nature to be funny."
Up next was everyone's favorite nerd of the moment, John Heder. Right off the bat he fielded questions about the difficulty of finding a role that isn't like Napoleon Dynamite. In relation to his character of Clark in The Benchwarmers, he explained, "It's different because Clark smiles." He also conceded, "I knew if Napoleon Dynamite went anywhere I would probably be known for that. I would like to do something more dramatic... I'm not gonna try to get people to cry."
Was Heder a "benchwarmer" when he was growing up? "I was in between. I was never the best. Middle school was like the turning point." He went on to say that he enjoyed doing the baseball scenes in the film. "It's a fun, kinda silly movie." He then went on to discuss a possible Napoleon Dynamite sequel. "Right now, there's no plans... nothing's determined." He did say he would be up for it if "Jared Hess was writing and directing it." When asked about Napoleon Dynamite groupies he states, "If there are any they don't hang around me."
Heder then discussed his scene in The Benchwarmers where he got to kiss model Rachel Hunter. "It ended up working out with her." He laughs. He says that scene took "five takes." The actor then talked about his work in the upcoming animated Halloween film, Monster House. He talked about doing effects like motion caption, "These dots are all over you and they feel like huge zits." He then discussed acting in such a capacity, "You're not on location. You don't feel like your character."
Heder wrapped up the discussion by talking about his role in School for Scoundrels starring Billy Bob Thornton. In the movie Heder plays "Roger who's a parking enforcer... he's a pushover so he enrolls in a class because of a girl" that he likes. This class "teaches people how to be tough and it's taught by Billy Bob... and we both go after the same girl."
After Jon Heder, Rob Schneider came into the room in a very pleasant and almost introspective mood. "Adam wanted me to play myself (as the character of Gus in The Benchwarmers)... I have a tendency to be goofy." Schneider explained that Sandler had had the idea for this film when they were all doing Saturday Night Live, only then, Chris Farley was going to be a part of it. He then went on to say that in this movie both he and David Spade were "more themselves" and that there was a "comfort level" in playing the roles that way.
Schneider went on to discuss his relationship with film critic Roger Ebert. The actor explained that he had written a letter defending himself to Ebert, and then Schneider also sent that letter to Howard Stern who read it on his radio show. He explained that the "reviewers" he cares about are the everyday people who go and see his films. When the subject of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo came up, Schneider simply said that "Too much had been cut out" and that is why the film didn't perform as well as he and others had hoped.
The affable actor then discussed his next project Big Stan which is outside of the studio system and, unlike all his other films, doesn't have a distributor lined up. Schneider plays a con man who finds out he's going to jail, so he enlists The Master (David Carradine) to make him a killer. "Tired of the filter" between the director and actors, Schneider is even directing this film.
He closed out his interview by pushing Adam Sandler's newest movie Click. He described this tale of a man who uses a special TV remote control to alter his life as "excellent," and went on to say that it has a "wonderful quality" about it. In closing Schneider joked that "my movies are now making more money outside the country than in" and that currently his star is the biggest in the Mexico.
The last interview of the junket was with David Spade. He laughed when the idea was put to him for a Capital One (the finance company that Mr. Spade currently does commercials for) feature length movie. The actor then went on to explain that his "bowl cut" hairdo for "benchwarmer" Richie originated on Saturday Night Live, and that once people saw it he knew it would be used for something.
He then talked about how he and his friends teased Jon Heder a lot on the set of The Benchwarmers. He explained that after they saw Napoleon Dynamite Spade told the others, "We gotta get this guy." He explained that Heder was loved by kids of all ages for that film, and during the shooting of The Benchwarmers, that was the real character the kids wanted to see.
Spade then went into an imitation of what a talk with Heder would be like regarding the young folks love of this other character.
"I've done other stuff!" Heder would say.
"No, you haven't." Spade would reply.
"Still..." Heder would start to retort.
Spade further explained that he thought the sport in the movie was softball not baseball. Then once they brought out all the equipment "I didn't want to be a catcher... wearing all that stuff in the middle of summer are you crazy?"
The actor said his future plans are to continue doing The Showbiz Show With David Spade and hopefully a Joe Dirt sequel. According to Spade they have a "script... we (him and Adam Sandler) like it." As for a possible Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star sequel there's "nowhere to go with it" Spade stated.
The Benchwarmers opens Nationwide April 7th, 2006.