There are few conversations I look forward to as much as I do those few and far between excuses that come up to talk to Danny McBride. I just plain like that I work in an industry that figured him out.
The idea of him co-starring in an adaptation of a Sid & Marty Krofft scifi kid’s show with Will Ferrell and one of the Lonely Island guys is just plain strange. Sounds like they’re just going to trash the show. But… they don’t. This movie seems to happen in the real world of the show. But it’s these guys, unleashed in it. And today, we’ve got Danny talking about his work in the film.
DANNY MCBRIDE: Dreeewwwwwww.
MOTION/CAPTURED: What’s up, brother?
How’re you doing, buddy?
Very, very well. Thanks.
I’m missing you here. I don’t know why I’m on a phone with you.
[more after the jump]
I’m doing like four other things today, but I had to make sure I got some time with you guys, so…
I appreciate it.
I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed it, man. I thought it came together very, very well.
Oh, that’s great.
It struck me as kind of like you were watching a straight adaptation of “Land of the Lost” and the Mad magazine parody at the same time.
Like it kind of works on both levels. It’s very true to what “Land of the Lost” was and as crazy as that show was, with the alternate dimensions and the quantum physics and the lizard people and the time travel, but then you guys also get to say all the things that we would have said while watching it back then.
Well, actually what I think is really smart about this movie is, you know, when you read things where people are worried about it ruining their childhood… by adapting “Land of the Lost” it just, you know, to me I think Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas, they do a great job of, like, keeping the mythology intact, but not taking it too serious. Like keeping it fun, keeping it entertaining, and I think it works. I don’t think it tarnishes anything that the old show had at all. I think it just embraces that mythology and opens it up to a bigger audience.
Well, yeah, it’s an interesting juggling act, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anybody walk that line. Now, this is obviously very different for you than when you create something. This is something that existed already and you came in, and there’s different expectations. For you as a performer, do you approach it any differently, or do you just put that aside as you sit down to do the work?
You know, I put it aside in the same way, but I mean, I make sure that when I’m on something that I didn’t create or write, it’s just good to make sure that you’re in a situation where your ideas and stuff will be heard, and that’s definitely what this atmosphere was. I mean, Brad is a great director, and he’s also a really kind dude and totally open to collaborating, and that was really one of the things that drew me to this… was having a movie of this scope with these sorts of special effects, but then the set being loose enough where you could improv and kind of could just play around. I’m not just used to seeing movies that are like that, where those two things come together, and that’s kind of what was going on here, and that’s kind of what attracted me to the movie in the first place.
Well, it’s very unusual for big effects comedies to work, and it seem almost like a sub-genre that you can name on one hand. like, how many of them really connect? Obviously the first “Ghost Busters” is kind of the gold standard. Maybe “Galaxy Quest.”
And I think part of that is that a lot of directors are so afraid of the effects that they become very rigid about how they have to be pulled off, but I know that Brad, having worked on “Casper,” was sort of right at the forefront of CG and CG performers, so there’s a looseness I know to the way he works. Can you talk about, for you, working with effects, and in particular a character like Grumpy, who isn’t there, and still being free enough to invent on-set an improv.
You know, I mean, that’s always a little challenging when you’re like. “How will I do this?” Like. you know, you don’t really have anything to pull from when you’re thinking about, “All right, how scared would I be from a dinosaur?” But when you get down to it, it’s about as difficult as just pretending that you’re that person to begin with, you know? It’s not much harder. And you know, reacting to a dinosaur or to all the creatures that you have to go against that wouldn’t be there, that’s just pretty simple because the main thing you do is just run and scream, you know? If it was a CG character who eally had to play a scene with you, that might need to be more interaction there, but with a humungous dinosaur it’s just get your ass to safety.
Now I talked with Jorma a little bit this morning, and what a performance.
He’s incredible, isn’t he? He was dedicated. He had to come in three hours early before anyone else did and would go into that makeup, and we were shooting a lot of stuff on the sand dunes, and it was like 110 degrees out, and Jorma was in all this makeup with all this stuff on. It was crazy. And then above and beyond that, just his dedication, he, like, researched that dead Pakuni language and was using all this stuff. And there’d literally be takes where we would be done and Jorma would be like, “Could I have another one? I need one more. I fucked that one line up.” And it’s like, “What? You fucked one of the grunts up? That wasn’t how he grunts?” But, like, he took it seriously. He knew the language and knew what he was supposed to say, and it was really impressive.
You guys end up having the… I think the real relationship as far as Chaka’s concerned in the movie. So a lot of it is you and him and the way your dynamic develops over the course of the film. Did you know Jorma before? You had done “Hot Rod”, right?
Yeah, I did “Hot Rod” with Jorma. I met him there. Jorma was a great dude. I mean, I like him a lot. I think he’s funny as hell. And so when they were thinking about casting him, it was a sigh of relief for me, because I knew that character kind of did have to have this camaraderie with that monkey, and Jorma… you know, Chaka is not much different than how Jorma acts in real life. He’s constantly humping legs and doing that kind of stuff, so I knew I’d be able to act against that.
It pays off. And I love the fact that throughout the entire movie, there’s the question about whether or not Chaka’s telling you guys the truth.
Yeah, yeah. If you look back at the series, like, Chaka freaked me out more than the Sleestaks did. That caveman brow of his is just scary, and I think there’s always the question of what is that weird little creature? Like, he’s creepy. I think it was funny for those guys to exploit that here, and, yeah, Chaka is a little creepy and his alliances are a little shady.
That’s actually one of the things I heard from several people as we left the theatre last night… they were surprised at how freaky the film is, how resolutely weird the movie is.
But that seems like you guys really honored what Sid and Marty Krofft did, because, dude, I still think they owe all of our parents an apology for being a gateway drug when we were little kids, man.
Yeah. Sid and Marty Krofft are the gateway drugs to where we’re all at right now. Definitely.
That’s something I really like about the film… that the tone is kind of… it’s one of the weirdest PG-13s… like it really doesn’t feel like it’s safe. You keep expecting crazy strange things to happen, and there’s the weird drug trip at the hotel, and… is there anything that you did that didn’t make the movie that you’re like, “Maybe it’s for ratings reasons… or…?”
Yeah, there’s definitely… that, to me, is the most challenging thing about doing a PG-13. There’re definitely things that you’re going to say that come out at the moment that are not going to make the rating. And, for me, I kind of like to work where it’s, like, it’s no holds barred. Like whatever’s funny is going to be able to be in the movie… as long as it’s funny. And so PG-13 is a fine line to walk there, because you can come up with some gems, but if it doesn’t make the rating, then it’s not going to be in there. So it’s challenging to constantly kind of find, like, “How do we keep this with the sensibilities of what I want to kind of like go with this character, but be able to make it work within a PG-13 arena without it being watered down or anything?” And I think that’s kind of how Brad was approaching it as well, and if it rides that line, I’m like, “This should be a kids movie but it’s not,” you know? Like I think that’s another thing that makes this movie kind of interesting and unique.
Now obviously with “The Foot Fist Way,” Will was a huge fan and supporter of you guys and that film, and this was a chance for you guys to finally work together onscreen in a major collaboration. So much of this movie is just you, Will, Anna, and Jorma. So how was that with you and Will creatively, and was it exciting to finally get to engage for an entire film?
Oh, it was extraordinary to be able to get the chance to do that. I mean, I’ve been a big fan of Will’s for a long time, and he was so supportive with our film, and so there was that relationship there. But I’ve never been able to really work with him onscreen before. He’s just a nice dude. I mean, I loved him. I loved working with him, and I think one of the things that he kind of dug about our film is that there’s this certain similarity and a sensibilities and I think that even extends into the process. Like Will is just as laid back as any of my buddies that I’ve worked with, and he’s just as open as Jody Hill or David Green or any of those guys, and it was great to kind of work with a guy who’s been in the business and has found success there, and he works and likes the same kind of shit that you do. And after “Land of the Lost,” when we went to shoot “East Bound and Down” and Will came down, you know… it was just cool seeing Will being directed by David Green and seeing, like, how McKay and those guys work. It’s not much different than how we work… and that’s always cool… to see people who are successful at what they do, to see that they’re not too different than you are.
I’m really glad that there’s such a sense that people are excited to work together out of this new sort of “What’s going on in comedy right now.” It seems like people really look forward to, “I can’t wait to get into a scene with that guy. I can’t wait to do a scene with that guy”. And it just seems like, as a performer, it’s got to be a really…it’s got to be exciting when you step onto a set and you see that people are excited to start to put something together. I know in reading reactions and things online to various films, this new strain of comedy is very divisive. There are people that really dislike this kind of comedy, and there are people that really love it. Does it bother you that it’s not inclusive, or is that just the nature of comedy? If something makes you laugh, that’s the end-all criteria, and then if somebody doesn’t get it, “Oh, well, sorry I didn’t make it for everybody.”
I think that is it, 100%. I mean, to me, I would think it would be a red flag if you have a comedy that across the board everyone just is like they understand and enjoyed it, because, for me, half of what I find funny is usually it’s funny to me because I have a fucked up sense of humor, and this would not be funny to most people, and that almost makes it even funnier, you know? And so, yeah, I mean with comedy I think you should just enter it expecting that half the people are going to get it, half the people aren’t. And I don’t think that’s anything against the other type of comedy or anything. It’s just, to me, that’s how a comedy should be. The comedies that I like and me and my friends gravitate towards are definitely not things that everyone across the board is going to dig on. You know, it’s stuff that’s odd and strange and appeals to you and your friends specifically because, like, you guys have a joke about this and that’s so funny that they tapped into that, like that’s… to me, it’s like… I mean, comedy is completely just… you know, it should never fall in the range where people across the board are laughing at the same thing. I mean everyone’s life experiences are so different and things that people find funny is so different that I feel like it would be almost impossible to make something that appeals to everyone truly, you know?
I’ve had conversations with people about “East Bound” where they are so freaked out by Kenny Powers in general that they were never able to make it past their first impression of him. And I love that you embrace these characters who… I don’t know that anybody else has really ever made movies about a character like Kenny Powers or, you know, a character like Fred Simmons, and it seems like you’re giving a comic voice to a subset of characters that we’ve never really seen as the lead in films before. What attracts you to a guy like Kenny Powers?
Well, you know, a lot of the stuff I explored with like Jody Hill and stuff has been… it’s sort of like a story that feels in it’s conception like it’s very Hollywood, and that you know what the beats of that story are going to be, but then we just take the character that you would not expect to be following in a typical movie like this. For us creatively, that’s what’s interesting about it. You’ve seen the epic hero go through his quest a million times, whether his name is Odysseus or fucking… you know, something Arnold Schwarzenegger would play. Like you’ve seen the classic hero, the muscles, the bronze, the honor, the nobility. You’ve seen that a million times, and for us, it’s like, “Let’s just take those situations and then let’s put someone who doesn’t have all those things, you know, all those characteristics and let’s just see what kind of story that turns out to be.” And with “East Bound And Down,” when you come with a character that’s that fucked up and that crazy… I mean, it was not a surprise to us that there’s people who don’t want to take that ride, you know? I don’t know if my parents would have taken that ride if I wasn’t in it. [laughs] But it’s just one of those things that, for us creatively, like, that’s the whole point. Let’s take a character that audiences aren’t used to getting behind and rooting for, and let’s figure out a way that if they follow this, they will be rooting for him by the end, as fucked up or as crazy as he is. And that’s kind of what “East Bound And Down,” like, that is what our goal was with that. It’s like, “Let’s start with the guy who should be the bad guy in the story, and by the end, let’s figure out a way to make people actually kind of sympathize with this character and see maybe a little bit of themselves in him,” and I don’t think that’s our only trick. I just that that right now creatively that’s been stuff we’ve been interested in, and on “Foot Fist Way,” we really didn’t have a budget or time to really explore that, and so when we came into “East Bound And Down,” that was the main reason why we wanted to do that as a television show and not a movie, is because a movie, it’s an hour and a half. You kind of have to hit all the sort of benchmarks through the script of, “All right, now he learns a lesson and now he puts it to use and now he gets the girl.” And with a TV show and approaching it like it was just a 3-hour movie, it allowed us to kind of take a little bit more time with that stuff, and kind of zig and zag a little bit more and also kind of open up characters around him, where if it’s an hour and a half movie, these characters would just be paper targets. But as the series kind of develops, you get a little more depth into these other characters and start to kind of just play with some of these clichés a little bit more, and I think that’s what’s exciting to us about it and going into the second season, we envisioned this… this is always been something where we’re like, “We’ve always made it as if we’ll not be able to make another one so that it could stand on its own.” But if we do get a chance to do more, like we have… if we get a chance to do what we want to do, you basically have just seen the first act of a large movie. So the second act will grow even more and involve people you haven’t even met yet, you know? And that’s how we like to do it, and we’ll see if people want to take the ride with us longer than that.
I had heard that originally one of the ideas for the second season was possibly Kenny Powers going to South America to play in the South American leagues.
Yeah, that is one idea that is being tossed around. We’ll see.
So… I have to ask, man, give me some sort of scoop on “Your Highness”. Something that we don’t know yet that we should…
“Your Highness” is looking good, and Natalie Portman this week just signed on. So we’re adding her to the cast of “Your Highness”.
Is that out there?
Yeah. Natalie Portman? Yeah. Right now, it’s Franco, Natalie Portman, and myself, and we’re getting ready to lock down two of the other crucial roles. I think in the next week or so. We’ll be announcing about those soon, but the way the cast is shaping up, it’s looking pretty incredible and David Gordon Green’s over in Belfast now, and they’re building the sets. One cool way that David’s approaching the casting of this thing is like we’re not really using like a lot of the big comedians that are around right now, which you think would probably be good for a movie like this. It’s like he’s going with more established British actors so that the world that this is in feels real and the comedy just kind of comes from that this dude just doesn’t belong in this sort of world.
Honestly… there are few sets I want to visit more this year than “Your Highness”.
It’s going to be fucked up. We have Mark Pillsley, who does all of Danny Boyle’s production design. He’s the production designer on this.
(laughter) Oh my God.
“Sunshine” and “28 Days Later”. He’s done production on all those and he’s been insane and the ideas… and special effects have just been out there. He’s doing so much. I mean, everything from really good looking CG to stop-motion birds to puppets like in “Dark Crystal”. I mean this movie has it all, and it’s going to be a pretty crazy rated R fucked up good time.
Wow. Wow. It really sounds like a one-of-a-kind thing. And are there things you’ve learned doing “Land of the Lost” and the effects work in this that you’re bringing to “Your Highness” that you want to try or that you’ve talked to David about?
Yeah. 100%. You know, Brad’s been really cool with David as well. He’s been…
That’s what he said.
Brad’s opened his doors to David and let David come into the editing room and see how he works with the special effects. I think for David, that’s been really helpful. He even sat down with Guillermo Del Toro and shared insights and tips with him. And so I think for David as a filmmaker, a guy who’s never dealt with CG or any of this creature stuff, it’s nice to see him find his footing in that, and I think he’s going to bring a pretty interesting take to it.
Well, Danny, I’m so excited man, and honestly, I don’t think I’ve laughed harder this year at anything then when you put Craig Robinson’s eye out with a baseball.
Good. I’m glad.
I stood up in my house and screamed at my screen. I couldn’t believe I’d seen it.
That’s great. Well man, take care of yourself, dude. It was good to talk to you.
Very good to talk to you as always, Danny. And hopefully I’ll see you a little later this year in Belfast, man.
I’ve got one more “Land Of The Lost’ piece coming up for you in a little while, a talk with the one and only Chaka.
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