I WANT CANDY - Q&A with Carmen Electra, Tom Riley and director Stephen Surjik
Carmen what was the first contact made to you about this project and what was your reaction to it initially?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Initially I was sent the script the way that everything goes - through your manager, and your agent and everything - and I read it and I just thought it was really funny. I mean I guess for me, I've always done a lot of comedies but more physical, sort of slapstick, in your face kind of comedies and it was nice because I didn't have to get hit over the head with anything, or run into trees or fall off of anything. Just reading the script I thought it was really clever and written really well, and that it would be really fun to shoot in London and work with a British cast.
Tom, one of the nice things that is evident in the film is a great chemistry with you and the other Tom (Burke). You really seem like these very close friends who sometimes bicker but always get together and enjoy themselves.
TOM RILEY: Yeah, it kind of mirrors our relationship in real life I think.
Did you know each other before?
TOM RILEY: No we didn't, we were paired. When the casting process took place they saw however many people - and I think there were a lot - and they used to just pair them up and see who worked the best together. Tom came in quite towards the end of the casting process and it was just a completely different vibe in the room in that we kind of threw the script out the window and started making stuff up and they seemed to like that. So because of that we just became very close friends on set and off which was nice, and still are.
Stephen, the notion of struggling filmmakers feeling that pornography might be their way in: Tell us your ...tangental brush with the industry.
STEPHEN SURJIK: You know when I was in film school in Montreal we would struggle to make our very important films - slightly pretentious but important - and when day came to night we would take our raw stock to the laboratory and we would try to make a deal with the guys that ran the lab to run it for cheap. There was always a guy hanging around that laboratory and he was the guy in the overcoat and he always wanted to get you involved in his film. And his film was of course some kind of porno film and you would try to avoid this guy. But I eventually got sucked in; my friends were saying we're really interested in your work, so I wanted to counter the deal so I came in with a project called The Crash - the Ballard book - which is basically a story about these guys that run round in ambulances and there's a weird sexuality that takes place in the ambulance, and it was dark material, but I thought it was an angle. They read the book and they didn't want to meet me anymore - they thought I was a real pervert and didn't want anything to do with me!
Carmen, this is a starring role whereas normally you do elongated cameos were you building up to the point where you felt able to take a leading role, or did it just happen to come along at the right time?
CARMEN ELECTRA: It just happened to come along at the right time, I honestly really never put that much thought into it as far as 'I'm gonna do these cameos and then try something else'. I've always tried and auditioned and this is just the path. I think more than anything it was just really about getting the script, reading the script and thinking 'this could be really fun', not only to get a chance to play a porn star but to get a chance to play a character that actually is a good person and has a good heart. And I like the layers of the character. I feel like so many people, especially in that industry or that have sexy images, really only get looked at for one thing and I think that's what really pulled me in to like Candy and want to play her.
From BAYWATCH you have a fairly well-defined public image but amongst your friends are you a funny person? Do you clown around with your pals and things?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Yeah I guess so, I mean I like to make people laugh and be silly, but I guess I've always just had a good sense of humour about myself and my image, and so I've always liked to be in fun movies whether it is SCARY MOVIES or I WANT CANDY. I mean I like to laugh and make people laugh so it's fun for me.
Tom, given Carmen's pin-up image what was it like counting down to the days when she would join you on set? Was it almost like the characters' waiting for her?
TOM RILEY: Every day was like 'it's 5 days to Carmen day'! [Laughs] No, it wasn't like that so much it was just great to hear that Carmen had decided to get involved because when you're doing a movie that seems so British - and is by its nature an England comedy and it's continuing this great tradition of England films - and you try and mix it with an American teen comedy style, then the perfect person to play the part would be Carmen so we were very lucky when she came along I think.
CARMEN ELECTRA: I was honoured to be asked to be part of the movie.
Stephen, taking up that point, I wonder if it was like life imitating art in a way; did you have a script and say 'who can we get to play a lead girl and how about Carmen Electra?'
STEPHEN SURJIK: We were actually thinking about Carmen Electra very early in this process and we always thought that we wanted to make a British comedy with some American sensibilities in it. And while Carmen owned the role and she was Candy, I always wondered what it would be with like a real serious actress like Sylvester Stallone. [Laughter, banter] We dreamt about Carmen for a long time beforehand.
Carmen you talked about coming onto the set with an English crew and cast. What was the experience actually like? Was it vastly different or is filmmaking the same all over the place?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Well we had to shoot all my scenes within two weeks so it was a pretty gruelling schedule.
STEPHEN SURJIK: We packed Carmen into two weeks and we came back to sets again to shoot her out, and so we worked Carmen pretty hard and she was extraordinary; you had all your ...text always, you were a good getter-upper and you were always on.
CARMEN ELECTRA: But I remember shooting in the summer and it was during a rare heat wave here and I walked away thinking of how professional all the actors and the crew and everyone was, because not one person complained about the heat. [Laughter] But you know what I mean the company get really spoiled and I thought it was really sweet because everyone worked really hard and continued shooting even though they were pouring sweat and we had no fans remember - he was trying to get us some little hand fans.
Were there any of our English traditions that took you by surprise whether it's tea breaks, bacon sarnies or even some of the odd terms we come out with from time to time?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Not much of a lunch break I remember that, 'Can we shoot through lunch'? which I thought was really interesting.
STEPHEN SURJIK: Actually the one that really surprised me was that we actually rescheduled some stuff so that everyone could watch the football game.
Carmen you talked a few minutes ago about your image. What do you perceive to be the image that you put out, and what do you think people think your image is? Out of the two, where's the real you?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Well it's interesting because I started off my life being a dancer and that was my passion and my love (it still is), and I thought I would dance on Broadway - that was my dream. So imagine my parents and what they were thinking when I ended up posing nude in Playboy. I guess I've always been a little bit rebellious. But I'm glad I did and I love the magazine, and it's been a major learning process for me to actually figure out who I am, and what it is I want to do, and what image do I want to put out there. And I still love being sexy and I still put out that image because it's a part of who I am. But I think over time you learn from each experience and each job, and it helps direct your life; and it's helped me put myself in a direction that I want to go in. But I still want to do sexy stuff as long as I can. Why not?
What did your parents say when their little girl ended up on the pages of Hollywood? What was the air like that day?
CARMEN ELECTRA: You know it's funny because I actually didn't really know what to expect, I didn't know what my parents would think and they were so supportive. My grandmother even went to the beauty salon and brought in my Playboy, so all the grannies were getting their hair done and looking at it and I thought that was really interesting. So I know that they're really proud of me.
Carmen, I presume you were charmed by the Englishness of the script and the Englishness of the humour, which is obviously very different from American humour. How do you think your fans in America are going to react to the film?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Yeah I think Americans love British comedies and that's showing more and more. I hear it all the time and my friends love British comedy so I think Americans are definitely open to it and I think it should get a good reaction, hopefully.
Tom, where did you get the inspiration for the role of a slightly dodgy, fast-talking, out-of-his depth movie producer? Was there anyone on set?
TOM RILEY: No the out-of-the-depth thing came entirely from me. But it's funny because it was all on the page so it's so much easier when someone is on the page really charming and cock-sure and happy-go-lucky because then you don't have to go, 'well I don't necessarily feel like this in real life so it's not going to come off'. But if you pretend or you just read the dialogue it comes off ok. The only thing I can claim similarity to was being out of my depth.
Tom, did you need an enormous amount of persuasion to grease up for your love scene that nearly was?
TOM RILEY: Well, yes! It was there from day one so it was always one of those things: countdown to Carmen day and countdown to buttery chest day. It was one of those things that I just thought, right! You know when you're on a top diving board and you think 'I've just got to jump off this and just do this and pretend it's not there', it was that kind of thing.
Carmen can you tell us what Michelle Ryan was like as she's got quite a big profile here?
CARMEN ELECTRA: She was very sweet, very nice and it's so funny because I did an interview - and I guess she just got a really big role on a TV show coming out, Bionic Woman - and so for some reason the writer asked me if she needed a place to stay; if she could stay at my house. And I of course said 'Yeah, sure' and then all of a sudden I was reading everywhere that she's gonna be staying at my house and she's not. But she could if she needed to stay there, but I doubt that she needs to. I'm sure she's fine. I'm sure she'll get to stay in a really swanky LA hotel and have room service.
Carmen Electra: sounds like the sort of name you might invent for a movie, but is it in fact your real name?
CARMEN ELECTRA: No it's not. My real name is Tara Patrick, but Carmen Electra does sound like a porn name, or a superhero! Actually I had a record deal with Prince in the 90s and at that time there was an artist out by the name of Tara, and so he suggested that I change my name and we did.
And is it one of those things where you're Carmen Electra to your fans and your public, but friends who know you call you by your real name?
CARMEN ELECTRA: I don't know. It's just started to catch on, so my family sometimes call me Tara but for the most part they call me Carmen which is really sweet. It's very supportive.
Stephen, it was mentioned that the film has a very English sensibility but it does embrace some of the slick American values that we've come to expect from big Hollywood movies. How is it juggling those two factors and keeping it true to itself at the same time?
STEPHEN SURJIK: One of the major issues that we wanted to embrace on the British side of it was in the British comedies, the actors: they never wink at the camera, they always go really straight ahead and they embrace the situation and the reality of it. That's really what we wanted to keep going in terms of the British sensibility. The American sensibility was more of the production value details in terms of the lighting and the slickness of the show. We wanted to keep it as high-value as we possibly could given the budget restraints that we had, so those were the two voices that we were trying to combine.
Stephen in some of the smaller roles you've got some very good people; in particular Eddie (Marsan). Was he always your first choice for that role?
STEPHEN SURJIK: I'd been a fan of Eddie's. I had no idea that he would be interested in such a thing, and he came dancing into the room wearing this incredible suit and the hair slicked back and he just fired off the lines, and it was done.
How long were you a fan of his?
STEPHEN SURJIK: He pops up in small roles and all sorts of American stuff, but also in a lot of British stuff, so I've known him for a long time. But I didn't even know when he walked in the room that it was him really. It was first of all, 'what's he doing even reading for the role really'? ! you know, so that was one thing I had to get over, and then after that it was speaking to him .....and I couldn't believe that it was done.
Carmen - American. Stephen - Canadian, what are your individual takes on British humour and where does it differ?
STEPHEN SURJIK: Well I don't know if I differ because we haven't really talked about it that much. But I can just say from my stand-point: Monty Python's flying circus was a really big influence for everyone in Canada and we get all the BBC shows, and Benny Hill is at once ridiculous and at the same time really ingenious. If you watch enough you see both sides of that and there's these standards we get in the street; not all comedies, but we get a lot of British influence. I don't know where we would differ on it.
CARMEN ELECTRA: I just remember, I think I was in the 4th grade, and our teacher went around the room and asked every student in the class what their favourite TV show was. Most of the kids said The Brady Bunch or Bugs Bunny and I actually said Benny Hill, and she called my mum to make sure that everything was ok, but I was being honest. I would stay up late nights and watch Benny Hill.
Did you have a burning ambition to be one of Benny Hill's babes running round?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Sure, why not! I like the little man. He's cute, he's hot.
Stephen, you've directed such things as WAYNE'S WORLD and LITTLE CRIMINALS and I was just wondering where you get your influences from, or do you direct a film with what you want to see?
STEPHEN SURJIK: You know you're talking about one film - LITTLE CRIMINALS - which is very dark and gloomy. It's almost like BUTCHER BOY, it's a very socially realistic hardcore look, which is really the antithesis of this in every way. I have two careers and one is: I'm producing a TV show right now out of Vancouver called INTELLIGENCE, which is a suspense thriller kind of political spy show. And then I do comedies, and when I started in comedy I came by it honestly, but doing comedies can be very difficult - it's not funny to do a comedy. If you want a funny set I would maybe watch a war movie being made or something like that - they joke a lot. In a comedy there's not that much joking going on for some reason, I don't know why it is, but anyway that got to me and I didn't want to do comedies for a while. But I've really grown to love comedy again in a major way and I really cherish it. I love watching them and I love making them.
Carmen I suppose being the face of Max Factor is like a career in itself, but does it give you a totally free hand to do other things as well?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Yeah that's what I think is so great about it, not only being such a girly girl in the way that I love make up, and working with Pat McGrath who designed all the looks and just being a part of such a legendary brand to me is really cool and it does give me so much time to do so many other things. 'm just now preparing to start up a show in Las Vegas with illusionist Hans Klok, and I'll get to dance and perform and get on stage again and do so many different things, so I feel very blessed.
Tom perhaps we should ask what you've got coming up as well?
TOM RILEY: There's a film coming out in a month or two's time called A FEW DAYS IN SEPTEMBER, which is with Juliette Binoche and John Turturro, and I play Nick Nolte's son in it and it's a very different kettle of fish to this. It's a kind of 9/11 conspiracy thriller set in Venice and Paris, so it's a world away from this.
Is it too early to say whether this has opened any doors for you?
TOM RILEY: Yes it is. I can only hope so but we'll have to see how the movie does.
Some of the insights into the porn industry come from Jimmy Carr's character, such as his comment about never working with children and animals - especially in the porn industry! How much of that stuff did he contribute himself?
STEPHEN SURJIK: A lot of it. He originally wrote with some of his writers a lot of that material, and then when we came back we reworked it right on the spot and there was some stuff that he wanted to rework and we bounced it back and forth, and that's Carr talking there.
I can only assume that a dull film studies professor has to be drawn from some part of your personal experience?
STEPHEN SURJIK: Oh my god yes, I think we've all had one. Some of us had two, and he [Mackenzie Crook] did such a superb job at being the pompous film professor who we love to hate. I cannot quite express my joy in seeing him do that.
There's quite a few scenes in the film that could be described as being quite awkward. During filming did any of the scenes actually remind you of a similar situation you found yourself in back in your student years?
TOM RILEY: I don't think so, I don't think I've ever greased myself up with butter. It's funny I've been asked this and it's weird and I've gotten away with an awful lot. I'm sure I've had things that people could catch me out with, but I never have been caught out so all the cringe-worthy stuff in the film is nothing that I've been through fortunately.
STEPHEN SURJIK: And I've never been caught with porn because I actually don't look at it.
TOM RILEY: No, he'd shut his eyes every time there was porn on set, Stephen was not having it!
CARMEN ELECTRA: I don't look at porn either!
The way things are today I'm surprised no-one has come up with the idea of funeral videos, like in the film.
STEPHEN SURJIK: You know strangely enough I was just driving down the street in California the other day and they had a story about a funeral home somewhere who are actually doing funeral videos, and they were explaining how as a family member you can log in so that you can watch the priest or you can look at the different views depending on what you want to see. There's a market for everything now.
When you came to shoot the climactic scenes in the Golden Cockerel Awards at the Hammersmith Apollo, was the building changed sufficiently that anyone passing by was a little bit surprised?
TOM RILEY: Well we changed the inside of the Hammersmith Palais we shot inside, but we used the Apollo for the external shots, and it was mainly Tom that night.
STEPHEN SURRJIK: When we were shooting the exterior of that we were in and out of there pretty quick. Excuse the pun.
Carmen what will be your lasting British memory you will take from this? Will it be our love of football or, generally nice people?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Handsome men! Completely amazingly fit bodies!
Did you actually take anything away with you from the set? I wonder what happened to the Candy Fiveways doll; stuck in the cupboard somewhere?
CARMEN ELECTRA: I actually wanted the blow up doll. [To Stephen] You have that!
STEPHEN SURJIK: Don't look at me! I don't look at porn! [Laughter]
TOM RILEY: I wanted one of the Golden Cock awards.
CARMEN ELECTRA: Yeah those are great.
TOM RILEY: And they said I could have one but it never happened. Where is it? Is there a producer in the house?
CARMEN ELECTRA: Once again! [Indicating Stephen] He keeps everything.
STEPHEN SURJIK: You're only looking at me! I keep it all in the closet somewhere!
I'm sure you've all been asked this before but what are your porn names?
TOM RILEY: I've been asked this all morning and the look on people's faces! This is completely true and the way we got the thing, I don't know if it's the traditional way, but the way we got the names is the name of your first pet and then the name of the road that you grew up on. That's the way we do it in the film which for me is Biscuit Cripple! [Laughter]
STEPHEN: Mine doesn't compete with that, mine is Fluffy Durham. But it doesn't have cripple, you've got an amputee thing going there which I think is kind of special.
CARMEN: Wow and mine's really boring - Heidi Hermes. I like Candy Fiveways
Question & Answer Text Copyright Buena Vista International