SCARY MOVIE 3 - with DAVID ZUCKER, ANNA FARIS & SIMON REX
Movie Feature by Susan Hodgetts
Actress Anna Faris, AIRPLANE's legendary David Zucker and US comedian Simon Rex are in London to promote SCARY MOVIE 3, the latest instalment of the horror spoof trilogy. Faris looks sensible with black neat-framed specs, whilst Zucker is much younger than I'd imagined for such a comedy legend and US comedian Simon Rex has grown a well-groomed beard and moustache to differentiate himself physically from his character of white rapper George in SCARY MOVIE 3.
The first thing everyone wants to know is how on earth the SCARY MOVIE 3 team got away with the very un-pc appearance of a Michael Jackson lookalike in a scene based around the star.
"As long as we didn't mention his name! says Zucker. A lot of people actually thought that that was Michael Jackson. In other countries, not here!" he hastily qualifies.
"Yeah, [even] Latoya, I heard," quips US comedian Rex, so far best known on the other side of the Atlantic for his comedy work.
"We heard rumours that there was gonna be a lawsuit or something," continues Zucker, "but nothing that the studio would actually confront. I think as long as we don't mention who the character is, I think we're pretty safe. The main thing is to have fun with it but if it's unintentionally cruel to somebody, we regret it."
"Not very much though!" chirps Faris. She seems to think the training she was forced to undergo for the movie's spoof MATRIX scenes was pretty cruel as well.
"I wasn't meant to exercise, that's what I've concluded," she grumbles. "There were a number of fight sequences spoofing the second MATRIX. I had to spend my day off working out and training and learning to fight with my forearm and it was awful and I hated it."
"The audience agree," cuts in Zucker, "that's why it's not in the movie."
"Yeah next time I'm gonna put my foot down, and I'm not gonna...."
"That would save us a lot of money," interrupts Zucker again, "if [they're] things you'd hated, I wish you'd told me about them..."
"I want a cruise ship [for the next one]," Faris jokes.
"Anything you want Anna, should you be selected for the next movie...."
"I really liked working with Keenan [Ivory Wayans, director of the SCARY MOVIE 2] a lot," bats back Faris.
Talking about more characters spoofed in the film, we move on to Rex's character George, a spoof of a certain infamous white rapper Eminem who went the distance with 8 MILE.
"Actually a friend of mine works with him," says Rex, "and I asked him if he'd seen the movie and he said he thought it was really funny, but that he was still gonna make fun of me in a song somehow. So I don't know if he's maybe over it by now. He seems to be an angry rapper and he pokes fun at people who might not retaliate, me being one of them, so who knows, he might immortalise me in a song, or he may laugh it off."
Confronted about her LOST IN TRANSLATION karaoke sequence, the other high profile movie Faris can currently be seen in, the actress fends off accusations of a Cameron Diaz satire. "I was shocked. I don't know whose words started it but it was just a snowball effect. Everyone was asking me if I was parodying Cameron Diaz and I felt terrible because first of all Sofia [Coppola, director of LOST IN TRANSLATION] never mentioned anything regarding Cameron. We had talked about a couple of actresses but nothing specifically and really not Cameron. I just don't think [Sofia] would be that vindictive of a person, she's such a kind and intellectual [person]. I like Cameron Diaz. I think she's a good comedienne, I really enjoy watching her and I felt really bad. I wanted to apologise to her but I never got the chance..." So Faris finally takes her chance and whispers, "sorry Cameron."
Whilst Zucker won't admit to ever having done karaoke, for Rex, it appears to be a regular hobby. "I actually did it a couple of weeks ago in a bar in LA and I think it's a blast after you have a couple of pints. I get up there with my friend and we make up our own words and it seems to be a hit. We're regulars at this bar called Barney's Beanery on Sunday nights and we get up there and we just have fun and it's quite therapeutic. We do Snoop Dog's Gin and Juice. We do our own version and we talk about current topics. It doesn't really rhyme, we sort of talk almost - it's very random."
Faris then talks about the way in which the actors act out a Zucker film. "David really forced us to play the movie like drama, which actually made my job easier. That's easier than trying to be funny."
"I would try and be funny," chips in Rex, "and David would remind me, "ok you need to take it down from here to here and be real and that's more funny to watch." When you're watching Leslie Nielsen he's never trying to be funny, he's just serious and that's what's funny. So David was mediocre at telling me to do that."
As for the massive success of Zucker's particular brand of comedy movies he insists that, "the key is not trying to do a joke on a joke. The lines should be funny and the situation should be funny, and it should appear like it is a serious movie. Then the joke's more unexpected." Citing the contribution of former BAYWATCH babe Pamela Anderson in the opening sequence as an example Zucker says, "[Pamela's] very good at not winking. Yeah she got it. You kind of have to take a little bit of a risk as an actor and risk looking foolish by taking the material so seriously."
On the challenge of going from spoof to serious movie Faris says, "In the middle of SCARY MOVIE 2 I filmed an independent movie called MAY, kind of a cult, very dark film. I play a kind of a very overtly sexual lesbian and I end up dying, as you do...."
"It's your life story" quips Zucker.
"It is!" agrees Faris. "It was really challenging for me actually to go from two different genres back to back like that. Given a short break I don't think it's that challenging, I grew up doing theatre [anyway], more dramatic work."
Rex adds, "I always try to be funny in real life, in auditions and whatever, so if I go for dramatic roles I tend to always try and be funny. I can't help that, it does affect you and it does make you sort of want to be silly, and I think I just want to make people laugh. I shouldn't do only that. I think it'd be good to do serious movies too. I tend to want to find the joke in everything and sometimes I read something serious and it jumps out as funny. Even though it's not meant to be."
"I remember auditioning for the first SCARY MOVIE," recalls Faris, "and I had done nothing. I mean I had done some commercials but I certainly hadn't done anything like this and I was in the middle of doing what I sort of thought was a serious thing, acting scared with the killer hiding in the house. Keenan [Ivory Wayans] was just laughing and I was thinking I'm really messing this up! I don't know what I am doing. I was thinking gosh I'm really not that funny. But I got the role and my old college mate said, "God I can't believe you got that, you're just not that funny." I auditioned for Lauren Ambrose's role in SIX FEET UNDER and the scene was very heavy. She's high and she gets a phone call that her dad has died. It was really serious and Alan Ball was just laughing and laughing and he said, "Oh you are funny!" I thought gosh this is terrible! I was really trying to be a good actor. What is wrong with me? So I don't know if I'd be any good in a dramatic movie!"
"She didn't audition for me," says Zucker, "She was forced on me. I had no choice! She came with a franchise but I was the one who said it was ok for her to be blonde, cos I actually got some picture of Anna in a magazine and I said hey she's gorgeous."
"Oh you!" pooh, poohs Anna.
"She is very funny but she gets to it not in a Lucille Ball, Jim Carrey kind of way," continues Zucker, "but just by knowing where the joke is and acting the part seriously in her earnestness."
As for the casting of POP IDOL and now American Idol nasty, Mr Simon Cowell, Zucker says, "I think the studio encouraged us to keep pushing it and give Simon the comeuppance, and there were other things that were cut out of it. At one point this very large woman was going to sit on him but he was uncomfortable with that, I don't know why, but anything that required acting he was very uncomfortable with. He said you know I can play myself and so the one that gets killed is actually a stunt man, the guy's going like this (Zucker covers his face) and we set him up with squibs and everything."
However Cowell didn't have the nerve to criticise the film when he saw it. "No, that's out of his area of expertise," says Zucker. "He was happy to have avoided embarrassment and [happy] that it got a good reaction. I mean the audience just laughs at the mere sight of him."
Surely that isn't a compliment, Simon? Yet although Zucker says Cowell didn't need much persuasion to take the part, things were slightly different when he arrived on set. "Once we had him on set, we added a whole bunch of things and he was not as comfortable." He describes how there were "calls back and forth with the studio...we wanted to do all sorts of nasty things to him but we compromised. He didn't think he should actually physically be shot in the scene, so we said fine, we'll just put a stuntman in."
Known for his mercilessness in the name of humour, is there anything that Zucker would not have in the movie?
"I'd probably draw the line at having at the end of the movie, "We didn't teach Seabiscuit anything, he taught us." Now that is in poor taste. So I think we would avoid that. Other than that I think just about anything could be fair game, as long as it's something that the audience would agree on. A lot of these things are things that the audience has a feeling about, but maybe hasn't given a voice to. We're kind of saying what everybody's thinking."
Zucker explains SCARY MOVIE 2 is "a completely different style [of movie] and what I'm doing is making SCARY MOVIE 3 as a successor to AIRPLANE or the NAKED GUNS, and that's why taking over this franchise is different to doing like the 17 th POLICE ACADEMY. Because that wouldn't be fresh; but in a spoof you can always do new movies. So we had all these movies to spoof that were within the past year or 2, [and] that's what made it completely original."
He continues "I enjoyed the first SCARY MOVIE, the second one I don't think was as successful, because it didn't seem to have the story and Anna just wasn't good in it. I'm sorry, did I say that out loud? No, it wasn't her fault. I think it created a successful franchise and there will always be people watching these."
Talking about why comedy doesn't get the respect it deserves and is rarely acknowledged by the Academy Awards, Zucker explains that it's "because the nature of it is silly; and the Academy is based upon a lot of this seriousness. It doesn't recognise the excellence. It's like great works of art, it doesn't really include comedy and that's ok. At the same time you can't take it seriously because there's no justice to it and if you knew how people voted you'd be even more convinced there's not a lot of justice to it."
Faris' future projects beyond the SCARY MOVIE trilogy that she admits effectively gave her her whole career, include a movie called VINYL, "an independent movie about a group of girls, groupies that are obsessed with this band and it's much more dramatic. My character's a bit of a tragic figure. I get pregnant by one of the band members. It'll be really nice to do something more dramatic but you know there are few things more rewarding and more challenging than making people laugh."
As for the future of the SCARY MOVIEs, Zucker reveals, "Well we really have to wait until M Night Shyamalan makes his next movie.... You can't just start writing another one. With POLICE ACADEMY they can write them all the minute after one's released but we're gonna have to wait for at least 2 or 3 movies to bubble up and then we'll get the idea and then we'll try to put all our characters in that. I'd like to work with the same cast. There are some films I'd like to do. I mean SEABISCUIT would be great. I mean I keep coming back to that, and COLD MOUNTAIN would be good...Cindy meets a guy for 10 seconds and has this huge love affair, [the pair are] trying to reach each other through war and destruction, and then every other character in the movie has more chemistry than the boy and girl...."
Zucker doesn't seem worried about people's reaction to having the mickey taken out of them. He's been doing it for most of his life so he must certainly be hardened to it by now and some people, like Spielberg, he claims, actually enjoy it. "Everybody enjoys having their movies sent up. We always did a Spielberg one in every movie I ever did and it always got positive feedback from Spielberg. I met the director of 8 MILE going into the opening night at the Mann Chinese theatre in Los Angeles and he was all smiley, saying he was looking forward to seeing the film and I never heard from him after that...."
The cast describe working with comedy legend Leslie Nielsen as a real treat.
Rex says, "Well I grew up watching his movies and I just remember standing back and thinking, I can't believe I'm working with Leslie Nielsen! Playing the sort of character that he would play in a sense and he was just such a great guy in person. We just talked about golf and he has a fart machine. He's 79 years old and he carries a fart machine around and it's still funny to him, and to everyone. He was just like a kid. It was great, I loved working with him."
"That was my reaction," deadpans Zucker, "I can't believe I'm working with Leslie Nielsen." Then, serious for just a second, he says fondly, "but it was great after 10 years working with him again, it's always fun."