As one of half of The Farrelly Brothers, Peter Farrelly has spent the better part of his life making audiences laugh. His latest project might just be his most intriguing to date! The question is: “What is “Movie 43?” is the outrageous new ensemble comedy starring some of the biggest names in Hollywood, in which Farrelly himself directs two of the shorts. “The Catch” which features Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman, and “Truth or Dare” that pairs Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant. The rest of the film features hot up-and-coming directors and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars including Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, Dennis Quaid, Emma Stone, Johnny Knoxville, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Naomi Watts, Uma Thurman and even Seth MacFarlane! “Movie 43” is not for the easily-offended and contains jaw-dropping, sometimes shockingly disturbing, but always entertaining intertwined storylines you’ll have to see to believe. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Peter Farrelly to discuss the making of the film, the challenges involved, his advice to young filmmakers and more!
Thanks for taking time out to talk to us today, sir. It is much appreciated!
Not a problem, J.P.! How have you been?
No complaints! I will just jump right in! I am sure there are plenty of people out there wondering how the original idea for “Movie 43” came about. What can you tell us about that?
Charlie Wessler, who is the producer, had been thinking about doing something like this for about 10 years. He produces all of our movies. He basically wanted to make a “Kentucky Fried Movie” style of film. However, he wanted to do it a little differently in that he wanted to have all different writers, directors and stars. He started searching for shorts. He would find good writers on the Internet and contact them saying, “Hey, send me an idea for a short because we are looking for new stuff.” He read through hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of short films, picked his favorite 35 or 40, ran them by me and John Penotti, the other producer of the film. When we got the ones we liked, we started sending them out to actors.
Obviously, you have a lot of talented people involved in this film. How difficult was the casting process on this project?
We shot for the moon! We really went for the top guys! We just thought we might as well go for it! By the way, the budget for this movie was $6 million, so we had no money and we had to bend over backwards for some people. The first thing we thought was, “Who are the greatest actors out there who we really like?” When you go to a Kate Winslet or a Hugh Jackman, you basically say, “We have a short. It is outrageous. It is really hard R and we need you for one or two days. You are going to get to do stuff that you never do in any other movie!” They would read the script and would really like it but then say, “I would love to do it but I am busy for a year-and-a-half!” We would say, “OK. We will wait.” They would say, “Really?” And we would say, “When are you available? A year from April? Great, we will wait for that!” That is exactly what we did. We made the entire movie over three-and-a-half years in short bursts because we had different crews, writers and directors. It was easy to spread it out like that.
How did you select the directors for this project? Again, you have a plethora of great talent along for the ride!
That was the easiest part because, by the time we had really good scripts and amazing actors, pretty much any director you wanted would do it. However, we started going to the young guys that we really liked, up-and-coming guys!
What can you tell us about the wraparound story that contains all of these short films?
We actually shot two wraparounds for the film. One of them was about two 15-year-old stoner kids who were looking online for the elusive “Movie 43.” The other is Dennis Quaid, who is playing a down and out producer, pitching these projects to the studio execs, who are played by Greg Kinnear and his boss, Common. Along the way they bump into Seth MacFarlane and there is a whole little world going on there. They had originally planned to go with the kids wraparound. I just found out this week that Charlie Wessler decided to go with the second one, which by the way is a way better one.
Is it safe to assume we will see both on the eventual DVD and Blu-Ray release?
Yes. They are definitely going to put the other one in and you will have the option to watch both! It is going to be great!
What was the biggest challenge on this project for you as a director?
Honestly, it was the anticipation of discovering if these actors would do what we wanted them to do. The film is sort of groundbreaking in tone and we really wanted to push the envelope. I immediately found out they were more than willing and very gung-ho to do it! Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet couldn’t have committed more! In fact, they were asking for more and more and more! They knew what it was, that we were pushing hard and they really wanted to do that!
You had a lot of material for the film, as you said. How hard was it to select from that material and was there anything too outrageous that didn’t make the cut?
Yes, there was stuff that didn’t make the cut but it wasn’t because it was too outrageous but maybe because it was too much of a good thing. We knew that we were going to shoot about 18 or so of these shorts and probably keep 14 or 15. We just thought the best ones would end up in the line. I don’t think the ones that got cut were necessarily not as good as the others but it did have a sense of redundancy, being too similar to another, or overkill, too much where it felt like you were just trying to shock. We are definitely not trying to shock. We are trying to make you laugh.
Has it been a challenge to market the film, seeing that it isn’t your traditional style of film?
I can tell ya that after it opens! [laughs] Right now, it seems like they are doing a spectacular job marketing the film. They are selling it as a really unusual thing, which it is. I have been in many test screenings for this film and it is an unusual movie because when you are in the room, it plays like a rock concert! People are going crazy and I have never had as many people approach me after a screening! Typically, you come out of a test screening and people just flow by you and they don’t say much. For this film people come up and say, “Dude! You can’t change that! Don’t forget this or that …” Yet, it doesn’t score very high because it is so outrageous and there are a lot of people who just don’t know what to make of it. I will tell you, this movie will not do well critically. The critics are going to be appalled, freaked out and not understand it but high school kids, college kids, 20-somethings and 30-somethings are going to flip out! They are going to have some huge, huge laughs!
You have been hard at it as a director for many years now. What is your favorite part of the film making process?
First of all, let me say this. I haven’t ever been on a movie set, and this is the God’s honest truth, for five minutes, not one minute, where I wasn’t completely grateful to be on set. I never got bored with it, I never got used to it or started taking it for granted. Every minute I am there, I am thinking, “I can’t believe I am on a movie set! This is crazy! How did this happen?” Even today! My favorite part of it all is the editing! The hardest part is the writing. When you have nothing and are writing a script, it is hard and scary. You have nothing and you have to create something! You have to work your butt off and it takes a long time, sweat and anxiety, but when you finally have that script done, you can shoot it. Shooting is a pleasurable experience for me because you are seeing it come together. The hard part is done, the writing, and now you are just tweaking it, making it better and seeing ways to improve on the script. Then you find yourself in the editing room. You have done all this hard work and you are sitting there with this puzzle in front of you. You are putting it all together! You are cutting it, laying music over it, adding in sound effects and watching it come to life — it’s exhilarating! It is a high! Every day you go in there, you have three, four or five moments that are just great! You see exactly what you have been thinking about for a couple years just come to life and pop! Or if it is not working, you are making it work! That to me is just so joyful!
Is a collaborative project like “Movie 43” something you would consider doing again in the future?
I had a ball doing this! This was really fun, so absolutely! Charlie Wessler still has scripts coming in and we probably have another 30 shorts we can shoot easily. If this film does well, and people see how much fun it can be, the whole process would become a lot easier.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring filmmakers in today’s climate?
I would say make it happen. Make it happen, captain! It is easier today than ever before! It used to be hard to get into the movie business because you didn’t have cameras. Now, everybody can get a camera, go out and raise a few grand to make your own movie. Most people I know in this business don’t take no for an answer. When we did our first movie, “Dumb and Dumber,” we were setting out to make it for 20 grand. Once people started reading it and gaining interest, the budget went up and up and up and finally we had a real movie! The same thing goes for Wes Anderson, Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson. They went off and made their short film “Bottle Rocket.” It played at the film festivals, people liked it and wanted to work with them. Next thing you know, they all had careers! Basically, you don’t have to sit around and wait for lightning to strike. Go do it!
Thanks for you time today, sir. I look forward to speaking with you again in the future!
Thank you! I really appreciate it, Jason!