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Although he isn’t as well known as his frequent collaborator Will Ferrell, Adam McKay has had a hand in some of the most successful and influential comedies of the last decade. After working as head writer at Saturday Night Live—where he hired his replacement, Tina Fey—McKay broke into features with 2004’s Anchorman, which reintroduced a strain of anarchic, substantially improvised humor to the national lexicon. Between directing Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, McKay and Ferrell founded the short-film website Funny Or Die, whose breakout clip “The Landlord” briefly turned McKay’s toddler, Pearl, into a trash-mouthed Internet sensation. (She’s now retired.) Through their company, Gary Sanchez Productions (named for a favorite squeegee man), they’ve put their stamp on shows like Eastbound & Down and the upcoming Big Lake, starring SNL vets Chris Parnell and a dramatically slimmed-down Horatio Sanz. But for now, the focus is on The Other Guys, which stars Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as mismatched detectives who stumble onto a major financial fraud while their squadmates are busy making flashy busts. The day after the film’s New York première, McKay talked to The A.V. Club about cutting himself out of the movie, the death of the buddy-cop genre, and the burgeoning Gary Sanchez empire.
The A.V. Club: Let’s start at the end of the movie. Rather than closing with outtakes, you build the closing credits around what amounts to an animated slide show about Ponzi schemes and the financial crisis. How did that find its way into the mix?
Adam McKay: We didn’t do outtakes at the end of Step Brothers, either. We did them on Anchorman and we did them on Talladega Nights. At that point, no one had been doing them much recently. They always had a bit of a stigma to them, like, “Oh, it’s your bloopers.” I used to not let anyone say the word “blooper,” and we tried to do more alternative improv takes. But then after Talladega, other people started doing them, and we thought, “Well, that’s over with.” So in Step Brothers, we played the little coda scene, which we liked. For this one, I didn’t really have anything, but there’s gotta be something at the end. I always like to have a little treat with the credits. So we thought, “We’ve got this fun comedy going through this world of financial fraud; there’s so many stats that are so jaw-dropping. I wonder if there’s a fun way to put them together with a cool song that could actually add a little substance.” I give all the credit to our credit company, Picture Mill, who came back with the whole concept of the living graphs and pie charts. I thought it swung, I thought it was fun with the music over it, and I thought it was poppy and energetic enough that you could end the movie with it.
AVC: It’s also a reprise of “Pimps Don’t Cry,” the song Eva Mendes sings to Will Ferrell at a particularly tender moment.
AM: Well, let’s face it, the whole movie is just a frame for “Pimps Don’t Cry,” or as I call it, the new national anthem.
AVC: The way the song comes into the movie is very abrupt. It’s almost like a classic cue in a movie musical, where it flows right into the song out of the conversation, only there’s no orchestra. Was that totally planned? Where did it grow from initially?
AM: Sadly enough, it was scripted. [Laughs.] It was one of the scenes we started writing, and you hit a point where you can feel that there’s a certain emotional core that gets hit in that area. That one was tense, this falling out over the unveiling of [Ferrell’s] dark side. If you were doing a drama, that’s what you would be doing. We started writing the scene and heading in that direction, and we were like, “The craziest thing she could do right now is sing this bizarre song that they both somehow know.” That’s where it came out of. When we were shooting it, Eva was like, “This is nuts,” and I said, “Let’s just do it. We won’t use it if it doesn’t work.” It worked. It just escalated the craziness perfectly. And then off of that, we realized that now we had to record this song, and then off of that, we realized that now we have to get Cee-Lo from Gnarls Barkley, and it just kept escalating.
AVC: On Jimmy Fallon, you talked about editing out an improvised run involving your character, a homeless man named Dirty Mike, and the horrendous sexual acts he intends to perform in Ferrell’s Prius, because it grossed out your test audiences. How much of the decision about what to keep in and what to cut is based on audience screenings, and how much is instinct?
AM: It’s always a mix. When you screen it the first couple times, you’re just trying to get the movie to work, trying to get the story to flow, trying to find out where your areas are where you have enough breath to laugh a little bit. This is obviously a much heavier story film than we usually do. Step Brothers was so loose, but this actually has a fairly coherent financial plot to it that we had to keep alive, so you have to keep that flow. The first couple screenings, it’s all about the give and take. You say, “Okay, here’s some laughs. I want to protect those, and now I’ve got to get the story working, this is too convoluted.” So you’re doing that the first two or three screenings, and then finally, you dial the movie in and it’s working, and at that point, it’s 50/50 as far as what’s funny and what’s working. Sometimes you’ll put something in and it will just die so hard that it’ll almost kill the movie. In the case of Dirty Mike, it died so hard it almost stopped the entire movie when I had the super-filthy version in. That’s the giant red flag. When you see that happening, you know that’s coming out because comedy is a dialogue with the audience, more than a lot of other things. You just try to hear both sides. With something like Step Brothers, it’s all just a matter of when they’re tired from laughing and when they need a break. It’s a different kind of thing to track than this is. As far as how much you listen to the audience, you listen to them when they really hate something.
AVC: And then put in more?
AM: We’ve done that before, we’ve had it where it completely bombs, and you go, “Maybe we need more.” Sometimes it does work and sometimes it’s even worse than it was the first time. Dirty Mike, we had tons right off the bat. In Talladega we had a bit where Sacha Baron Cohen and Will were calling Sacha’s boyfriend’s trained dogs, and Will accidentally said the attack command. In order for him to calm the dogs down, he had to say the heel command, but it had to be said with a perfect French accent, so while attack dogs are charging at them, Sacha is trying to teach Will to say “Rhinoceros” with a French accent. We put it in at a medium size because we thought it was really funny, and it didn’t work, so I was like, “You know what? We’ve got to go for the whole thing, let’s unfurl it.” And it just bombed even harder, and ended up coming out of the movie. There are probably a dozen examples of that.
AVC: Maybe the purest example is the Simpsons scene where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on rakes and hitting himself in the face. It goes from being a mild slapstick gag to being monotonous, and then into a whole different of funny.
AM: Yeah. Did you ever see the Mr. Show with the shelf of thimbles that the guy keeps knocking over when he’s telling the story? That’s another one.
AVC: That’s a Jay Johnston bit, right? “The Story Of Everest.”
AM: It is. That’s one of my favorite sketches. That’s where part of the joke is, you go way too far, and sometimes jokes have to go way too far to work. Occasionally we’re curious to see if it’s one of those or if we’re deluding ourselves, which is always a distinct possibility.
AVC: You mentioned The Other Guys being relatively story-heavy. More than the other movies you’ve directed, this is a riff on an established genre. How much does that dictate the structure of the movie?
AM: Here’s the real truth: We started with the idea of the guys in the desk next to the superstar cops. We didn’t really think of it as a parody or a riff, although pretty quickly as we started writing the script, we realized that it necessarily is, because you’re responding to the cliché superstars. Then we realized, “Holy shit, we’re making a buddy-cop movie.” We were a little bored when those elements came into it. When we wrote it for the first time, we thought that this might be a dead genre. There hasn’t been a good one in a long time. Hot Fuzz is the one I can think of that I really sincerely enjoyed, but other than that, a lot of bad ones. You think of Hollywood Homicide—it’s a lot of tough ones.
We accidentally stumbled into it, and once we were in it, we thought, “Let’s not do any parody. Let’s do the absolute best job we can do, and occasionally mess with expectations.” But the genre is so tight and people know it so well that even doing the best job you can comes off as a riff on the genre. It’s like doing a Western. If you do a Western that’s funny, there’s no way people don’t call it a spoof or a parody, even though it many not be. I’m sure some of the reviews for Hot Fuzz were like, “Riffing on the cop-buddy film…” But that may just be the fact that the genre is so sucked dry that it’s like doing job-interview sketches; they become so meta at a certain point, and that’s what I love about them, in a weird way. I guess that’s why we’re attracted to these traditional frameworks, because when you do crazy stuff, it plays against a very set context like the sports movie or the family comedy. So I think without knowing it, we backed into a parody element to this movie.
AVC: Hot Fuzz isn’t a direct parody, but there’s obviously a level of self-awareness to it. Maybe because the genre is so played-out and familiar, that’s the only way contemporary audiences can get sucked back in.
AM: I think you have to. So many of them have been made. If you go back and watch The French Connection, it’s been cannibalized so many times. There are certain movies like that, where you see the original and think “This isn’t so great.” And the reason it isn’t so great is because everyone has copied it. It’s one of those odd genres. I don’t know what that buddy-cop myth comes out of, with two different types trying to solve crimes. It’s very 1960s/1970s American model.
AVC: It’s probably back to Sherlock Holmes, at least. It’s also a sort of Hope and Crosby thing.
AM: I guess it just holds characters. There’s always a little bit of mystery. It ended up serving us pretty well, as long as you’re aware of it, and you kind of have to be. At least your ideas stick out a little bit more against it. That’s what we ended up liking about it.
AVC: You open The Other Guys with a big action setpiece featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson—car crashes, gunfights, explosions—and you play it straight. There’s no funny way to crash a car into a bus.
AM: The idea was, these guys are just ridiculous. They’re excessive and egotistical, and ultimately, what they’re doing it all for is just a quarter-pound of pot. Really, we were trying to riff on the careerism of the last 20, 30 years, how everyone’s about headlines and making the self-serving arrests, as opposed to the one that really needs to be made. These guys are the ultimate gross fat cats. We originally had someone in the middle of the scene saying, “We’re only dealing pot, why do they care so much?” And it was so deflating, it took all the stakes out of it, so instead, we saved it for the press conference. I guess in that sense, it was a bit of a parody, because all those cop-buddy movies from the ’80s and ’90s, the Michael Bay ones and the Lethal Weapons, were all so excessive and grandiose. I guess by making that point, we’re parodying the film style as well.
AVC: The flipside of that is that you have Ferrell, whose character is a forensic accountant, tracking down this very real but unsexy, so to speak, crime that no one pays attention to until suddenly all their money is gone. It’s like, “Why didn’t you tell us about this?” “Because you didn’t care.”
AM: Exactly. Our secret ambitious hope was that we could dismiss the car-chase/shootout type of hero, because the real truth is, it’s that guy who caught Bernie Madoff 10 years before he was busted who no one would listen to. That was the guy who was spot-on. That was the real cop. That was the real hero. From all accounts I’ve heard, from people who know him, he’s obnoxious and super-nerdy and not really well-respected, but maybe that guy should be respected. Maybe we need to change our standards of who we think is cool. That guy busted Madoff way early.
AVC: There’s the classic example of Al Capone.
AM: Exactly, you get him through the tax dodge. The way you really stop Al-Qaeda is by stopping their funding. It’s not by carpet-bombing or land invasions or anything.
AVC: You’re obviously politically aware. Have you thought about doing something more directly satirical?
AM: To me, the best film of last year was In The Loop. It was fantastic, just so artful and hilarious. The problem is, though, that there’s such an aggressively apolitical movement in this country that anything that smells of being political—even the term “political” is so ridiculous, when you think about it. The worst part of governing, the political side, is the grossest part, so that’s what they call it. So anything that reeks of that immediately gets tuned out by 70 percent of the population. What’s great about doing these big fat silly comedies—first off, we love comedies. We love to laugh. There’s nothing better to us than that. What’s also great is, you get to do this stuff, and you hit these occasional points like the fact that they blow off the guy who’s in charge of the pension, and it turns out he’s the linchpin, or in Talladega, the fact that Will is doing a half-George Bush the whole time, and it’s really all about America—it’s stuff that doesn’t pop out at you in the movie. You get to do all that stuff, and you’re reaching a much wider audience, and it’s going down in a much more muscular way, as opposed to an intellectual way. And at the same time, people are hopefully getting to laugh their asses off.
That having all being said, we’re actually developing a Lee Atwater script with Jesse Armstrong, one of the writers of In The Loop. I would direct that, and that is pretty overt. Basically, we’re framing Lee Atwater as the guy who was the linchpin of the past 25 years. That guy is immensely important. You look at what he did, he was the one who defeated Dukakis. People forget that Dukakis was 14 points ahead in the polls over Bush senior. By the time he lost, he lost by eight points, and it was all that Willie Horton stuff, the mental-illness insinuations, all this sleazy win-at-all-costs stuff that just became a sort of road map. Atwater was also instrumental in getting Reagan elected. People forget Reagan was struggling until he hit South Carolina in the primaries.
What’s great about that story is, it’s also a really funny story. Lee Atwater is just a large American character, an excellent blues-guitar player, a crazy womanizer, and apparently from everyone that knew him, really funny, without any moral center. That could be a cool one, that is one we’re looking at. I’m thinking about doing The Boys. What got me excited about that is that it’s a perfect example of not presenting to satire in too heavy of a way. It’s a very muscular kind of satire in that it’s superheroes, it’s action, it’s colors, but at the same time, it’s all about “How do we define our heroes? Who really does the good work, and who’s fooling us?” I’m excited about that. It fits in line with what I like to do.
AVC: When you talk about picking the wrong heroes to idolize, one of the reasons Dukakis lost was that he was asked in a debate whether he would support the death penalty if his wife was raped and murdered, and he didn’t give the tough-guy answers. We want the guy who would go out with a claw hammer and beat the guy’s head in.
AM: Another bad one was that tank photo, too. By the way, who the fuck wants a world leader that looks good in a tank? I’d say that’s a criteria, you don’t elect someone who looks good in a tank.
AVC: That’s how you elect Vladimir Putin.
AM: [Laughs.] We were joking one time, my wife and I, when Obama was running: “When is he gonna wear the cowboy hat?” She was like, “What do you mean?” and I said, “If you’re gonna be president of the United States, at one point, you’re wearing a cowboy hat.” Sure enough, a week later there’s a picture of Obama in some dumb cowboy hat, waving, with a dumb smile on his face. It’s the equivalent of “You’ve got to wear a pirate hat to become president. You’ve got to dress up like Spider-Man to become president.” It’s that ridiculous.
AVC: It’s like some sort of hazing ritual.
AM: You can’t find one candidate for president ever who hasn’t had to wear the cowboy hat at one point.
AVC: One of the drawbacks of doing satire through character-driven pieces is that it can cut both ways. One of the things people said about Will Ferrell’s Bush impressions was that they made Bush more likeable, even as he was playing this complete idiot. The same thing with the product placement in Talladega Nights. That was obviously satirizing product placement, but then you’re also putting all these real products in the movie.
AM: With the Bush thing—I know you’re not saying it, but I honestly think it’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. At a point where the entire commercial mainstream media is completely collapsed and has been bought out, where we have no more watchdogs, where our country has gone as extreme to the right as possible, I love that anyone would say a guy who was doing satire on the president would have anything to do with him being elected. It’s utterly ridiculous. I always thought his impression was pretty nasty. And really, the truth of it is, he was going to get elected anyway. And then Fey does Palin, and Palin’s just as ridiculous as G.W. Bush, and she doesn’t get elected, and people say Fey’s thing had something to do with it. So it really just shows how people are a little lost as to how opinions are formed in this country; people don’t kind of get it, so they look for the most obvious examples of it.
Product placement. I think that one, too, you get an immediate burn off of it. I think immediately it’s good for the products, and then in the long run, it ends up making them look like jokes. If you notice, the one product that kind of stayed alive that we did an unpaid endorsement of was Old Spice. Because Old Spice kind of figured out we’re a little bit making fun of them. “Oh, our ads should be tongue in cheek.” Then you notice Old Spice has now become—all their ads are jokes and stuff.
AVC: The Bruce Campbell ads came after that.
AM: Exactly. Exactly. I think they kind of got hip to it. Captain Morgan spiced rum, we used to joke about on SNL, and now they do super tongue-in-cheek ads. It’s smart, because at some point, your product just becomes so Americana that it almost becomes a joke, and it’s better to embrace it. But I wonder how Wonder Bread’s sales are, or Applebee’s. I mean, clearly we were making fun of it. Here’s the beauty of it: It’s so disgusting when it pops up in the movie, and I love it. It’s so gross to see products intrude on stuff, and that was exactly the impact that we wanted. If anyone didn’t get it, then whatever. But nothing makes me laugh harder than cutting to that Applebee’s ad in the last crash, and you just feel violated. [Laughs.]
AVC: One of the things that’s particularly noteworthy in The Other Guys is Mark Wahlberg’s performance.
AM: Yeah, he’s so good, isn’t he?
AVC: Looking over several of the things you’ve done, it seems you like actors who don’t have a history of doing comedy on the screen: Paul Rudd in Anchorman, John C. Reilly in Talladega Nights, and Wahlberg in this movie.
AM: I think a lot of times, you get these guys who have established themselves with kind of a legit rep, and have done serious movies, and—you know the game, it just makes them funnier when you see them turn. It just makes it that much funnier; they’ve earned your trust so much. When a guy like Alec Baldwin starts being funny on SNL, it was first off a pleasant surprise, and just made everything 30 percent funnier. Part of comedy is establishing your own straight line, and your type, and how serious you are with things, in order that you can break them. We were lucky enough to stumble upon John C. Reilly. We had him do the Anchorman read-through. He read Champ Kind, and just made us laugh so hard. And we were like “Holy shit, I had no idea.” I had seen him do some stuff—I mean, he’s hilarious in Boogie Nights. That same kind of thing happened with Wahlberg; I had seen him in Boogie Nights, and then I Heart Huckabees was really the one where I was like, “Oh my God, he’s really funny.” So you kind of keep discovering these people. Richard Jenkins is another one. Richard Jenkins is one of my favorite people to work with. I saw him in Flirting With Disaster, and I was just like, “Who is this guy?” Rudd too. I had no idea. I met Rudd for a drink, he had read the Anchorman script and he insisted I come meet him for a drink, and then he did a great audition. I’m like, “Holy shit, I know him from Clueless.” Lo and behold, the guy’s an amazing improviser, and he’s funny as hell.
So they’re all kind of discoveries, and each time you discover them, it’s always kind of the same reaction: “Oh wow, I didn’t know this.” You’d think I’d learn by now that there are a lot of funny dramatic actors out there. Jon Hamm’s one, too; I guess other people know he’s funny now, but the first time I saw him being funny—I got another one in my back pocket I have to use in a movie: Dylan McDermott. Dylan McDermott is funny, man—like, really, really funny. We’ve tried to use him in stuff, but it hasn’t really worked out, but that’s one that’s just waiting to crack. Have you ever seen him do anything funny? Part of it is that raging alpha-male kind of thing: Right away, you’re halfway to being funny. He’s kind of ridiculously good-looking, and he’s got that deep voice. Adam Scott, who we cast in Step Brothers, has kind of that same thing going.
AVC: Is there any difference, particularly where improv is concerned, with people who don’t come out of a sketch-comedy or stand-up background?
AM: I really learned it on SNL, where I noticed Kevin Spacey, when he hosted. He’s a relatively funny guy, hanging out with him—not any great shakes, just seemed like he’s a great guy. And then when he acted, he suddenly became a great comic. We were all marveling at it, like, “Oh my God, he’s funny. He’s so good.” The rules of good acting mirror the rules of good comedy and good improv in that you listen, you say yes, you play with detail and intelligence, the “yes and” thing, you don’t want to block the scene. So when you get really terrific actors like John C. Reilly, he just goes right in the groove; there’s no break in stride. Wahlberg’s the same thing. He’s a very detailed actor, and he doesn’t push it, and he’s not super-needy. All that translated super-well to playing off of Will. Wahlberg’s got one big thing too, which people underrate with him; he’s really vulnerable. When he’s hurt, he really plays it, it shows onscreen. And that’s a great skill to have as well.
AVC: SNL was a master class in taking anybody who walked in the door and putting them into comic situations.
AM: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. I actually went through it and didn’t put it together. We got to see person after person, and we learned that the best hosts were the people like Steve Forbes and Mayor Giuliani and athletes and super good-looking dudes and high-status people. And then great actors: Julianne Moore was a great host, and Steve Buscemi. So you generally start to see rules for who was good, and who was exciting to work for, and who was meaty.
AVC: Julianne Moore and Richard Jenkins, who you mentioned earlier, have both had small but memorable roles in Coen brothers movies. It takes a real level of skill to hold that heightened pitch for an entire movie.
AM: It’s true, isn’t it?
AVC: They can hit levels even a lot of dramatic actors can’t really get at.
AM: It’s really a kind of fine line, operating in a state of slightly tweaked satirical drama. Frances McDormand is the master of it. It’s like half a percentage heightened. It’s a really kind of weird level that they always have in their movies, and you’re absolutely right, there’s few people that can pull it off.
AVC: It feels like there’s less improv in this movie than there is in your earlier ones. Is that true?
AM: That’s true. It’s just because of the story, and the action. There are certain beats you can only goof around with so much. When it comes to the action, I’ll get them in the back seat of the car and I’ll run through a couple takes and get extra lines, but basically they’re crashing into vans, and hopefully I’m playing a cool song and it looks decent enough. Then there’s the shootout, and I actually just wanted that to look cool. Then you can tell, any time we get to a scene where people are sitting around and talking, we burn film.
AVC: In terms of putting together a feature, you want to have some sort of continuity of tone. How does that square with giving actors the freedom to improvise?
AM: I got into a little bit of trouble with it at the beginning of Step Brothers, because they did such funny shit at that dinner table, and I couldn’t resist some of it. It was just so funny to me, and then afterward I was like “I should have held back a little bit there, I should have had more of a build to it.” Like when Will cries at the dinner table off of him saying, “Last time I heard that, I fell off my dinosaur,” and just genuinely breaks down in tears, it just made me laugh so hard. But looking back on it, it was probably a little too much for that point in the film. So you do need to be careful, because there’s an overall tone you’re trying to build, and there’s a time when the audience is a little bit more comfortable with the world, that you can cut loose a little bit more. So it is a tricky thing, you do kind of have to watch it. And with my editor, we’ve gotten into discussions, you know, “I know it’s funny, but I don’t think you can do it here, I think it does more damage for later in the film.” Step Brothers was probably the trickiest of all of the films we’ve done, because there was so much improv, and so much funny stuff. But there was a little subtle build to the beginning of that movie, and I do feel like we betrayed it a bit in that dinner scene; I think things got a little too crazy there. But obviously once you get 10 minutes into that movie; all bets are off. You’re in pure insane land.
AVC: The premise that Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are both grown adults with the inner lives of 10-year-olds is so purely absurd.
AM: Exactly. It was designed to be our craziest movie, so it’s odd that that would be the example where I think we should have shown more restraint. So it’s tricky, you have to watch it. But at the same time, it’s a great problem to have, to be in that edit room and have 30 or 40 options in each of the crucial parts of the movie.
AVC: Anchorman is so loose in terms of structure that you can make room for things like the Gangs Of New York takeoff that comes completely out of left field.
AM: We had the biggest gift in that movie, which is that anchorman tone of voice. That self-seriousness was the greatest sort of streamline you could have. He was always in a tie, and he was always speaking in a commanding voice, so as nuts as we got, it just went back to that. People think of the TV-news world—well, I don’t think they think of it like that any more—but they used to think of it as so legitimate and professional, and Broadcast News, and Mary Tyler Moore. Now of course most people know it’s kind of a joke. But that streamline gave us a ton of freedom in that movie just to go insane. It was our first movie, too. We were sort of overflowing with ideas.
AVC: Speaking of overflowing ideas, you’re involved through Gary Sanchez Productions, your company with Will Ferrell, with a tremendous amount of different projects. How do you keep track, and how does your level of involvement differ?
AM: Here’s how it works. I learned after a couple of tough times that you’ve got to work with really good people. I’m sure that’s the answer to that question for anyone on planet Earth. Eastbound & Down, the truth is, Jody Hill, David Gordon Green, and Danny McBride are just wicked smart, wicked talented. The first season, we did more hands-on work because we were building the show; we were more involved in the rewrites, and I shot an episode. But this time around, they hit the ground running, and our company, Gary Sanchez, we have Chris Henchy, who sort of runs the company, Kevin Messick, who’s one of the best film producers in town; Owen Burke, who’s amazing. Even our assistants—my assistant is wicked funny and a really good writer. So Chris was more overseeing Eastbound & Down, telling me what was going on; I saw some dailies, and they were spot-on, so I didn’t have to do as much on that. With The Virginity Hit, we had these two amazing filmmakers, Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland; we would give them notes and they would do our notes better than we even meant them, so that made that very doable.
So the only time you get into any trouble is when you go down a road, and it isn’t quite working; the people we picked are struggling a little, and you have to come in and help a bit more. There have been some crazy times with that, where suddenly it’s like, “I gotta go hole up for four days and rewrite an entire script.” But for the most part, the people we work with are so good, it isn’t that crazy. The same thing happened with FunnyOrDie.com. We were basically hands-on with that company every single day for a year and a half. And then we hired Andrew Steele, who in my opinion is one of the funniest writers you’re going to find anywhere. And then Mike Ferrell, who literally is like a caged badger, he has so much energy. The two of those guys just came in, and they just built this amazing writing staff. The world that they’ve built down there is has expanded more than we could ever do, and I trust those guys completely. That’s what’s kind of allowed us to do more and more.
Kevin Messick’s an amazing film producer, and is producing Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters. I’ve been giving notes on the script, but it’s more of a pleasure, is what it is. This guy Tommy Wirkola going to direct. He did Dead Snow. It’s fantastic. So he’s doing that. So it’s more fun. It’s like, I get to go hang out with Tommy Wirkola for an hour or two and talk about Hansel and Gretel killing witches with pump-action shotguns. And at the same time, I know he’s crazy talented. He’s got a complete handle on it; all I can do is maybe give him a little extra in that case. So that’s when it’s all running correctly—it just becomes a pleasure, all of it. You’re like, “Oh my God, I love this movie. How great it is to hang out with Danny McBride and watch his first cut, and give a note or two?” So that’s how we get away with it. We’ve built this group, and we all trust each other, and know that none of us are going to make flagrantly bad decisions. The other rule we operate on is “Never do anything for money.” Always have it be that you are excited about what you’re doing and you think it can be cool. You never go wrong on that either, because then it’s never work. You’re always excited about what is happening.