John Hamburg, director of recent hit I Love You, Man, cult fave Safe Men and better-left-undiscussed Along Came Polly (as well of co-author of all the Focker movies) was shilling for the release of his latest DVD. He's quick and funny and was one of the more playful phone interviews I've had for quite some time.
Here are excerpts of our conversation:
What is Geddy Lee like?
I am happy to say he’s a down-to-earth, funny and cool. . . dad. And rocker. He's awesome - he lives in Toronto and is a family man, he's into comedy and his kids are, too, and he's a pleasure. And I was thrilled that he and his daughter were able to come to the premiere. It's funny, because movie people aren't really that interested in meeting other movie people, but you introduce them to a rock star and they become teenaged girls at a Jonas Brothers concert. All these big actors and producers and big shots were all flipping out, “Ohmigod! That's Geddy Lee!”
And particularly Geddy Lee, because you expect him to land in the Cygnus X-1 space ship.
Yes, you expect him to have Eye of Newt and put a spell on you. But, no, he's just an awesome guy. It's funny, I grew up loving Rush and I wrote them into the movie, and you never know how if they're gonna be all right with it . . .
Did you have a backup plan if they or their people said, “no thank you, we'd prefer not to be involved.”
No. Never. It was always, “it's gotta' be Rush.”
That is pretty ballsy, John, because you never know if someone just isn't interested, even if the project is cool. And the fact of the matter is, much of the movie's plot hinges on Rush. Jason Siegel and Paul Rudd, the thing that brings them together, is the love of Rush, and then their bond grows from there, but that is the “instigating event” as they say in screenwriting class. You'd'a been up the creek if the band wasn't having it.
Somehow. . .I just don't think it would have worked with Journey.
When you make a movie, you have to be crazily determined. And then in hindsight you realize that you probably should have had a list of five other bands, but at the time it was “it's going to be Rush” and that was it.
What is your favorite Rush album?
I hate to say the cliché, but it's the truth: Moving Pictures.
(slightly disappointed) All right.
I'm a simple man. But I love it all. . .I mean, so many great songs. There's “The Trees,” “Spirit of Radio,” there's -
I heard a rumor you wanted to adapt “The Trees” into a feature film.
Yeah, I am proud to announce, for the first time, that I am in talks with Daniel Day-Lewis and we'll have something off the ground. . .
He will play The Oak?
Who will play The Maple? If you had to cast “The Trees.”
Yeah, well - these are great questions, by the way, and is really helping promote the DVD release of I Love You, Man.
We'll get to that in a second, don't evade! Who would play The Maple in John Hamburg's adaptation of “The Trees?”
Probably, Ving Rhames.
Okay, so you mention the DVD. Lots of people saw I Love You, Man in the theater, now you want them to spend again and buy the DVD. What will they get for their dollar?
Well, for better or for worse - I think for better - I shot a LOT of film on this movie. Luckily, I had some of the funniest people working in the cast. So we have a ton of improv that didn't make it to the final cut. So you get a TON of extras with characters that you, hopefully, already like. Lots of stuff with Favreau and Jaime Pressly. There's a blooper reel of Rudd just trying to get through one line and just unable to do it without breaking -
That's always fun. I'll watch that on any DVD. There's never anything better than that.
You know what? It's cliché, I know, but it is fun. It's enjoyable. And lots of other scenes. A gay bowling league with Andy Samburg - there's an hour and a half of extra, fun stuff here. And also a window into the process - to see how there's a line in the final film, but when we shot there were 30 other versions. And for Rush fans, there's a full performance of “Limelight,” which is awesome.
Well, I am a fan of the film, and its success, of course, is that you like hanging out with these characters, but I must be bold with you for a moment. I have a bone to pick and my voice must be heard.
Okay, let's hear it.
Jason Siegel's character, he's cool and we want him to be our best friend, but what is up with his inability to clean up after his dog? I was NOT on board with this. I thought it was irresponsible and obnoxious. What is your comment?
(breathes deeply) All right, well, I like that you are coming at me with this. And you are not the first, by the way. Here's the deal: he's an individual. He's confident in his philosophy on life. And he's a bit of a back to nature guy - you know - 30 years ago, 100 years ago, you didn't clean up after your dog. . . I mean, there's problems with this philosophy, but he has the courage of his convictions. Plus, I needed him to confront a big muscular guy, and this helped me get to that.
Love me, love my stink.
It comes from character. It wasn't just to do a gross-out joke. He's got a philosophy behind it, because he is a thinker.
That's a reasonable response.
Jordan, you are a gentleman and a scholar.
Lou Ferrigno - can you make Hulk jokes around him?
All the time. We had an outtake when he shouted “Hulk Smash!” at one point during the wedding scene. He gets it. He knows he played muscular green dude on TV.
Will you go on record to say that your use of Ferrigno defeats The Hangover's use of Mike Tyson?
I will not go on record. I will say let the audience decide. Both are excellent uses of extremely large, muscular men.
I hear a rumor that Schwarzenegger is on board for I Love You, Man 2. This is correct?
Yes, Schwarzenegger is on board for I Still Love You, Man and we're ironing out the details now.
Awesome. Quite the scoop.
Only for you.
In all sincerity, I know you wrote or are writing the script for Little Fockers, the third in that series. Is that shooting yet?
Yeah, I re-wrote the script. Larry Stuckey wrote the original draft and I am working on it, literally now. I live in New York but I am in Los Angeles right now having meetings about it.
Will Babs [Barbra Striesand a/k/a Jonah Hex's stepmother] return?
I am just the screenwriter on this one so I can neither confirm nor deny anything.
Well, you can confirm if you are writing dialogue for her character.
I am definitely - I am - let's say it this way. Everyone from the first two movies will, knock on wood, be back. All the main players.
Do you know what you plan to direct yet?
Been too busy with Little Fockers. In the fall is when I'll roll up my sleeves and figure that out.
And it will be a comedy?
Actually. . . you know. . .I'm thinking it will be more like The Reader.
Okay, okay. . .
You know I saw that and thought this is the direction I should take my career. So, The Reader. . .but funny! No, no - there are some contenders for what I want to do, still stewing on it, and I'll be figuring it out soon.
Last question - Favreau - was he in his trailer between takes doing the storyboards for Iron Man 2?
No, he was counting his money from Iron Man 1. No, literally, Iron Man was released on Friday and he started working with us on Monday. He wasn't yet into Iron Man 2, but was still enjoying the ride of having directed the most critically respected big box office movie of that season.
And I've known Jon a very long time, and that kind of success can, you know, change a person, but he was and is such a great, fun guy.
Probably lucky for him he was in a working environment, otherwise, yeah, who knows how that kind of success and amount of ass-kissing can change someone.
Yeah - he says that. He says this in the making of on the DVD. He jokes about finishing Iron Man and coming to the set of this tiny little movie and I'm like, Favreau, it is Dreamworks and Paramount, come on. So it's funny. He's one of the funniest folks I know.
I Love You, Man is out on Blu-ray and DVD on August 11.