Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ON WHAT MAKES ZACH GALIFIANAKIS LIKE HARPO MARX AND THE COOKIE MONSTER: John Landis, Judd Apatow, Adam McKay, Todd Phillips and Edgar Wright talk comedy with GQ, including Landis' story of how Richard Pryor helped get Animal House released after the studio objected to the Dexter Lake Club scene. A slightly NSFW excerpt after the fold:
Landis: What I loved about The Hangover is that Zach's character is obviously mentally ill. I loved that he roofied them and they sort of get over it. They're not mad at him. It reminded me of John Belushi in Animal House. All he does is destroy everything—but he's lovable! It's like Cookie Monster or Harpo Marx. I mean what the fuck's with Harpo Marx? He's the weirdest character ever. What's he going to do with those women when he catches them?

Apatow: He's gonna gently make love to them.

McKay: That's the Third Lead, which is the best comic position you can have. Todd used Ferrell like that in Old School. We had it with Steve Carell in Anchorman. It's the guy who gets to break all the rules. He has no story responsibility. He just gets to fuck shit up.

Phillips: What's interesting about all of those guys—Belushi included—is that they have this face—a kind of sweetness to them. It's like they could say or do anything because their eyes are really innocent. Zach had this line in The Hangover where he says he's not allowed within 200 feet of a school. Zach and I talked about that line a lot and, you know, it's not because of what you think. It's because he wants to hang out and skateboard with the 12-year-olds.

25 comments:

  1. I love the concept of the Third Lead and want to think of other examples: Bill Murray in Caddyshack; Curtis Armstrong in Revenge of the Nerds, McLovin in Superbad ...

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  2. Jason Mewes in Clerks.

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  3. Frank Drebin in Airplane. In "The Other Guys," everyone is a Third Lead, and it somehow works.

    So it will be interesting whether Galifianakis can move from "Third Lead" to "Wacky Sidekick" playing the same character in that Robert Downey movie coming out.

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  4. Leslie Nielsen in Airplane. 

    TV versions are easier:  Barney Stinson.  Kramer.  Jeff in Coupling.  Agnes DiPesto in Moonlighting.  Dan Fielding (if you assume that Markie Post is #2).  Carla Tortelli.

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  5. Jinx Gobo.

    Separately, the editing on that interview is great, with a marvelous punchline.

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  6. Kramer, sure.  Not sure if all of the rest are quite absurdist/anarchic enough to fit within this framework as I understand it.  Dwight Schrute and Tracy Jordan, however?

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  7. Derek Smalls in This Is Spinal Tap.  The New Main Street Singers in A Mighty Wind.  (Mitch and Mickey would be First Lead, The Folkmen Second Lead.)   Fred Willard's character in Best in Show, though second lead would have to be everybody except him and Eugene Levy. 

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  8. 這一生中有多少人擦肩而過?而朋友是多麼可貴啊!......................................................................

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  9. Anonymous10:43 AM

    Cartman in South Park (at least in the first few seasons).

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  10. Marsha10:49 AM

    Arguably, Stephen Stucker (and Leon's getting LAAAAAAAAR-ger) is the Third Lead in Airplane. He's probably more like a Fifth Lead, but he's certainly the anarchic non-sequiter machine.

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  11. Joseph J. Finn11:23 AM

    So who's Third Lead in Tropic Thunder?  Danny McBride combined with Nick Nolte?

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  12. Les Grossman.

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  13. Joseph J. Finn12:01 PM

    (I almost wanted to go with Steve Coogan, but I still feel slightly guilty for how hard I laughed at his fate in the movie.)

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  14. kd bart1:11 PM

    The Hanson Brothers in Slap Shot.

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  15. kd bart1:15 PM

    John Candy as Dewey Oxenberger in Stripes.

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  16. Seems like Hollywood often attempts to promote an actor from 'third lead' status to 'box office draw' prematurely. Just cause audiences enjoy a certain actor in a small role, doesn't mean that actor is lead material.

    Other than Harpo, has any actor accepted a career 'third lead' status without mistakenly trying to make the leap to 2nd banana or lead?

    Jane Lynch comes to mind, anyone else?

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  17. I am tempted to say Bronson Pinchot, but I know that's wrong. 

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  18. Joseph J. Finn3:40 PM

    Audrey Meadows?<span> </span>

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  19. Michael Winslow.

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  20. I would say Kristen Wiig, but MacGruber refutes that.

    The thing is that lots of people do make the jump from third lead to second banana or lead: Bill Murray, John Belushi, Steve Carell, Seth Rogen.  The fact that Michael Richards (and perhaps Zach Galifianakis) shouldn't have doesn't mean that the Third Lead is a deadend and the promotion of the Third Lead is a bad idea.

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  21. The Mutt6:06 PM

    It's the third heat! Like Tracy Jordon.

    The third lead is a vital to comedy, especially film comedy. The first and second leads have to relate to each other and move the plot and stuff. The third lead gets to lob grenades.

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  22. And Hollywood makes truckloads of money from those movies.  The actors don't have a lot of startup cost, so low risk/high reward.  Studios aren't going to stop trying to create comedy franchises anytime soon.  

    (After rewatching Role Models recently, I did wonder why Lynch isn't opening a movie yet.)  

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  23. Hobart10:55 PM

    I particularly love the studios response that they now have three people to hang a movie on, which is incredibly ridiculous because none of those three work as a lead.  Bradley Cooper's pretty much Ryan Reynolds but a bit more likeable, Galifinakis is just a bit too out there to carry anything and much as I love him Ed Helms has made a career out of pretty much literally being the poor man's Steve Carell.  Maybe he can make the jump (I think he's definitely talented enough) but to assume he can open a movie is beyond ridiculous.

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  24. No, Cooper is Matthew McConaughey v2.0 -- he just hasn't done his A Time To Kill yet.

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  25. Anonymous12:35 PM

    Ken Jeong

    --bd

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