By Karen Posada
ShowBizCafe.com was very excited to get invited to Grand Rapids, Michigan back in September 2010, where we spent a chunk of the nighttime in a scrap yard seeing the cast of ’30 Minutes or Less’ film a couple of pretty neat scenes. A few of us film junkies were picked up at our hotel by 7pm the day we arrived and were taken to a secret location to see Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Michael Peña and Dilshad Vadsaria making the movie directed by Ruben Fleischer with Ben Stiller as an executive producer.
The action/comedy is set to come out in theaters on August 12, 2011. The plot: Nick (Eisenberg) a pizza delivery guy who has no real goals set for himself in life is forced to get himself together when two small time robbers (McBride & Swardson) make him rob a bank; making Nick realize how much life has to offer. Chet (Ansari) his best friend comically helps him along the way and the final push is given when the love of his life (Vadsaira) is put at risk, in the meantime, Peña is given a task to accomplish from the bad guys themselves. This is a dream team, with Eisenberg’s silly/serious comedy skits, McBride & Swardson’s jokes bouncing from one to the other, Ansari & Peña’s nonchalant crazy behavior and Vadsaria’s beauty this is set to be a good laugh out loud comedy with bits of good action.
When we arrived on the set we walked to the scrap yard where we got to see the main character, Nick, struggling to keep his cool as a bomb attached to him is about to explode and he’s trying to get the main lady to safety (since she plays the damsel in distress). We hear the bad guys who are dressed in monkey suits (to avoid getting recognized) screaming, cursing and making jokes as poor Nick tries to man up to the situation. Fleischer takes various shots of this scene, from different angles, distances and even let’s the actors play with their own lines to make their own script as they ease into character. In another scene we see a struggle between the bad guys dressed in monkey suits and Michael Peña. It was a cool, clear summer night and the lights on the set cast beautiful shadows off of the mountains of scrap metal set around the lot; there’s even some fake metal deer, computers and funky machinery. We were quiet on set and could see from the camera and a TV set up close to us how the scene plays out. Vadsaira’s screams are loud as are the laughs of McBride & Swardson (the bad guys), Eisenberg’s character breathes nervously and tries to find the right words as cool sweat fills his forehead. We got to interview the entire cast along with the director and the props, visual effects, stunt coordinator and special effects guys. After a great buffet dinner we got to see the coolest thing of all, a flame thrower getting used! It was the first time it was being used on set by Swardson, you must have been able to see that thing from space; that’s how big the flame was.
Here’s some of the stuff the cast & director got to tell us:
Jesse Eisenberg‘s character is closer to what he was in “Zombieland” than on the “Facebook movie”, although here he looks more grown up and mature. Eisenberg cautiously and kindly approached us as we bombarded him with questions late in the night.
ShowBizCafe (SBC): What was it like working with Ruben(director) once again and how was it compared to Zombieland?
Jesse Eisenberg (JE): It was great! Ruben has a great kind of sense of how to create a comedic movie and not compromise the characters and he does that really well. I mean the tone of the movie is a little bit different from Zombieland since this is set in more of a real world context, in that movie for my character was more heightened comedy, here my character is pretty straightforward. The comedy in this is a little less winking to the audience, Zombieland constantly was playing on the absurdity of the real characters whereas this movie is genuinely scary in a real way. The stakes in this movie are legitimately high and the character, at least Aziz and my character are real world characters.
SBC: can you tell us about the toughest scene to make and about the love story in this film?
JE: Every scene kind of has some challenge logistically. I’m wearing this bomb throughout the whole movie, but as I said, the movie kind of takes place in this very real world setting, so it’s occasionally been challenging because there’s so much action and there’s also so many things that are comedic elements in the movie but it’s my job to kind of maintain the emotional honesty. At the risk of being pretentious, that’s my job, so that’s occasionally challenging. The love part, I’ve been in love with my best friend’s twin sister; I’ve spent the last several years not doing anything important in my life and never taking control of my life so one of the things that the bomb does is allow me to…
SBC: What do you have coming up after this movie?
JE: I’m not sure. I have a lot of publicity engagements(for the Facebook movie, which was coming out then) which last until like October and then I’m trying to do a play in New York City. I write stage plays.
The director, Ruben Fleischer, made sure to give us a full run down on what we were seeing, showing us pictures and sketches of the scenes and explaining to us how certain things work; such as the flame thrower and car chases. He also spoke about the freedom he gives actors with their lines and their characters.
SBC: How much liberty do you give the actors and how are you able to control that at a certain point?
RF: We work together,
SBC: Besides the entertainment factor, would you like the audience to get something else out o the film?
RF: The theme of the movie is: Jesse plays this pizza delivery guy who just sits on his couch and has let life pass him by, he’s kind of never really done anything and when he’s faced with the circumstances of the bomb he’s forced to prioritize. He essentially has one day to live, so it forces him to get off his ass and do something and also to tell the girl he’s always loved how he feel and finally to be real with his best friend about some sh*t he’s never talked about.
Danny McBride and Nick Swardson make up a necessary component of the film. They seemed to also have formed a tight friendship outside of the film as we interview the two together behind the cameras and they continued to finish each other’s jokes.
SBC: What kind of bad guys are you?
NS: We are almost like dumb and dumber bad guys, we’re not pure evil. We are just bored and don’t know what to do with our lives.
DM: I don’t know, we are motherf*&*ers in this thing. We’re making some bad choices but we have goals and ambitions, you know. Maybe people will root for us, we wanna change the world; we want to create the first tanning salon where guys get…
SBC: Talk to us a little about your improv skits and freedom.
NS: well they let us improvise a lot, we definitely got the scripts as much as we could but we were given free reign to add stuff and whatever. We have to stay in check though, it’s bad because when I look at Danny and when I look at Jesse, and Jesse cracks up and it’s just like I’m susceptible to it.
DM: The cool thing about working with Nick is he isn’t like one of the improvisers, you are just doing like stand up comedy in the scene. We never take it too far off the page, the scene is always what it’s about and we’ll just try to come up with different ways to spit the jokes out.
NS: Yeah, you don’t’ want to be self-indulgent. You want to make sure to stay in character, it’s not just us doing fart jokes in the middle of a drive-by shooting.
DM: That’s not to say that there aren’t.
NS: There are. But, it’s in the context (laughs)
SBC: What brought you to this project and what projects do you guys have coming up? Danny you have a noir detective movie with Jody Hill, when’s that coming out?
DM: For me it just seemed like a cool project and I liked everyone involved so you just kind of make time for the things you want to do. You know Diliberti and Sullivan, the same guys who wrote L.A.P.I., it’s kind of a throwback to movies like The Long Goodbye and Chinatown, yeah it’s a noir/comedy, Jody and I are both very tired. We’ve had long years. I don’t know what the booking is, but it probably won’t be until next year.
NS: My reason for this project was perfect timing, I just finished a romantic comedy in June so it was perfect timing to jump into something completely different. I have a show coming out in October, a sketch show; so it was a perfect window before doing press for that. The sketch is called Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time, it will be on Comedy Central; just more filth in the airwaves.
We also caught up with the co-star Aziz Ansari; so we continued on with the comedic strike as he spoke to us as he spoke us about his character in this film along with some of his more known characters.
SBC: Tell us about your character in this film and about some of the action you got to be a part of.
AA: Well my character is just a guy whose best friend is given this impossible situation and they have a rough time in the begging because he confessed to being in love with his twin sister and they are forced into this situation when they are robbing a bank together.
SBC: What are some of your favorite movies?
AA: When I was growing up my favorites, the ones that I watched all the time, I mean I watched comedies and stuff but the movies I watched all the time were Die Hard and Terminator 2, like the classic 80’s, 90’s action movies. In this movie there is a thing where these guys like Lethal Weapon a lot…so i brought that out in my personality, so I was like this guy must really be into action movies like Point Break and Terminator 2 and Die hard, like those are his favorite movies.
SBC: We heard you are working on writing with Danny, can you tell us about that and about the Randy movie?
Finally, we got to ask Michael Peña on his take on the movie and on his character.
SBC: What’s your character like?
MP: He’s a professional assassin, or at least he thinks he is. Along the movie though it is proven he’s not. a little bit like someone I know from Chicago who’s always in and out of the pen and he loves Scarface, the Good fellas and the Godfather he always talks like them and is always quoting them. He has a partner who is a stripper, she’s the one that basically sets me up with the other bad guys and we have a romantic scene.
SBC: How have you balanced the comedy and action in the film?
MP: It’s been interesting to me, because when I did Observe and report, like you knew you were doing the comedy and I was kind of the bad guy for that, this one is interesting because you have to do a little bit of drama…some of the scenes are more like drama the other ones you can
After a long night on set we were greeted off by the viewing of the flame thrower and left the cast to continue working into the wee hours of the morning. We had a chance to explore Grand Rapids the next day and even got to sneak into one of the museums across our hotel. This set visit gave us a pretty intimate look into the making of this film as well as the people involved in it. It definitely has all the ingredients to entertain with it’s action and comedy, we look forward to seeing the outcome.