After being left on the doorstep of an orphanage run by nuns, newborns Moe, Larry and Curly grow up under the tutelage of Mother Superior (Jane Lynch), Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David) and Sister Rosemary (Jennifer Hudson) in The Three Stooges. Now adults (and played by Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso), they set out to save their childhood home, but quickly become embroiled in an oddball murder plot (at the hands of Sofia Vergara and Craig Bierko), with all of the pratfalls and slapstick comedy that they’re famous for.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Chris Diamantopoulos talked about what it was like to embody Moe, how he got the role after a four-and-a-half-month-long auditioning process, the moment when he felt like he had really found the character, his most memorable moment on set as The Stooges, how he dislocated his shoulder and broke a finger doing their various pratfalls, what made filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly the right guys to bring The Three Stooges back to life, and the two hours of deleted bits that could end up on the DVD. He also talked about his role on the NBC comedy series Up All Night (starring Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph), who he plays in the heist comedy The Black Marks (with Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon), and how he would love to do a James Bond type of action-drama. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Collider: What was it like to embody Moe, every day during filming?
CHRIS DIAMANTOPOULOS: We put so much work, effort and care into recreating the comedy stylings of a trio that, for me personally, represents the better part of the first 15 years of my life. I was obsessed with The Stooges. To answer your question, it was the most fun I’ve ever had, in my life. Professionally, for 15 weeks, I got to do something that, if someone had told me, when I was a child, “One day, you’re going to be Moe in The Three Stooges movie,” even as an 8-year-old who has an imagination and would think, “Yeah, sure!,” I would have said, “What the hell are you talking about?!”
It was so much fun, and just so amazing to see The Stooges coming back to life. It was great. We had a blast! I have an 18-month-old little boy and the only thing that calms him down in the high chair, so he can sit and eat, is The Three Stooges. I watch him watching it and I remember how I felt when I watched and then would perform the shorts for my family. The Stooges used to be ubiquitous, back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They were on TV all the time, but they’re not on so much anymore. Kids aren’t getting the chance to watch them, not to mention the fact that kids don’t really necessarily relate to black-and-white stuff.
This is an opportunity for us to give back, in the way that Moe, Larry and Curly did. They played characters. They weren’t playing themselves. We’re simply taking those characters and we’re putting them back up there. It was a real honor to do it, and just so much fun and, my god, what an insane amount of work.
How did you come to be a part of the film? Did you have to go through a crazy auditioning process?
DIAMANTOPOULOS: Well, you know, I’m not a comedian. I’m what you call a good, old-fashioned working actor who has had delusions of grandeur for my entire career and has known what I want to do, but there’s a lot going on out there. There are a lot fewer films being made and there’s a lot of competition. It’s just a matter of plugging away, keeping your head down and doing good work. When I heard about The Stooges movie, my first instinct was pretty much most people’s first instinct, which was to denigrate and say, “That’s gonna suck! Hollywood ruins everything. I love The Stooges!”
It was my wife who said, “Why don’t you audition for it? You love The Stooges.” I was like, “Oh, my god, I haven’t watched The Stooges in over a decade.” She said, “You should find out about the auditions.” And, sure enough, they were opening it up to actors and saying, “Come in for Moe, Larry or Curly.” I said, “I wouldn’t even know where to start. When I used to do them, I used to do them as a trio.” And my wife was like, “No, you’re type-A. You’re Moe, for sure.” So, I started thinking about it and playing around in the mirror. I had never, ever taken my Stooge knowledge and fascination seriously. I never thought it would come in handy, that I probably know three dozen of their shorts by heart. It was just useless knowledge that I never thought would ever come into play. I ordered the DVDs because I didn’t have them and hadn’t seen them in forever, and I stood in front of the mirror and, in about five minutes, I realized, “Holy shit, this is weird. I haven’t forgotten anything. And, yeah, Moe is the one, for sure.”
I thought, “But, I look so nothing like him.” And, they made a note of saying, “Don’t come in costume because this is a modern take on The Stooges.” No one knew what they were talking about, but I thought, “Screw that! I can’t not. I’ve gotta look like Moe, in order to be Moe.” So, I went and bought a wig and I cut it, and I went to a foam store and built myself a little padded fat suit because I have long legs and I’m lean and Moe was a lot more squat than I am, and I got an old suit. I even wrote out a scene because the scene they had me doing was just one page long and I didn’t think it was enough to showcase Moe. I pretty much broke any rule that any actor should follow. You don’t rewrite the script, you don’t show up in character, and you don’t go in desperate. But, I thought, “You know what? Screw it! I really care about this. The worst thing that can happen is that they laugh me out of the room, and it wouldn’t be the first time.”
So, I went, I did my audition, and they liked what I did. I asked if I could do the other scene, and they let me do the other scene, and they liked what I did. And then, over the course of four and a half months, I auditioned over 10 times, and I mourned the role a couple of times, too. People were talking about Benicio [Del Toro], they were talking about Johnny Knoxville, and they were talking about Hank Azaria – all good guys, all amazing actors, and all right for different reasons. Actors never argue why someone would be right for the role. My hat goes off to all of them for how good they are. But, I knew, deep down inside, no matter how good anyone was, as an actor, I had to play Moe. I’m not kidding. I had to play Moe. I just knew it. And, it doesn’t happen this way, but it did. I got the part.
What was the moment you felt like you had really found Moe? Was it before shooting started? Was it when you got into the costume and wig? What was it that really made it click for you?
DIAMANTOPOULOS: That’s a fantastic question! I videotaped myself before each audition, so that I could play it back and see how close I was to Moe. With my first audition, I remember thinking, in a cocky way, “This is it! I’ve got it! This is Moe!” But, when I look back, after the 10 auditions, and into what I actually did in the movie, thank god I had time to work on it and nuance it and figure it out. My first take on Moe was just a sketch. It was drawn in chalk. It took time. It took the understanding of every facial nuance and every physical nuance, the body, the posture, where the voice is placed on different words, different intonations, when the eyebrow is raised, how he smiles, how he laughs, how he chews, how he walks, what he would hold a utensil with, which hand he was more willing to hit someone with, how he would necessarily go about a situation. It turned into this entire lexicon of Moe-ism, and then, ultimately, it just became intrinsic.
Do you have any particularly memorable moments of the three of you being on set together?
DIAMANTOPOULOS: There are a slew of them. One of them that was really funny was, in our introduction in the movie, we’re sleeping together, but we didn’t really talk about it. It often happened that we wouldn’t really talk about what ended up happening, we were just all in the Stooge mode. So, we got into bed and we were doing the camera rehearsal, and I started out with a deep, low snore, Sean [Hayes] did a whistle, and Will [Sasso] made a noise. It just happened. We literally fell out of the bed laughing because it was so ludicrous that, without speaking about it, three adults knew exactly what they were doing when they laid down in bed together to do the sleeping scene. There was no stage direction. It was just really, really funny. I don’t know if I should tell you this because it’s a secret, but Sean couldn’t get the whistle the way he wanted it, and (screenwriter) Mike Cerrone, who is a Stooge fanatic, has this phenomenal whistle. If you really pay attention to the movie, it comes into play, in many different sections. So, Mike hid under the bed and would hear me snore, and he would do his whistle. It’s this phenomenal whistle that’s not even looped in. It’s actually Mike, under the bed, doing it. It’s fantastic!
Did you enjoy getting to do all of these pratfalls, or did you have some unfortunate mishaps?
DIAMANTOPOULOS: Yeah, I dislocated my shoulder and broke my finger. I dislocated my shoulder during a scene, and had to re-enter the scene and slap Curly. We finished, and then, that night, I went to the hospital. And, I broke my finger, trying to poke Larry in the eyes. He lifted a board in front of me and I poked the board. I was going so full-throttle that I completely snapped my finger. But, I loved it. Sean was icing his jaw, every other hour, and I was icing every part of my body. I had to ice my hands because it would hurt so much when I would slap the guys. But, it was so much fun! I was a kid in a candy store. I hope that I get to do at least 200 more features like this. In terms of other acting work, it will be fabulous. I’m not a comedian, I’m an actor. But, it’s going to be pretty hard to find something that can compare to doing Stooges, the first time out. That was something really special for me.
Was it ever difficult not to crack up, working with Jane Lynch, Larry David and Jennifer Hudson in nun habits?
DIAMANTOPOULOS: Larry made me laugh, almost every time he was in a scene. All of them were hilarious. Actually, Sofia [Vergara] made us laugh to the point where we couldn’t breathe, especially with the added thing of English being her second language. She is actually quite brilliant and really, really smart. I’ll never forget, someone was visiting the set and said, “So, Sofia, do you play the femme fatale in this movie?,” and her response was, “No, I’m playing a scientist.” I just thought that was so frigging awesome! She was like, “What do you think I’m playing?! Of course, I’m playing the beautiful woman!” That was pretty awesome! And, Larry David made me laugh a lot. What made me laugh the most was that he wanted to see us as Moe, Larry and Curly, so if I was in costume and talked as myself, he was like, “That’s creepy! I don’t want to see that.” And, Jane is just ridiculously funny. She plays a little bit more of a straight character in the movie, but there are a couple of lines that she does with such a real, honest delivery that they’re just unbelievably funny. She’s really, really good.
Are there a lot of deleted scenes and extras that could end up on the DVD?
DIAMANTOPOULOS: I don’t know, maybe two hours worth. There were so many bits that we came up with, that the movie just didn’t have time for. I’m actually sad. When I saw the film, I loved the film, but there are those things that you fall in love with when you’re shooting them. There are entire homages to bits that The Stooges did, almost physically verbatim, that we weren’t able to put in the movie. Hopefully, those will end up on the DVD.
What do you think made Peter and Bobby Farrelly the right guys to bring The Three Stooges back to life?
DIAMANTOPOULOS: They’re such cool guys. I’ve never met a director like either of them. The best way I can describe them is that they’re like the nicest soccer coaches you’ve ever met. They’re both sincere, sweet guys, who really want everybody to be comfortable, feel good, be happy and have a great time, on a personal level. Their set is run like a family. On a professional level, I didn’t think I could meet two guys that loved The Stooges as much as I did, and cared as much about The Stooges as I did. When I met them and they started talking about what The Stooges meant to them and their childhood, I knew that the movie was in the right hands. Of course, I’ve been a fan of their work, so I knew that, from a technical perspective, the movie would be in the right hands because the guys are gifted comic directors. But, from the perspective that this subject matter is near and dear to millions upon millions of people, around the world, I knew we were in good hands.
Do you have any idea what you’re going to do next?
DIAMANTOPOULOS: I have this great part on this NBC show, called Up All Night, with Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett and Christina Applegate. I love the character. His name is Julian, and he’s Maya Rudolph’s character’s Armenia nightclub owner, douchebag boyfriend. It started out as a one-off, and I ended up doing five episodes. The last episode may well be one of the funniest things I’ve shot on TV, in a long time. I’ve been having a blast doing that. I also just shot this really cool feature with Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon and Terence Stamp. I play a Parisian art forger. It’s a heist comedy, called The Black Marks.
Do you have a dream role, aside from The Three Stooges, that you’d love to do, if given the chance?
DIAMANTOPOULOS: If I could rub a genie and anything could happen? Truthfully, my other love, and this is a complete 180, but I’d love to do a spy or an espionage pic, like a James Bond movie. I’m a huge fan of the James Bond genre. I would love to do something like that, that’s a non-comedic, action-drama.