From producers Peter Farrelly and Charles Wessler, Movie 43 is a raunchy and outrageous anthology of short comedic movies, featuring a variety of different directors and writers, and starring some of the biggest names in Hollywood. One of the intertwined stories is Veronica/CVS, directed by Griffin Dunne and starring Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin, about star-crossed lovers who must say farewell for the last time.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor/director Griffin Dunne talked about why his particular segment appealed to him, the attraction of doing something so raunchy but with such passion, how crazy it is to be a part of a movie with the biggest cast ever assembled, the advantages of a comedy made of shorts at a time when everyone has such short attention spans, what he enjoys most about directing, and what he looks for in future projects. He also talked about his work as an actor in Dallas Buyers Club, what it was like to see Matthew McConaughey go through such extreme weight loss for the role (their scenes are when his character is at his weakest), and how it’s taken about 10 years to finally get the film made. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
GRIFFIN DUNNE: You know, all three of the producers, from [Peter] Farrelly to [John] Penotti to [Charles] Wessler, are really old friends of mine, and particularly Charlie, who’s been working on this idea, to do an anthology of outrageous shorts, for a long time. He’s a really funny guy, and he’s done all of the Farrelly brothers’ movies. We don’t always have the same taste, like when he did Dumb and Dumber. He gave it to me, as an actor. It was one of the very first things that he ever produced, and I just thought it was too stupid. But, obviously Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels didn’t. I’ve been watching him work on this and put together all of these amazing people. One of the things that was always understood was that I would be directing one of [the shorts]. I didn’t know which. But, this was the one I really liked. We did some more work on it, but I just loved the seriousness and the way they said these filthy things to each other with passion. It’s that, “I hate you,” “I love you,” dialogue that you’ve seen a million times, in other movies. I just loved the banter between the two.
Did you read some different ideas before Veronica/CVS, or did you just read this one and connect to it?
DUNNE: I read this one and connected to it. I liked the teenage love of it, when you are just so young that you feel things so deeply and words don’t really make sense, anyway. When we were doing it, I told Emma [Stone] and Kieran [Culkin] to play it really straight, like they were really saying goodbye to each other. The example I always used was Bogie and Bergman, saying goodbye in Casablanca. I wanted them to just play it like they’re really saying goodbye to each other. And when you’re that young, your emotions run that deep, no matter how absurd the circumstance.
DUNNE: They didn’t have someone, and then Emma was available, so we said, “Oh, god, let’s go get her!” There was nobody cast, when I first read it.
How crazy is it to know that you’re part of a movie with the biggest cast ever assembled?
DUNNE: It really is the biggest cast ever assembled. It’s ludicrously large. It’s hilarious! Charlie and I are actually childhood friends. We’ve known each other since we were about nine or ten years old. We live right next door to each other, in upstate New York. So, I’ve been watching him try to pull this Herculean effort together for some time, to get everybody involved. And I got to see the shorts, as he’s been going along. It’s great to see your close best friend pull something off like this.
Just how raunchy does your segment get, in comparison to the film overall? Is it all the same level of raunchiness?
DUNNE: I think they’re all equally raunchy. Each has its own outrageous, offensive, hilarious, terribly wrong kind of humor, all its own. The very first one that was shot, that set the bar, as it were, was having Hugh Jackman have a set of testicles, daintily placed under his chin for the entire scene in the movie, and I think it just took off from there.
DUNNE: It’s tough to get an audience into the theater, and a lot of feature comedies might be really funny for 60 minutes, but not necessarily for 90 minutes. I remember when Kentucky Fried Movie came out, it was a real event. As a reader, I love short stories. You know that they’re going to end and you’re putting yourself in somebody’s hands to take you on a journey, but you don’t have to go that far from home. To see a comedy in an environment where you’re surrounded by other people that are laughing is great. That’s probably more satisfying than just watching it by yourself, on Funny or Die, or something.
What do you get from directing that acting doesn’t fulfill for you?
DUNNE: Well, when you’re directing, I feel like I’m playing all the parts, without the make-up. I really get into the heads of the characters. And I love working with actors. I love to see what they’re going to do. There’s just something very thrilling and satisfying with being involved with something, all the way through the process. This was particularly fun to shoot. It was all in one night. One very long night. I was just so touched, as a director, even though it was hilarious, that these two actors just invested so much of themselves, emotionally, to achieve such an insane comedic tone. That was really great ‘cause it wouldn’t have worked, if they were winking to each other. I couldn’t believe that Emma really eeked out a tear that just dropped off her cheek while talking about having sex with hobos.
Having spent time on both sides of the camera and having been in the business as long as you have, what was the experience of making Dallas Buyers Club like, especially seeing the extreme weight loss that Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto went through for their roles?
DUNNE: It really was extreme. It was a daunting privilege to watch. Matthew’s skin was translucent. I could see the skull right through it. That kind of commitment, to play a guy who’s that sick, was incredible. You just couldn’t take your eyes off it. It transcends acting. It was just being. He was weak. The stuff I had with him was when his character is most sick, so once my part was finished, he was able to start to eat normally again. It was an amazing experience. It certainly wasn’t something I felt like I could do.
Was that a particularly tough film to get financed?
DUNNE: I believe it was. It’s been almost made with so many other different actors, over so many different periods. I think it’s been almost 10 years. And it was made very modestly, when they finally did get it going.
What is it that you look for in a project, and how do you decide whether you’re going to act in something or direct it?
DUNNE: What I look for is if it really makes me laugh or it really moves me. Finding things that really make me laugh has always been tougher, but it’s what I prefer to be doing. And lately, I’ve been directing more dramas, with episodes of The Good Wife, and making documentaries. Between those, I’m fortunate enough to be able to act and be involved with really good projects. Every time I act in something, I learn something about what the director is doing. One feeds the other.
Movie 43 opens in theaters on January 25th.