I’m going to tell you something shocking. Something that you probably won’t believe. Judd Apatow is producing another comedy, and it looks like it’s going to be funny.
Yes, one of the crazy masterminds behind “40 Year Old Virgin,” “Superbad,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and a ton of other great projects is at it again, except this time he’s brought along John C. Reilly as the headliner and gotten Jake Kasdan to co-write and direct. So what’s this new opus going to be called? How about “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”
The film is a spoof of the biopic genre, but it’s pretty clear based on the footage I saw at Sony Studios that “Walk the Line” was a major inspiration. Watching the footage I saw Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) dealing with a father who didn’t love him due to some family “issues.” I then saw him fall in love with his background singer, even when he had a family at home. And of course there were the drugs. If it was made to be smoked, snorted or injected – Dewey Cox did it in excess.
Being a bit more specific, a great scene that we saw was John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer (Pam on “The Office”) singing to each other on stage and then the film cut away to a montage of them doing sexual type things. They showed them walking down the street tonguing ice cream and then John cutting wood like he was… let’s say in the bedroom. Trust me… it’s going to get a lot of laughs.
Another scene that played well was Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman, Justin Long and Paul Rudd playing The Beatles. The scene has them meeting Dewey Cox in India and getting him to take LSD. Needless to say, comedy ensues.
We also saw scenes of Dewey on stage causing people to get violent, with some fans resorting to taking off their clothing the minute Dewey started to play.
But one of the best parts of the movie is something that’ll probably surprise a lot of you, and that’s the music I heard. This isn’t some fly by night operation where they winged the lyrics on set. The fact is the production spent a great deal of time working on the songs before the shooting began, crafting music that would span Dewey’s long career and spanning all the musical genre’s over his fifty or so years in the business.
And even though the final film will probably have fewer than 10 songs, during the Q&A that took place, John C. Reilly revealed that he had recorded over 30 songs for the soundtrack and we can expect a “Box of Cox” later this year.
While I don’t know how it’ll play for the ninety minute final run time, I do know the music sounded great and I laughed a lot at the footage we saw.
And even though I usually only have a transcript with the audio from these kinds of events, thanks to Sony videotaping the Q&A, I also have some video. So you can either watch each person speak via short video clips, or you can read the transcript and/or download the entire Q&A as an MP3 by clicking here.
Obviously I want to send a big thank you to Sony for inviting me, as it was a lot of fun to hear them talk about making the film and hear some of the behind the scenes strories. “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” will be in theaters on December 21st and I promise it'll make you laugh.
On what attracted him to the project
On this not being a traditional spoof movie
John C. Reilly
On the musicians he emulated
On getting the chance to play a rock star
On this being the perfect role
Jake Kasdan – co-writer/producer/director
On how he came up with the idea
On the actors learning to play instruments
And here’s the transcript of the Q&A:
Question: How did you come up with the idea for this film?
Jake Kasdan: It was just sort of a thought one night, to make a fake biopic. And I called up Judd after a day or two of having the thought and said does this seem funny? Immediately we started writing it together. Within a few days, even. Just trying to come up with rock biopic jokes. We are both big music fans. And we enjoy crazy stories about rock lore. We just started throwing things back and forth and kind of discovered that if you took true stories that you knew and made them like five percent weirder…
Judd Apatow: Two percent weirder. And we started watching every single biopic. We even watched the Marilyn Monroe HBO biography. Just any kind of biopic.
Jake Kasdan: And also rock documentaries. I was watching people’s actual life stories.
Judd Apatow: There was this great, terrible Jimi Hendrix biopic from Showtime that was just great. I just recommend that you hunt it down at your video store. It looks just terrible. They would cut to stock footage from the Sixties. Then they would cut to him in these over lit rooms. And then at some point in the process, very early on, we thought if we can convince John C. Reilly to do this, this would be incredible. So we started talking to him during the writing process.
What was it like creating the soundtrack?
John C. Reilly: The creation of the soundtrack? Jake can probably speak pretty elegantly about this too. But we had this great stable of songwriters. And we kind of had this friendly, open competition. We had our own web page server, and people would post their songs on there. What do you think about this? And what do you think about this? A lot of them started coming in. The first one that really knocked it out of the park was Marshal Crenshaw’s Walk Hard - the title song. There were a bunch of great songwriters that we worked with. Mike Viola, Dan Burn, Charlie Bottoms. Did I miss anybody?
Judd Apatow: Mike Andrews.
John C. Reilly: Mike Andrews.
Jake Kasdan: Mike and Ike Parks came and worked on the sort of Beach Boys psychedelic period, song.
John C. Reilly: We started like a year ago and the cool thing about working on this movie was, I wasn’t that nervous on the first day of shooting like I usually am. Because I felt like I’d been meditating on the character for four months while we were recording. We kind of found a lot of the tone of the movie, and a lot of the ideas as we were recording. Once we started, it was really hard to stop. We recorded thirty-five songs. It’s hard enough to make one album. But somehow, after only four months, we had thirty-five songs. Five of which I think were covers. But still, thirty original songs. I was pretty blown away by that. And it kind of gave us a tonal blueprint when we started the movie. It was easier with this music that we already had.
Jake Kasdan: It seemed in the beginning, it was going to be the hardest part of this. Like there were several conversations that Judd and I had in the very beginning. Trying to figure out how funny the songs should be versus how good they should be. And if they could be both things at once. It was about coming up with a strategy. It’s seemed daunting. There was a lot of music written into the script. Titles, ideas for songs. There were specific scenes that were built around these songs. We opened it up to a whole bunch of people. But it ended up being about five people that wrote the majority of the songs. A lot of them were actually guys that I had known before. Dan Bern and Mike Viola were two of the first guys that I ever mentioned this movie to.
Judd Apatow: Mike is the voice of That Thing You Do!
Jake Kasdan: Yeah, he is the voice of Johnathon Schaech’s character in That Thing You Do! And he’s recorded a bunch of albums with his band which is called The Candy Butchers. And he’s done a couple of albums himself. I had a feeling that these guys would be great contributors. It’s true, once it got going, suddenly, everybody had more ideas. It got to where we eventually a month out could say is there any kind of song that we haven’t thought of that we don’t have? And we could generate them pretty quickly.
John C. Reilly: To Jake and Judd’s credit, a lot of the songs already existed in the script as concepts. A song called Guilty as Charged, about him taking these things he’d done in his life and turning them into a song. So the songwriters already had a leg up on a lot of these songs. Because they already had a title or a general feeling that a lot of these songs were supposed to convey. Rather than purely coming up with some idea. The script guided everybody.