MacGruber squares off against Shrek Forever After this weekend at the box office, but its star and director aren’t intimidated by a franchise that’s made more than $2.2 billion in ticket sales, worldwide. MacGruber’s star Will Forte joked, “We will take those f—ers down!” Director Jorma Taccone quickly added with heavy sarcasm, “Our movie is probably gonna do better than Shrek. Right? Let’s be honest.” More on that, in a bit.
Collider caught up with Forte, Taccone and screenwriter John Solomon at the film’s press day. Hit the jump for the roundtable’s full audio, along with highlights and plenty of spoilers, including Forte’s desire to do a nude scene with celery, who stole that used vegetable afterward and the gracious gesture by MacGyver star Richard Dean Anderson.
MacGruber aims to honor, more than mock 1980’s action movies. The filmmaker’s conceit is to make a straight genre film with the SNL character dropped in the middle to provide comic relief. However, the premise provides plenty of winks and nods to the laughably tired conventions. A wealthy villain named Dieter Von Cunth (played by Val Kilmer who sends up a Marked For Death-era Steven Seagal) brings a nuclear weapon into the US to blow up the Capitol during a State Of The Union address. The military sends representatives to find the hero, long presumed dead, and talk him back into action (a la Richard Crenna’s “Col. Trautman” character in the Rambo films). Team building follows and the hunt is on.
While the character started on the recurring SNL skits, talk of a film really kicked in after Pepsi’s wildly popular Super Bowl campaign that featured the original MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) as MacGruber’s father. Lorne Michaels got his young staff to work & 15 months later, the film is opening.
Now that you’re up to date, check out the highlights:
-Forte professed his love for the 1983 Chuck Norris film Lone Wolf McQuade. He even has a poster for the MacGruber forerunner hanging in his office. It is unsigned, but not for a lack of desire.
-Taccone said of their unconventional choice to avoid a straight satire, “When we were first writing the movie, we were constantly having to check ourselves and not make it too goofy, or too comedy-esque, in terms of our choices… because we really wanted this to be, like our ode to like, an 80’s action movie.” As the writing team (Forte, Taccone and Solomon) re-watched films from the era, they found a lot of comedy, including “the way villains talk.” They actually held off on using those devices, “because it would feel like a comedy choice.” Ultimately, they “wanted to basically keep this character (MacGruber) that we really loved … and put him into a real action movie.”
-Forte relayed that the film is not a carbon copy of the SNL interstitial that started it all. He said, “People, I think, automatically assume that it’s just gonna be the sketch over and over again for 90 minutes and I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.” Taccone said, “We were desperately trying to avoid that, at all costs.” Forte added, “we didn’t want to write that & we wouldn’t want to see that.”
-Most physically humiliating scene in the film for Forte? “You could pick about 20 things.” He started with, “I had to be naked and do something with a piece of celery (that) my mom will be haunted by for a long time, because she was on the set.” Taccone said, “it was amazing how many times you turned around in this movie and saw Will completely naked with, like, a nut sack protector on. It was impressive how many times that happened. At least five.” Most surprisingly, they admitted that someone who worked close to the set actually stole the used celery.
-The offending (or offended?) celery stalk was initially supposed to be a carrot. Taccone said “I don’t even know what our original inspiration for that was,” but they changed it “because celery seemed more like the plume of a peacock.”
– When asked how he would handle diffusing a bomb, Forte disclosed, “I would take off running.” Is he crafty in general? MacGruber’s alter ego pondered the question for a few moments before replying with a simple, “No.”
-Forte admitted his sex scene provided Kristen Wiig with a pretty unwelcome birthday gift. He laughed, “she was so covered in my sweat, at the end of that sex scene” that he “felt bad for her, ‘cause it was her birthday and nobody deserves that … That’s like ‘you murdered somebody. You know, send Will over to sweat on you,” as Taccone added, “and make noises.”
-Forte doubted his initial pitch for the sketch at SNL. He thought, “This is just dumb … And then, it went very well at the table read … So at that point, I started thinking, ‘Oh, maybe they’ll give us a chance to make it … You would never think from seeing that first sketch, ‘Oh, eventually we’ll be making a movie.’” Even when Executive Producer Lorne Michaels approached them about the film, Forte said, “We still were like, ‘Oh, really?’” He added, they were very happy with how the script and film turned out. Forte was incredibly humble about the whole experience. He said, “There was no part of us that felt like we deserve to be in this situation … We are so excited to be given this opportunity.”
– Taccone described the writing process. He said, “After the initial shock of, like, ‘what are we gonna do?’… We were left with this character that we loved who is this insanely flawed, narcissistic, slightly homophobic, slightly racist, alcoholic … This character that we loved because he was somehow lovable, beyond his flaws.” They had free reign and decided to make it an action film, which “allowed us to (find a) structure and put him into all these crazy situations that you would never think he should be in.”
-They side-stepped any controversy about the threatened lawsuit by MacGyver’s creator Lee Zlotoff. When asked whether they approached Richard Dean Anderson (who played MacGyver on the series), Taccone said, “At one point there was a scene that we wrote where there was a MacGruber father.” He continued, “We shot this so fast that there was no real time for it.”
– MacGyver star Richard Dean Anderson appears to have nothing but love for the filmmakers. Taccone said Anderson e-mailed Forte this week, to wish him luck with the movie. Forte followed with a story of the commercial shoot where Anderson played MacGruber’s father. He said, “It was the first time we actually had a chance to actually meet him and see what he felt about the sketch and it was so nice to get his blessing because he had seen it (and liked it). It was really, really nice ‘cause he is a tremendous guy and we’re huge fans of his.”
-Now more on that Shrek pronouncement from earlier. Asked for a MacGruber-like statement about going against the billion-dollar Shrek franchise (including SNL alums Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy), Forte said “Oh, we are gonna take those f—ers down!” When the laughter died down, Forte continued, “No. We’re huge fans of Shrek … We hope (MacGruber) does well. (More laughter). Taccone followed, in a joking tone, “Our movie is probably gonna do better than Shrek. Right? Let’s be honest. They made $120 million last time.” Forte interrupted to say, “I can live with however it does at the box office because we made the movie we wanted to make and we are very excited. Like, that doesn’t happen very often. So, I hope it does well. If it doesn’t, I can live with myself, because I really have a great amount of pride in this movie.”