Watch, Read or Listen to Judd Apatow, John C. Reilly and Jake Kasdan – WALK HARD
Posted by Frosty
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.
John, can you talk about your influences? What were you trying to convey with the voice of the character?
John C. Reilly: The cool thing about the music in the movie is that I didn’t really have to pick one person. As the time periods move on, the guy is such a chameleon, that he goes with the times. So in the fifties I was looking at people like Elvis and Roy Orbison. Even a little early Johnny Cash. Then into the Sixties, Brian Wilson. As we went along, there was a new person to emulate. I have very eclectic music tastes myself. So, like they say, every rock star wants to be an actor, and every actor wants to be a rock star. This was a dream come true for me. Just the studio part. Just recording the music was a real dream come true. Not only the songwriters but the musicians they collected. It was walking into this dream job. I’d done music in movies before but much, much more limited. Usually one or two songs here or there. But this was… I think the music in this movie stands alone as a great achievement. I am really proud of the movie. But I am also really proud of the Box of Cox that we will have coming out. It will include all thirty songs.
Joaquin Phoenix worked specifically with T-Bone Burnett. Did you have someone?
John C. Reilly: We mentioned Mike Andrews as the producer of the music. He was the one that was pulling all of the levers and arranging a lot of the music. He was the one kind of guiding the musicians, and pulling the correct groups of people together for the different sounds that we needed. He was sort of our guru. They were a lot of people but I’ll mess up if I try to name everybody. I will miss somebody so I just wont do that. But, Mike was the ringleader in the studio. And then…
Jake Kasdan: John brings a lot of heat on his own. He can really play.
John C. Reilly: I was about to say that. I bring a lot of heat on my own.
Jake Kasdan: He wasn’t like someone that had to be taught from the beginning. He knew it.
John C. Reilly: I grew up doing musicals as a kid and I had a lot of music in my family and in my past. Although this movie felt like I’d been working my whole life for this moment. I didn’t know it was coming. I didn’t know it would be like this. But everything that I’ve learned before this has come into play in this movie.
Continued on page 2 ----------->
Jake and Judd, this might be one of the more broader things you have done. Maybe since The Ben Stiller Show. Has it been freeing to go a little bit larger with some of the comedy?
Judd Apatow: Yeah. I remember we used to do these U2 sketches back in 1992. Where Bono was played by Ben. And we did a very elaborate Metallica sketch. The premise being that Metallica did the theme song to a body switching movie starring Fred Willard and Pauly Shore. That’s why we were cancelled, it was very dense levels. So, for me, as soon as Jake mentioned the idea, I thought this was going to be the most fun thing ever to work on. My grandfather was a music producer who produced the first Janis Joplin record and Dyna Washington albums and a lot of jazz. So it’s been an arena that I have been fascinated by. I also thought it was time to make a movie where you saw a man’s penis. In the movie. In a comedy. For a long time. I thought we already did the crowning shot…
Jake Kasdan: Not to give anything away.
Judd Apatow: Yeah, not to give anything away, there is a penis in this movie. I’m not going to obsess about how great the songs are. There’s a penis.
Whose penis is it? Is it a stunt penis?
Jake Kasdan: Well, that’s the surprise.
Judd Apatow : Well, that’s the surprise. It’s my penis. I have gotten a big ego and I just thought I wanted to show it.
John C. Reilly : One of the cool things about making this movie to and one of the great things about doing biopics and I have been in a couple of them, is the level of production design and the attention to detail. Usually the epic spread of the time period. But, often times when you are on those kinds of movies, there is sort of this sanctimonious we have to get it right for the memory! There is this overly serious. Let’s talk to some people and read about them and what did they really say, but the cool thing about this is we get all the bang of doing a real biopic, but we got to have so much fun on the set every day. We got to make fun of it and also got to live in all of these different time periods. And the music. I will go back to the music again. Which is the cool thing about the music was that we didn’t set out to write bad music or dumb music. You quickly find out that when you set out to write music, even if it’s meant to be funny, that you really have to put your heart in it. You have to try your very best to try and write a good song. It’s really hard to write one good song, let alone thirty. Hopefully that comes across… just the amount of care and love for music that we put into this movie. Everyone involved, from the three of us sitting here to everyone behind the scenes, really has a lot of love for the musician’s journey. We’re not just taking the piss.
Jake Kasdan: And all the band members…this is funny. All of the guys in the band - Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, and Mike Besser wjo are all improv comics. None of them played and they all learned to play all of the songs live. Which required a tremendous amount of work. Tim didn’t play drums and is now absolutely spot on and can play now. Those guys can play those songs now. They would sit there learning it. They gave it as much intensity and devotion as if they would if they were playing actual characters.
Sony person: I’m sorry, but we have to pull John. He has to get go back. But we’re going to continue with Judd and Jake.
John C. Reilly: I’m sorry. I was having so much fun. I really was. It is fun to talk about this movie.
Judd Apatow: Who has a finally question for John? Anyone?
It struck me watching the clips that the tone of this…
Judd Apatow: Wait a second, I just realized that I am the producer of Step Brothers. You can stay for ten minutes. What the fuck is going on here? Who is going to get mad? Me? At me? Let them wait. (huge audience laughter)
John C. Reilly: Hey, Judd. Can I stay another ten minutes?
Judd Apatow: Go ahead. Let Will have another beer. Continue.
John C. Reilly: We are ahead today. We are one day ahead of schedule on that movie so…
I was just saying, it struck me that the tone of this film is very close to the tone of the Monty Python Rutles film.
Judd Apatow: Oh, sure. That is one of the great ones of all time. It is very daunting to look at films like Spinal Tap and The Rutles and try to make a funny movie about music. Their music was incredible; all those Eric Idle songs are unparalled. They were fantastic and it all really holds up. That whole movie completely holds up. So, we were aware of that and had a lot of conversations about how funny should the songs should be. What makes me laugh is that a lot of the songs are beautiful and if you weren’t really listening to the words, you wouldn’t notice how dumb some of them are. I was listening to a song the other day; it was called Dewey Cox Died Today… which is…
John C. Reilly: I write my own posthumous song about my own death before I died, so that I could get remembered correctly.
Judd Apatow: It was so pretty that I felt bad that it was such a dumb song. I’m like when this is over, someone should write normal lyrics to this song.
How difficult was it to cast The Beatles and did you get nervous poking fun at some legacy music?
Judd Apatow: Do I think Yoko Ono is going to come after me?
John C. Reilly: That has yet to be seen whether they get mad or not. I hope not. Should we tell the truth to the journalists? It was pretty hard to cast the Beatles. Cause you have to find someone who sort of looks like them or at least vaguely like them, or seems a little like them energy wise and they had to be funny. And they weren’t afraid of this daunting challenge of playing Paul McCartney or John Lennon. Then to get four of them who are available on the same day. It was an on going game every day. It was like who else do we have for The Beatles? We gotta figure out The Beatles! It shoots in a week!
Judd Apatow: And then suddenly Justin Long shows up and he has a George Harrison impression. He’s just got that in his back pocket, waiting for the call.
John C. Reilly: And Jason Schwartzman is like obsessed with Ringo. He has been making the Ringo face his whole life. Once they all got there it was like, of course! This is the perfect team of people. Hopefully you’ll agree.
Speaking of the cast…you seem to use the same people in all of your movies, but this one has so many characters. I know that some might have been planned, but were there any surprises in casting?
Judd Apatow: John you can talk about our music cameos.
John C. Reilly: Yeah. Well, another tough part to cast was Elvis. It wasn’t in the clip was it? Elvis Presley has a brief walk on as he comes off the stage right as I go on to sing that song. That was another one. You’d be amazed what scaredy cats there are among actors. You say, you want to play Elvis? And they say oh, I don’t know man. That’s a lot. Everyone knows who Elvis is. So what. Come have fun. It turns out the guy with the biggest balls is Jack White from The White Stripes. He totally showed up in the middle of a really busy schedule for him and he was amazing. I don’t think he’d ever acted. He was in Cold Mountain and he had a small part in that. But, he really hung with the improve and I don’t know what is actually going to end up in the movie. I guess these guys are still toying with a couple of different versions of that scene. But we did one take where all we did was talk in what I call Tupelo Pigeon. (he demonstrates the accent) This sort of country talk, where only he and I can understand each other cause we are both from the south. It ends up being a sort of mix of those things now.
Judd Apatow: I found Jack White irritating because he is like the coolest guy on earth. He is the greatest rock musician and writer and performer that you have ever seen and he’s also funny. Fuck him! What is that? He’s stepping on my territory. God damn it. He’s so talented. It was daunting to all of us. He can do what we do in his sleep. As an after thought.
John C. Reilly: Later he said, through another person, I was told, Jack was so nervous. He was so nervous, thank you for being so nice to him.
Jake Kasdan: He really could not have been looser. He was improvising with John for hours. It was never the same scene twice. Which we think of as a good thing. He was incredible.
Judd Apatow: And then Eddie Vedder came. To do, Dewey gets his lifetime achievement award, and Eddie Vedder does the over the top induction speech. That was also irritating too because Eddie, you have it all written out for him and he just nails it on the first take. Perfectly.
John C. Reilly: That’s because he lived it, dude. He did it for real.
Judd Apatow: And can act as well.
Jake Kasdan: He actually inducted R.E.M. into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He’s done it a few times. He can act and he has like pitch perfect comedy timing.
Judd Apatow: And he is handsome as shit. He is too good looking as well.
John C. Reilly: I was really awed when all of these people showed up to support our little movie here like Jackson Brown and Lyle Lovett and Jewel and Ghostface Killaz and Jack White and Frankie Muniz. Is he still in the movie? I’m not trying to be mean. Frankie really is retired. He came out of his racing career to come play Buddy Holly for a scene.
Continued on page 3 ----------->
I assume you’re going for an R-Rating because of the penis?
Judd Apatow: Because of the penis? I’m not sure… is that R?
John C. Reilly: It’s not hard.
Judd Apatow: It’s not hard. (audience laughs a lot) which basically means a little boy can look down and see it but he’s not allowed to look up and see one on the screen. I don’t understand this country.
How detailed of a biography for Dewey Cox beforehand or was that just part of writing the script?
Judd Apatow: We are not the type of people that write out eighty pages of single spaced bio background because we’re lazy. We were forced to figure it out, a lot of the details of his tragic yet triumphant life.
John C. Reilly: A lot of the back-story stuff we’d end up riffing on in the studio, when we were recording the music. A song would remind us of the 60’s and this kind of person would sing this… so his version would be whatever. So we filled in a lot of blanks that way. Cause Jake was there the entire time while we were recording the music. He was almost directing the film before we started shooting.
Did you guys look at the recent spoof movies for an idea of what not to do?
Judd Apatow: I studied them. No.
They are so bad.
Judd Apatow: Tell that to my ten-year-old daughter. She digs them. No, we didn’t but I’m a fan of the spoof movies in general. Certainly some are much better than the others. The Zucker Brothers movies are some of the funniest movies of all time. Airplane! probably is the funniest movie ever made. There’s probably no movie that got bigger laughs in a theater than Airplane! when it came out. So, I think, like all movies, there are good ones and bad ones. We just thought it would be funny to make one that wasn’t… this wasn’t a joke for joke spoof like Airplane! or Not Another Teen Movie…things like that. This movie is more making fun of the genre and the structure of these movies. And the fact that if you watch a lot of biopics you’ll see that a lot of the scenes are the same scenes. It’s almost unavoidable in telling the story of a musician, there is rehab and multiple wives and ups and downs.
John C. Reilly: And loss of senses. Are we officially fucking with Will and Adam now if I don’t go back to work?
Judd Apatow: This is a standoff that I am comfortable with. I just want to test the power trio to see if Will will come here? Will McKay go home? What happens? Actually, John, you can go now actually. I think.
John C. Reilly: Thank you all very much.
So, Dewey Cox is this chameleon and over the years he does all these music styles. Was there one thing that you wanted to get in that you couldn’t get in? And does Dewey Cox have a rap career?
Jake Kasdan: There’s actually a funny sequence where Dewey is older and he’s semi-retired and a rap star samples Walk Hard and makes the filthiest song you’ve ever heard. And that rapper's name is Little Nutsack. That song is really dirty. We asked this guy to write us a dirty rap incorporating the lyrics of Walk Hard. And man…It is really filthy.
Judd Apatow: Look at me. I’m embarrassed. It’s hard for me to get there. I don’t even like that it’s on my computer at home.
Jake Kasdan: It’s also funny that the day we were shooting that scene and they refer to him by name as it was in the script Nutsack. And we got a memo from legal saying there was a clearance thing and they said we can’t call him Nutsack because there’s four other rappers named Nutsack. So we called him Little Nutsack, which is fine. There were four different spellings of Nutsack.
Judd Apatow: One with a Z. You guys are outta gas…thanks a lot for coming. I’m sure you’ll see the movie soon but thanks a lot for coming to this.