Ray Liotta On Set Interview – OBSERVE AND REPORT

     March 30, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

Last June I got to visit New Mexico for the first time. I was invited (along with a few other online journalists) to visit the set of the new Jody Hill film “Observe and Report.” If Jody Hill’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because he previously directed “The Foot Fist Way” and he’s one of the people behind “Eastbound and Down”, a great new show on HBO that just finished its first season.

By now you’ve all heard of “Observe and Report”, but for the few that haven’t…

At the Forest Ridge Mall, head of security Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) patrols his jurisdiction with an iron fist. The master of his domain, he combats skateboarders, shoplifters and the occasional unruly customer while dreaming of the day when he can swap his flashlight for a badge and a gun. Ronnie’s delusions of grandeur are put to the test when the mall is struck by a flasher.

Driven by his personal duty to protect and serve the mall and its patrons, Ronnie seizes the opportunity to showcase his underappreciated law enforcement talents on a grand scale, hoping his solution of this crime will earn him a coveted spot at the police academy and the heart of his elusive dream girl Brandi (Anna Faris), the hot make-up counter clerk who won’t give him the time of day. But his single-minded pursuit of glory launches a turf war with the equally competitive Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) of the Conway Police, and Ronnie is confronted with the challenge of not only catching the flasher, but getting him before the real cops.

While I usually have to post on set interviews before I’ve seen the film, that’s not the case this time, as I recently caught a screening and loved it. Not only is the film laugh out loud funny, it’s a hell of a lot crazier than most studio released movies. Trust me, Jody Hill was given the freedom to make his movie and it’s absolutely worth checking out on April 10th.

So with the release date fast approaching, WB has finally lifted the embargo on the interviews I participated in and the one below is with Ray Liotta.

In the film, Ray plays the cop assigned to deal with all the problems at the mall. He’s not happy he’s there and the way Seth Rogen’s character acts also exasperates his anger. Eventually Ray and Seth’s relationship comes to a head and it’s an awesome part of the film.

Anyway, during our interview Ray talked about how he got involved, what it was like to do a lot of improv, what it’s like to play a cop a lot, and a lot more. As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here.

Finally, before reading the interview, I strongly suggest watching this red band trailer for “Observe and Report”. After you see it, I promise you’ll want to watch this film. Also, this trailer is not false advertising. The film really is this crazy and awesome.

Question: How did you come to this and were you a fan of Foot Fist Way?

RL: I changed agencies and this is something that they gave me that they had read before. I read it and really liked it. I knew the casting director so I called her and hustled it and then went in and met Jody…and I said I really want to do this. Every time I’ve done a comedy I’ve had to read for it. I said “I’ll come in and read for it” and sure enough I had to read for it, which is fine for me I didn’t care and I got it.

What is it like working with Jody, since he’s a relatively new director?

RL: He’s great, I’m not just saying that too. There is only one other director - and I consider like a first timer like Joe Carnahan was and I just got the same vibe of somebody who really knows what they want they are very secure with who they are and what they want their movie to be and I guarantee that he is going to be something later on.

Jody mentioned some intense fights between you and Seth. What are those about?

RL: Well, I don’t see dailies or anything but they said they want to be funny, but also want it based in a reality and the fight was something that he really wanted based in a reality. Seth is one of the better actors I’ve worked with, he really is. I trust him and he trusts me. Usually with things like that an actor’s ego gets in the way and they don’t like getting hit or they don’t know how to do it or they want to get close and Seth really knows the camera and we wanted to do it all ourselves, so yeah it was intense.

Jody said you were really mean to Seth in some of the scenes, what were you being so mean to him about?

RL: Because he’s an asshole. [laughter] His character is a jerk, from my character’s point of view.

Are you the straight man to his funny man?

RL: I think so. Hopefully, if there is any humor from my character’s point of view it is the fact of how serious I am and I just want to get my job done and Seth is just so extreme so the way that he does things kind of upsets my character and hopefully within that there is some humor.

We saw a scene with you guys and he gets pretty intense in front of the camera. Does it take all of your strength to not laugh at some of these one liners that he’s throwing out there?

RL: Sometimes, sometimes it does, but after that I just sort of lock in and I think that it is supposed to be funny and if anything it is supposed to be annoying so you just kind of stay in character, especially when he’s with Michael Pena and the other guys they like to lay it on thick and you can’t help but laugh because sometimes it is really funny and sometimes it’s not [laughs]. But I think that is what makes anything good is they are willing to try anything and that’s what makes it kind of on the edge, which is good. I think it is better that they try and fail than not try at all and that is including myself too.

Does it keep you on your toes?

RL: Yeah, definitely. I would like to think that if I do my homework than whatever the actor throws at me I’m there for them so I’m not thrown by it and I saw early on that that is the way they like to work and I like it. It keeps the attention going.

Had you seen Seth’s earlier work like Knocked Up and Superbad?

RL: Oh yeah. I liked all of them.

Did you go in with any preconceived ideas about him?

RL: No, the only thing is I never understood why he doesn’t like Steely Dan [laughs]. He says it in one of his movies and it sounded like it was an improve so I’ve been busting his chops about it, which makes me old maybe.

Has he answered you?

RL: He said he was joking, but he is full of shit. He really does not like them.

Can you give us a little background on your character?

RL: I didn’t really go that deep. No, he’s just a cop who would rather be involved in real stuff than to come to a mall to check out what a pervert was doing. In one of the previous scripts and it is something I kind of remembered it was like I got the short straw. We are all sitting around and I’ve gotta go to the mall because I was here before and then after the pervert the shoes are stolen, so as far as I’m concerned I’d rather be out investigating a murder than looking for a shoe thief.

You’ve worked in all types of genres. Do you have a preference as an actor or do you like bouncing from drama to comedy and so on?

RL: Yeah, ideally that’s what I’d like, I’d like to get more of these and maybe something like this helps. I mean Heartbreakers was somewhat like this and I would like to think that in the movies there is some humor there, but nothing that is as extreme as this. I did a movie with Miss Piggy, Muppets in Space and that was a little humorous.

Your Just Shoot Me appearances were great too.

RL: Just Shoot Me, yeah. And the Bee Movie, I don’t know if that was funny but …

Which of the fake mall stories would you actually shop at if they were real?

RL: I just saw one, because we are here in New Mexico there is a hat store there. I need a bigger hat because of the sun is really brutal here. I haven’t really looked that close…probably the hat store.

Do you enjoy the location filming?

RL: We did Wild Hogs here, but that was in Santa Fe. This I’m sure we could have done anywhere. I’m sure they could have built this set in L.A. inside a sound stage so I don’t know if we are getting any advantage. I think the producers are getting an advantage by getting a tax break by coming here. But as far as acting, like for Wild Hogs it made perfect sense because we’re out there are long roads, you could never do that in L.A. You get to ride the motorcycles there was the town Madrid that was a really funky, hippy kind of town. So in that sense, but this is just what they chose but we could have been anywhere because all my stuff is in the mall except for one thing outside one night.

As an actor do you enjoy traveling out of L.A.?

RL: No, because I’ve got to finish this and get right home because my daughter is graduating – she’s going from the third grade to the fourth grade. She really wants me there so because of my daughter it makes it hard. Luckily it is close enough that if you have a few days off even over the weekend you can fly home so this I would rather – I would rather be closer to home unless it is something exotic. The next thing I’m doing is in Michigan.

What movie are you doing next?

RL: This movie with Michael Cera…

What were you working on before this movie?

RL: Tim Allen directed a movie and we became friends during Wild Hogs so he directed something with myself, Sigourney Weaver, Kelsey Grammer, a bunch of people.

What was your part in that?

RL: I play his best friend who tries to get him back – it is a comedy – we hope. He’s a guy who is in jail, he kind of took the fall for me, we own a pirating [company]. We make movies and send them to China and he comes back and I want him back at the job. He doesn’t, his girlfriend – he thinks she’s dead, but she isn’t dead.

You mentioned Youth and Revolt with Michael Cera. What attracted you to the project and were you familiar with Michael’s work?

RL: I think just that, there is some method behind the madness when you work with Seth and those guys. There is a different audience that you are hitting and I think that is just smart to keep things going. There were really good scripts and more important good parts, good directors and I was fortunate enough to get them.

Who do you play?

RL: I play a cop who goes to bed with his mother right after her second husband dies and he just seemed to be like a pain in the butt to me and just wanted the kid out of there. It is basically a coming of age story, he really wants to be with a girl for the first time.

Do you have a special understanding of cops from all the ones that you’ve played?

RL: I wouldn’t say special understanding, but having gone on ride alongs and things like that you definitely see a human beings. I don’t know how much you’ve dealt with or if you know any cops but at first you just see the uniform and you know you are either going to be in trouble or you need help and I just realized that there is a human being under there, there is method to their madness and a reason why they stop you for something you think is ridiculous but they’ve seen so many bad things and accidents that really they are helping you and it is for your own good, but you don’t notice that at first. But from hanging out with them same thing with doctors, I’ve met a lot of doctors and gone to open heart surgeries and things like that for a movie and again you see there is a human being there aside from just the white [uniform].

Do you have more fun playing the cops or the criminals?

RL: I guess the bad guys because I’ve never been in a fight in my life. My friends laugh that I’m playing these kind of characters so it is always fun to play something that you’re not.

Wild Hogs was very successful have you heard of any talk of a sequel?

RL: That’s why I did Tim’s movie. I was sucking up so they would put me in that…no I heard that they are doing it but the writer’s strike kinda put it on hold and I don’t really know what is going on with it. If it happens fine if it doesn’t – it was really the girls story anyhow – that is what I call the four of them.

You have to come back for revenge though.

RL: You’d think, you’d think.

Can you talk about anything you filmed in this so far that you are particularly excited about?

RL: I’ve got a movie called Crossing Over that Wayne Kramer directed with Harrison Ford and Sean Penn. That was a lot of fun. It is coming out in August. Then I did something with Jessica Biel and Forrest Whitaker called Powder Blue that I think could be pretty good.

Who do you play in that? I believe Jessica plays a stripper.

RL: Yeah, I play her dad who she doesn’t know is her dad.

Have you seen the rough cut?

RL: No, not yet.

Who do you play in Crossing Over?

RL: An immigration guy. I’m in charge of the green and this girl from Australia is working illegally and I held it over her head.

That’s a big cast. Did you work with everybody?

RL: Mine was mostly with …Ashley Judd.

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