From writer/directors Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (Reno 911!), the outrageous horror comedy Hell Baby tells the story of expectant couple Jack (Rob Corddry) and Vanessa (Leslie Bibb), who move into a haunted fixer-upper in New Orleans and soon find themselves enlisting the help of the Vatican’s elite exorcism team. An overly friendly neighbor living in the house’s crawl space (Keegan Michael Key), Vanessa’s Wiccan sister (Riki Lindhome), and two inept detectives (Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer) only add to the ever-growing chaos and mayhem unfolding around them.
At the film’s press day, very funny actor Rob Corddry spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how much improvisation went on during shooting, that he’ll write down and plan stuff to try on set, how he’s good with not cracking up during scenes, how helpful it was to have practical effects to interact with and react to, and how he was worried about pulling off Riki Lindhome’s nude scene and the final battle. He also talked about how much fun he had making Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and how much freedom they had with their much lower budget. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ROB CORDDRY: Well, it’s really stupid, but there’s a lot of fresh stupidity. You don’t see a lot of it coming, which is one of its real pluses. People that do absurd comedy often get accused of being smart, and we’re not. If you really break it down and set up a spread sheet, they’re the dumbest jokes in the world. They’re really dumb. But, you’ve gotta find a fresh way to present it. With absurdity, you have everything but logic at your disposal. You can make a joke that people have heard a million times feel like a new joke.
How many of these jokes were on the page, and how much of it was just done on the set?
CORDDRY: Some of these guys, like [Rob] Huebel and [Paul] Scheer, are some of the best improvisers in the world, I think I can safely say. So, yeah, there was a fair amount of them, which was more fun for us than anything. If you’re doing a movie where you feel like you have to improvise a lot to make the script better, then you’re making bad choices. You’re also never fixing problems when you’re improvising from a script. You’re really just heightening or giving a different spin or adding details to what the writers set up for you.
Are you someone who likes to think about things you might want to improvise?
CORDDRY: Yes! Oh, absolutely! If people say they never think about it beforehand, they’re lying. I think it’s irresponsible not to. If something occurs to me, I’ll write it down and plan some stuff. And the best times are when somebody runs with that, and then you’re improvising on your feet. The goal is to come in there with enough stuff to find something new.
CORDDRY: For the most part, I am, yeah. We’ve all been at it for a long time and are pretty seasoned. But, there was the scene when Scheer and Huebel are interrogating us, as the cops, and we’re all sitting at the dining room table. I think we shot a 40-minute take, and they were just going off. On the page, it was maybe a half a page long. They were ridiculous. They were terrible cops, and they’re so good at that. Huebel and Scheer are so good at being stupid, yet cocky. That’s a goldmine for an improviser. You think you’re really smart, but you’re not, and you’re cocky about the dumbest things in the world. They had us all. We’d break sometimes and have to cut, and get it together and wipe our eyes, and stuff like that.
When you read this script, was it the kind of comedy you could easily relate to?
CORDDRY: Oh, I got it! This whole group is really a perfect example of our family of comedians. It was a mixture of The State and of the UCB Theater, and then just like-minded people like Keegan [Michael Key]. I feel like, ‘cause we’ve all been brought up in big groups of comedians and want to help each other, it’s fun. Playing the stupidest thing in the world in the straightest way possible is what makes it not a parody, and that’s what we do very easily. I thought this was a shining example of the kind of stuff all of us like writing.
CORDDRY: Not with Leslie, but I know what you’re saying. Nine times out of 10, it always works out, nervous or not. But, nobody was ever nervous with Leslie. Talladega Nights is an amazing calling card for comedy. I was never worried about her. I just walked away very impressed. She’s the real thing. She’s a very serious actor, but does not take herself so seriously. That’s the rarity. That’s the rare bird that you rarely find. She inspired us in improv. We got a lot from her because she was just playing it very real. She’s very Meisner-based, which is a form of the method. She was just so cool and hilarious. And I’ve been suggesting her for parts, ever since we wrapped. She’s fantastic!
Did it help to have an actual practical baby to interact with and react to?
CORDDRY: Yeah! I love practical effects, in general. Reacting to an explosion that’s not there sucks. It’s fine. You can do it. But, it makes it way easier to have something to interact with. A lot of people, like in the last three Star Wars movies, get crapped on for poor acting, but it’s a purely technical experience for them. I’m surprised they did it that good. So, as long as the practical is cheap and shoot-able, I always prefer that over anything generated.
With all of the crazy things in this movie, is there anything you were most concerned with pulling off?
CORDDRY: The two things that I was worried about, or not looking forward to, was ironically the huge nudity scene where I’m with the beautiful Riki Lindhome, completely naked for 10 minutes. It’s not easy to shoot that. I’ve known her forever. On the day, it was just so easy because she’s so cool and laid-back, and she’s gorgeous. And then, there was the last scene, which was the final battle. I knew that was just going to be a bear. And these guys shoot 10-hour days. It’s so relaxed. It’s not super-fast. We can just really have fun. But, those were crazy days with a lot of blood. I hurt myself once doing a couple of stunts. Anybody would say that was brutal.
What was it like to get to do Hot Tub Time Machine 2?
CORDDRY: Oh, my god, it was so much fun! I never thought it would happen. But, when MGM came back out of the ashes and said, “We’re going to make the sequel with you guys, and we’re going to make it for only $14 million,” as opposed to $60 million or $70 million the last time, and I loved that idea. I was like, “Great, then you’re going to make money.” They didn’t give us a lot of notes. They let us do what we wanted. It had a perfectly fine theatrical run, but it’s just had a life after that. It’s by virtue of the fans, alone, that it’s existing. Having just finished the second one, I really think that it’s a far better, funnier movie. I can’t wait! It can’t not make money. Literally, it cannot not make money. When you make a movie for that budget, it’s almost impossible not to make money. They’ll have to temper what they call a hit. Studios will always say some number, and then when it doesn’t make that number, that’s all people write about. That’s something I’m not looking forward to.
Hell Baby opens in theaters on September 6th.