Opening tomorrow is director Shawn Levy’s Date Night - which stars Tina Fey (Baby Mama, 30 Rock, SNL) and Steve Carell (The 40 Year Old Virgin, The Office) as a typical suburban couple whose lives have become routine. To reignite the marital spark, they visit a trendy Manhattan bistro where a case of mistaken identity turns their evening into the ultimate date night-gone-awry. Date Night also stars Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Leighton Meester, James Franco, Ray Liotta, and Mark Ruffalo.
To help promote the film, I recently attended a press conference with Tina Fey, Steve Carell and director Shawn Levy. They talked about making the film, 30 Rock and The Office, the improv, and a lot more. Hit the jump to either read the transcript or listen to the audio.
Finally, due to time constraints, I’ve only posted what Tina Fey and Steve Carell said at the press conference. If you’d like to hear what director Shawn Levy had to say, here’s the audio. I actually think this is one of those interviews you’re better off listening to anyway.
Question: Steve and Tina, does NBC get a bulk rate for loaning you out to 20th Century Fox, so that you can do this film?
Tina: Thank God, NBC is having trouble or my show would not be on the air.
Steve: Neither of our shows would be on the air, if NBC wasn’t in trouble.
Tina: At least they’re probably happy that Fox wants to advertise the movie on NBC. That’s good for them.
Steve: Yeah, they’re making some money off of the advertisements.
Q: How much ad-libbing was done on this, and how much did you stick to the script?
Steve: There were 65 ad-libs.
Tina: See if you can spot them.
Steve: You can probably pick them out. You know, we’d always do the script as written because it was very strong. The script didn’t need to be changed. But then, once we had it to our satisfaction, then we’d open it up and play around. It’s hard to determine what was necessarily ad-libbed and what wasn’t.
Q: Tina, once they take your bag away, you didn’t have any props. How hard was that?
Tina: Once I lose my purse and coat, it was just me and my bare arms and the night. I was always trying to hide my arms behind a door jam. The only thing they didn’t take was my heels.
Q: Did you cheat with the heels at all, when you can’t see your feet?
Tina: I took them off. When we were in the car, I would cheat a little bit. We had several sets of them. We had a grandma set and then a higher set and then an even higher set. There was a steel reinforcement in the heel.
Q: Do you actually do date nights yourself, and have you had any weird experiences on a date?
Tina: We don’t have them formally, but maybe once a month, my husband and I get out. It is a massive effort to get a babysitter and, if we get more than 10 blocks from our house, it’s a miracle, and then I’m exhausted. So, I definitely related to the idea of, “Okay. Oh, good. It’s our date night. Oh, good!” That made sense to me.
Steve: We are always happy when we get invited to an awards show because that’s it. That’s our excuse to get dressed up and go out somewhere. And, even on those nights, we are generally back by about 10. As most people with kids know, you pay for it. If you really go out late and whoop it up, the kids are up at 5:30 the next day and so are you, so that determines how crazy our date nights get. Generally, our best date nights are very, very simple, and we spend a good deal of them talking about our children, anyway. There is no escape!
Q: Are you both looking toward just having film careers, once your shows are done?
Tina: Doing one movie every two years is about all I can handle ’cause being the creator at 30 Rock, my year there starts in the middle of June and goes back around until March. So, I look forward to writing movies again, and this is certainly fun and good times, but to be in movies? I just want to take it as it comes.
Steve: I’m going to move towards voicing video games. I’m always just happy to be employed, so that’s what I’m looking for, frankly.
Q: Were you both looking for a film to do together?
Steve: We were both offered this, and we spoke on the phone and sussed either out, in terms of what each of us was thinking. Tina said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to just be hanging off a car, through New York City?,” and I was like, “Yeah! I’m in! That sounds great!” When I heard that she was the other component, and Shawn Levy was directing, I was very, very eager to do it.
Tina: I really wanted to do something with Steve, and the idea that it was a married couple who are grown people, appealed to me because I felt like, “Yeah, that’s what we are in real life.” At a certain point, you can’t be making a movie about your wedding when you’re getting up there. I just felt like this is a movie where, if my husband and I got out, we would actually want to go see this topic.
Q: Tina, did you get any advice from Steve about being a movie star?
Steve: I said, “First, you have to disregard all other people.” She has no attitude and there is no pretense about her, so I schooled her in pretense. I don’t think either of us thinks of ourselves in that realm at all. No, Tina doesn’t need any advice from me.
Tina: When I first met Steve, he threw a phone at me. He threw a large, land-line phone at me and I thought, “All right, we’re in the movie business!” No, I still feel like this is enjoyable, and that it’s like a very long, sustaining prank that I am playing on the American people.
Q: Tina, can you talk about having to work the stripper pole?
Tina: When we went into that sequence, Steve and Shawn and I agreed that we should not plan it ’cause then we would just get in our heads about it and try to learn it too much.
Steve: It would have been too good.
Tina: It would have been embarrassing in the theaters. I forget how we got to Steve carrying me around. I know we only did two long takes and, in the first take, Steve picked me up and I neglected to hold the pole. I remember Shawn going, “Hold the pole!” But, it was the sequence that I was nervous about, going into. I was like, “Oh, boy! What’s this going to be?” And, I knew that I could count on Steve to deliver, which he did. One of my favorite things in the movie is Steve licking the pole and then immediately becoming nauseous. I’d like to say that we went to a bunch of strip clubs and really studied, but we didn’t.
Q: When you were developing the film, prior to filming, what were the things that you were looking to steer the movie towards?
Tina: We wanted the movie to feel like it was at the top of its intelligence, in dealing with this couple and marriage, and we really wanted this couple to feel truthful and realistic to us, and that they weren’t a couple who hate each other and were fighting all the time. They were just a real couple who were worn down by their every day lives, and were struggling to try to come together, and this night sparks that for them. So, I think we tried to pursue jokes that felt true to that.
Q: Steve, what do you do, in real life, to avoid the boredom that can happen with marriage?
Steve: I knew we would get questions like this, at the press junket, and I thought that I had prepared, but I clearly haven’t. You feel like you’re giving relationship advice. I think every relationship is so different and so unique that I don’t think there is any blanket advice. For Nancy and myself, there is a lot of laughter, there is an open line of communication, and we just have fun with one another, and we never forget to make fun of ourselves and to not take it all too seriously. At least for us, that’s what helps. And, amazing lovemaking.
Q: Do you remember to close the drawers, unlike your character in this film?
Steve: That particular moment was based on all of us. I do that, Shawn does that, Tina’s husband does exactly that, with drawers and cabinets. It’s universal.
Q: Tina, since you’ve lived in New York for awhile, have you seen characters like the ones in this film?
Tina: I live there now, and I have definitely encountered people like the maître d’ that we encounter in the movie, and people who are propping up their own self-worth by trying to make everyone feel terrible. Also, we actually took out all the shots that had real rats in them.
Steve: It’s such a cliche.
Q: Tina, since this was your first time making a film like this and being involved with the action, did you have a scariest moment?
Tina: I thought all the action-y stuff was really fun to do. I enjoyed that. We spent several days and nights in those cars, being pulled on giant rigs. It was really fun. It was impressive. Our crew was awesome and built these two monster trucks tethered to two cars. It was pretty cool. The last few days of the shoot were on the roof in New York City, and that was good times. We got to pretend that helicopters were coming. And, who doesn’t want to scream at Ray Liotta?
Q: Tina, how does your husband feel about your crazy schedule?
Tina: He is very understanding about it, and he also works the same TV show that I work, so we are all working toward a common goal. I think, if we had truly separate jobs, it would be hard. But, he’s the house daddy in the morning, if I have an early call. So far, so good. He is very good and helpful about it.
Q: What does he do on 30 Rock?
Tina: He is a producer, and he does all of the music for the show.
Q: Tina, do you want to continue doing 30 Rock for awhile, or are you feeling any fatigue?
Tina: Well, I feel constant fatigue. We’ll see. We’ll keep going until we can’t anymore. I won’t know until I’m there.
Q: Is Floyd’s (Jason Sudeikis) wedding going to take viewers through to the season finale on 30 Rock? How crazy is that wedding going to get?
Tina: Yes, we are building to a multi-wedding season finale. It’s good because, apparently, people like weddings, so we are just trying to do a bunch of weddings. No. I think it will be our version of it. I think Liz ends up actually having to have a function at three weddings, on the same day.”
Q: Do you think you’ll do any more Sarah Palin when you host Saturday Night Live again?
Tina: I am hosting SNL on April 10th, and I’m sure that week we will try something. You always try, and then see if it sticks through dress rehearsal. But, yeah, tune in. We’ll see what we do.