Identity Thief is the hilarious new comedy, from director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) and screenwriter Craig Mazin (The Hangover II), that follows what happens to a regular guy (played by Jason Bateman) when he is forced to extreme measures to clear his name after a woman (played by Melissa McCarthy) who loves to live it up steals his identity and ruins his life.
At the press day for the film, Collider spoke to Craig Mazin about making the film, finding the right tone, and the importance of keeping the heart in the story. While we will run that portion of the interview closer to the film’s February 8th theatrical release date, we did want to share what he had to say about the experience of being a part of the highly successful The Hangover franchise, whether he and Todd Phillips took the criticism of the second film into account when writing The Hangover 3, making films for audiences to enjoy, an the animated feature Turkeys (he reveals Amy Poehler has joined the cast which also featuring the voices of Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson), which he’s writing and producing. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
CRAIG MAZIN: Well, it’s scary. The thing that keeps me from freaking out is that I have Todd [Phillips] as my writing partner and he’s the maestro. In the back of my mind, it always seemed to me that he wouldn’t let us write something that was wrong because he was going to have to shoot it. He knows those characters and he made that world. But, it’s scary, anyway, because you want to please people. Critics aside, and whatever their issues were, I sat with audiences when we ran The Hangover II for the first time and they loved it. We had a great cinema score, which is a nice thing. I want the audience to love it. Sometimes critics disagree with the audience, and that’s fine. I make movies for the audience. I guess I hope that the critics like it, but on the other hand, I just really want the audience to like it.
When you hear criticism for a movie, and there was some for The Hangover II, and you know you have to write The Hangover III, do you put it out of your head or do you take that criticism into account?
MAZIN: Kind of. It’s not so much that the criticism makes you make different choices. Rather, the criticism makes you start anticipating the reaction to your choices, and you’ve gotta get that out of your head. We always knew the third movie was not going to have these guys waking up from a night that they’ve forgotten because we understood that it needed to happen twice, so that the third movie could end it by addressing why it happened twice. But then, you think, “They’re going to go, ‘Well, I guess they listened to us,’” but no. And then, what inevitably ends up happening is that I look at Todd and he looks at me, and we go, “Wait a second, why are we even talking about this? Who cares! They’re going to say what they want to say. It doesn’t matter!” It didn’t matter on The Hangover II, at all, and it’s not going to matter on The Hangover III. Either people will like it, or people won’t, meaning the audience. That’s it.
You’re also working on an animated feature, called Turkeys?
MAZIN: Yeah, it’s this cute little animated movie. Animation takes years. [The process is] so different. I really wrote a draft of that script, years ago. I wrote it right after I got back from Bangkok. And then, they go through this endless process of refining it and creating it. It’s so slow. They animate like a second a day. Animation is the craziest thing, to me. But, it’s this really cute story about these turkeys that go back in time to get to the first Thanksgiving to get turkey off the menu. It’s Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler, who are really funny, good people. Jimmy Hayward is the director. He made Horton Hears a Who, and he’s a great guy. I just occasionally cycle back in for a few days, look at some stuff, give them a couple of ideas, and then I leave again. Then, I come back months later and am like, “How about now?” It’s totally different. That is a true marathon.