Exclusive: Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant Talk FX Pilot ALABAMA, WRITING MOVIES FOR (FUN AND) PROFIT, and Future Projects

     July 26, 2011

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Over the weekend I had the rare privilege of speaking with two of the funniest men in Hollywood, Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. The two have managed to maintain the rarest of comedy careers: they have had tremendous success in writing big studio films (Night At The Museum) while still working with their specific brand of off-beat humor (Reno 911!).

During our extended discussion, we talked about their recent FX pilot Alabama, their massive slate of upcoming films and of course their new screenwriting book Writing Movies For Fun And Profit. We got to talk a lot about many films that haven’t been announced yet so you’re not gonna want to miss this. Continue reading for our full discussion.

thomas-lennon-ben-garant-image-3Let me start by saying that Lennon and Garant were two of the friendliest and funniest people I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. Our discussion was very casual, untaped and without a publicist which made for a really conversational and candid atmosphere. Again, I can’t thank Lennon and Garant enough for their time and for allowing me to write about so many future projects.

We started by talking about Lennon and Garant’s pilot for FX, Alabama. The show was a sci-fi comedy in the style of Star Trek meets Reno 911!. Due to some creative differences, the pilot was not picked up, but the guys were incredibly proud of the pilot, calling it without a doubt the best work they’ve ever done. They said FX President John Landgraf was a huge fan of the pilot, but some people at FX didn’t necessarily “get” the duo’s brand of humor and suggested the pilot be retooled. Garant and Lennon were so proud of the original pilot and decided it just wasn’t meant to be and opted not to rework the pilot. The duo described Eddie Izzard’s performance as the show’s villain as the best performance in any of the shows they’ve worked on, including Reno 911!

thomas-lennon-ben-garant-image-1We then started talking about Lennon and Garant’s upcoming films. Their highest profile film coming up is the Vin Diesel vehicle The Machine, which has been previously described as a family action film. For those of you who groaned at the notion of Diesel returning to family films, know that The Machine wasn’t written specifically for Diesel, and Lennon and Garant wrote it long before he was attached. He actually signed on later, so this is not a typical Diesel family movie.

The concept for The Machine, as described by Lennon and Garant, also sounds incredibly interesting: in the film, during the 1980s the Reagan administration built a humanoid fighting robot (Diesel) for the military to use. 20 years after the robot was decommissioned, the scientist who developed him goes senile and releases the robot to the public. Diesel’s character must then learn to adapt to life in the real world. Lennon described the tone of the film (as written) as along the lines of Being There but with a robot. If the finished product stays close to Lennon’s description of the tone, this could be a pretty cool movie.

We then went on to discuss some of the duo’s other upcoming projects. Lennon went on to mention that in September he will start work on the film Boondoggle. The film will costar Lennon and Rob Riggle as two insurance salesmen who go on a bad acid trip at a business conference. Lennon also worked on the script.

thomas-lennon-ben-garant-imageNext, Lennon and Garant discussed a couple of projects that will start next year. The first is an untitled, Ocean’s Eleven style heist film that takes place in Comic-Con. Lennon called it “Ocean’s Eleven with nerds.” He said nothing is set in stone, but Nick Kroll will likely play the film’s villain and parts are also written for Brian Posehn and Patton Oswalt. This will hopefully film at the beginning of next year.

The guys also briefly teased another film that will hopefully start up next year called Murder House. All they could say was that the logline was “Reno 911! but with the Vatican’s exorcism team”. Then again, that’s all they really needed to say. I’m in.

Last but not least, we talked about their new book (and the real reason for our interview) Writing Movies For Fun And Profit. The duo warned not to judge the book by its cover (which has a goofy picture of the two of them) and clarified that there are real screenwriting lessons to be learned. I had no idea how amongst the slew of projects they have in development they had time to write a book and they said they have actually been working on it since the Writer’s Strike a few years ago. I’ve talked to close to a dozen people who have already read the book and everyone has raved about it. I can’t wait to get a copy when I get home from the convention.

That just about did it for our interview. I want to once again thank Lennon and Garant for giving me so much of their time and for being so candid with me. I had so much fun talking with them and it was without a doubt the ultimate highlight of my Comic-Con so far.

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