Ed Cunningham – Exclusive Interview

     January 17, 2008

Out of all the movies I saw in 2007, one of the best was a small documentary called “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.” The movie is about an out of work teacher named Steve Wiebe as he tries to set the world record in the arcade game Donkey Kong. What he ends up having to go through to try and accomplish this goal is something you have to see, and after you do, I think you’ll agree that as good as Javier Bardem was in “No Country For Old Men,” the screen villain of the year was Billy Mitchell in “King of Kong.” The main reason… Billy is real. Since I want to get to the interview, if you want to know more about the movie or see some clips from the film, just click here.

Since a lot of you have heard of the film and how good it is, hopefully when it arrives later this month on DVD you’ll check it out. As I said, it’s in my top ten for the year, and with how strong 2007 was for movies, that’s saying something.

Anyway, while a lot of you might know about the movie and the story of Billy vs. Steve, you may not know that New Line Cinema is going to try and remake it as a Hollywood movie and they’ve gotten Seth Gordon – the documentary director – to helm the remake. Also, along for the ride is Ed Cunningham, the producer of the documentary.

So at last night’s DVD release party at the Westwood Arcade in Los Angeles, they had Steve Wiebe there to show us some secrets on Donkey Kong and they also had Ed Cunningham.

After the brief Q&A was over, I managed to talk with Ed about the remake as I wanted to know the status of the project and if they had discussed casting yet. As you can read in the transcript below, he said that New Line is completely onboard with this project and it’s a priority film for the studio once the strike is over. He also said they have a screenwriter attached and that his dream casting for Steve would be Greg Kinnear…who I think would be an amazing choice.

Since the project is still being figured out and put together, this could easily be a movie that never gets made. He talked about how they’re struggling to try and figure out the end of the movie…like will they battle head to head, or would it be something else.

Since I think the documentary is so special, I’m of the opinion that unless they can 100% figure out how this remake should work…they should leave it alone. However, I do think it has the makings of a great film and would welcome a movie if they get it right. I just hope they don’t screw up something so great.

So if you’re curious what’s up…here’s Ed. As always, you can either read the transcript or download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. And you should know this was recorded in an arcade….hence the background noise.

Collider: Once the writers’ strike is resolved..

Ed Cunningham: Yeah, once it’s resolved…we’ve hired a writer, Michael Bicall is his name, and once it’s resolved and he can get back to work…it’s all based on how soon we get a good script. You know, luckily everyone who is involved in it – from New Line to the producer’s side – we all know the story really well, we all care about it deeply, we all care about protecting the documentary and the integrity of the documentary, and so does Michael Bacall the writer. He gets it, that’s why he was hired. He knows kind of what we are after. But once the strike is over…Richard Brenner, who is the President at New Line, is ready to run with it.

Collider: So do you have any dream casting for any of the roles?

Ed Cunningham: You know it’s funny, we’ve been all over the board. One of the things that really endeared us to New Line is and Richard Brenner in particular was…it’s very easy to say, ‘oh, big comedy have people kicking each other in the nuts.’ But that’s not his vision at all and it’s not ours. We don’t want this thing spoofed, you know. South Park already did it and that’s okay, but we don’t want to make a spoof of this. And so the idea is that it will be dramatic actors – guys who have range, guys that can figure it out. We’ve thrown around names but nothing that has stuck.

Collider: So is Steve going to approve who plays Steve? How does that work?

Ed Cunningham: You mean working with the actor?

Collider: I guess what I’m saying is…will the movie be the exact story? You see where I’m going with this?

Ed Cunningham: As we discussed in the Q&A, there were things that happened in the documentary that obviously we’ll shoot like you’re there… like his kid crapping his pants while he’s playing the game. We’ll be in the garage with him instead of seeing the video from his world record attempt. Things like that. But, there’s the million dollar question… what about the ending? Do they go head to head? You just don’t know. We’d like to be very faithful to the documentary. I know I would, and I feel like everyone else in the room feels that way to. But, at the same time, you don’t want to remake it exactly. Because you want to give something a little different. You want to see if you can maybe expand the characters a little bit, spend some more time in their personal lives, see that kind of stuff. I hope we stay pretty true to it.

Collider: I’m going to put you on the spot. Dream casting for some of these people. What is your dream?

Ed Cunningham: That’s a hard one.

Collider: There has to be one person for Billy…

Ed Cunningham: Just so you know…this is dangerous territory.

Collider: Well, dream doesn’t mean anything cause once they read a script people can back out, you know what I mean.

Ed Cunningham: If it were just Ed casting the movie, I love Greg Kinnear. I think he’s an amazing actor.

Collider: I could really see that. That’s very good.

Ed Cunningham: Then for Billy…there’s just…

Collider: There was a lot of talk online about who could play Billy. Everyone from Johnny Depp to you name it.

Ed Cunningham: Tom Cruise. There have been a lot of names.

Collider: Have any actors tried or contacted you about the film?

Ed Cunningham: Yeah, but we’re not talking about that. (he laughs) One of the things that happened with this film was that when we sent the film around to the agencies to get represented – you know cause a film needs an agent like an actor – this little underground thing happened with all the assistants in Hollywood, they had heard about this film and they started having (someone interrupts him) and so through that a bunch of big name writers, directors and actors have seen the film, love the film and perfect example…one of the reasons that Seth Gordon is shooting Four Christmases with Vince Vaughn right now is King of Kong. And I’m blanking on the name of the guy editing Four Christmases…but both him and Vince saw the movie and they were like ‘that guy could direct this,’ so it’s been a pretty cool process. Steve actually got an email out of the blue from Tony Hawk. He found his email, then sent him an email and told him you’re awesome and sent him a couple of skateboards and some games for his kids. We were at Comic-Con having dinner after the screening and Jonah Hill who had a tiny film coming out called Superbad, was doing press next door and heard Weibe was next door, left the press to come over and have his picture taken with Steve Weibe. It’s just been really cool to see people really wanting to hang with Steve.

Collider: And what’s it like to have the best ranked film at Rotten Tomatoes?

Ed Cunningham: I think we’re number two now. I think Ratatouille is now number 1.

Collider: I have to be honest, I think Ratatouille is amazing.

Ed Cunningham: It’s awesome. We actually got to take Kong to Pixar and play it there.

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