There was a point four or five years ago where it seemed like every studio comedy released was some variation of the guys-being-guys trademarked formula. You know – dudes knocking down beers, talking about chicks, engaging in various gross out antics, ribbing one another… Judd Apatow ushered in this bromance with The 40-Year Old Virgin and Todd Phillips took the blueprints to its nihilistic breaking point with his Hangover series. These were the biggest comedies around… until suddenly they weren’t. Look no further than the not-so-spectacular box-office results of Entourage and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 as proof.
There’s something almost quaint nowadays about the genre. Watching out-of-shape grown men playing x-box, smoking a doob, picking their noses, lying about not doing anything, cursing one another off, scratching their balls – it’s all become dare-I-say… humdrum. I guess part of the initial appeal is the shock value, that ‘oh my god – is that how men really behave?’ punch. But nowadays — you show me an unemployed thirty-something ‘beardo’ and I shrug. Really? You don’t say?
Flock of Dudes, which premiered at the LA Film Festival this week, attempts to rekindle that nostalgic guy-movie-formula of yesteryear (i.e. 2005). Under it’s roster is pretty much a who’s who of rising comedic stars: Undateable’s Chris D’Elia, New Girl’s Hannah Simone, Married’s Brett Gelman & Man Seeking Woman’s Eric Andre headline, supported by a bevy of well-known comics/actors: Hillary Duff, Bryan Greenberg, Jeff Ross, Jamie Chung, and even Ray Liotta shows up for a scene or two. The draw here is to see what the rising comedians of today can do with the comedy formula of ten years ago.
The below interview with D’Elia, Simone & director Bob Castrone gives a fairly accurate preview of the tone of Flock of Dudes itself: irreverent, loose & dirty with a dash of insight – perhaps just the right brew as the films it seeks to emulate. In the following interview with the trio, they discuss coming up with the title, deleted scenes and the film’s origins as The Hangover Part 2. For the full interview, read below…
BOB CASTRONE: The first time [I] ever used that phrase it was in a post. I wrote how my friends and I were going from bar to bar just bothering women. We kept on getting bigger because more and more guys would join us and we just became this impenetrable cock-blocking flock of dudes. It was the first time those words were ever written down together.
HANNAH SIMONE: Is that full title? Cock Blocking Flock of Dudes?
CHRIS D’ELIA: That’s a way better title.
CASTRONE: Maybe that can be the international title.
Definitely the sub-title of the film…
CASTRONE: The Impenetrable Cock-Blocking Flock of Dudes. Like Birdman with the colon.
It’s very classy.
CASTRONE: That’ll get us through to the Oscar season.
Well — there’s a strong LA vibe to this film…
D’ELIA: We tried not to signal places out when we were shooting. It’s not like Swingers where they’re like ‘Let’s go to the derby or whatever the fuck.’ But the movie does feel LA…
CASTRONE: Yeah — it was important that the movie felt like LA and hit everything from the beach to downtown. Kind of had all the things LA has without saying ‘we’re going to the derby’ — because we would never be able to shoot there…
How do you get around those budgeting limitations?
CASTRONE: A one-word answer: Whittier, California.
SIMONE: Redondo Beach
CASTRONE: I think our budget was going to Redondo and going downtown and everything else was Whittier.
Script-wise — how did this come about?
CASTRONE: My writing partners (Brian Levin & Jason Zumwalt) and I had been writing sketch comedy together and living a single life. We noticed the way guys are prolonging adolescence, waiting longer to grow up, playing video games into their thirties. We noticed it became way more acceptable to be thirty-five and single and living with three other thirty-five year olds. That was definitely not something our parents did. So we wanted to touch on that prolonging adolescence.
Do you look to any particular films?
CASTRONE: Obviously Judd Apatow was a huge influence. When I saw Forty Year Old Virgin for the first time, I came back to my apartment crying and just looked at my roommate and said ‘Everything’s different now’. You could make a movie where guys were talking like real people. It totally brought that to the masses.
How many different drafts did you go through?
CASTRONE: Over a hundred…
Over a hundred?
D’ELIA: Did it always take place in LA?
D’ELIA: New York, right?
CASTRONE: Yeah – it was set in New York for years. There were a lot of changes that happened over the years. It was right after The Hangover had happened; so for two years Flock of Dudes was The Hangover Part Two. It was following those four characters in different ways with big absurd set pieces. Once you have executives and people telling you how to make it, [the script] changes a million times. The good part about that was getting to know the characters better over the years. And when we actually got the movie back to make ourselves, we knew these characters and were able to write the four of them together
The movie feels very loose… How did the script change on set when all these comics come into it?
D’ELIA: We did what was on the page for some of the takes but… actually very few of the takes. We’re so annoying. Between Brett Gelman, Eric Andre & I — the three of us are just idiots. I felt like Bryan Greenberg was a little more of director’s game player. But we just want to make each other laugh. So that’s where some of the stuff in the movie comes from. But it was written well. Bob was good about letting us [go off] without getting mad.
CASTRONE: I only stopped you guys three times and each time I would get the dirtiest look from Brett. I didn’t want to stop any of you…
D’ELIA: Oh – I know, I know… You have a story to fill.
CASTRONE: We didn’t rehearse. It was just eighteen days in Whittier. So I wanted them to find the jokes and the characters but at a certain point the diner is going to kick us out and we can’t talk about raping each other’s dead grandmas anymore…
D’ELIA: That was Eric Andre…
CASTRONE: So there were always things like that. I knew how I wanted the movie to sound but it was up for them to say it and do it.
I mean you do have a murder’s row of comic talent in the film…
D’ELIA: Fucking Marc Maron’s in this. I just remembered that.
How did you get all these people to come shoot this film?
CASTRONE: I was like ‘Do this movie and you’ll be a star.”
D’ELIA: …before the movie even comes out.
CASTRONE: Yeah that was the promise.
SIMONE: You delivered.
D’ELIA: It’s weird because Marc Maron is fifty and he was struggling for so long and then right after he shot the movie, he got big. At fifty! It must be the movie…
CASTRONE: It’s the movie. But nobody can ever see it. That’s the catch. We have to keep it in a vault while everybody keeps riding higher and higher.
D’ELIA: The price tag [for the movie] becomes more expensive and more expensive — so keep it going.
Chris & Hannah – what’s the balance on set between playing ‘straight man’ versus taking the spotlight amongst all these fellow comedians?
D’ELIA: You’ve gotta know who you’re with. It’s important to feel out the other actors. By the middle of the shoot, since I’ve been paying attention, I can feel when Brett was going to say something. I know when he’s going to do his “thing”. And then Eric Andre — you can see him brewing and when he’s getting ready to yell out ‘my grandma’s been raped’ or whatever it is. You try to feel that. We all just felt each other in that way.
SIMONE: There was a good sense of chemistry on set with everybody and that’s what makes those bits come naturally.
There’s quite a bit of drinking in the movie. What’s the process for playing and directing ‘drunk’?
D’ELIA: I think the problem with some people is that they’re trying to play drunk. Drunk people are trying to act not drunk. If you sit down and start thinking I’m not drunk then all of the sudden I feel like you seem a little bit drunk. That’s what I start with…
CASTRONE: [Chris] had to play three different types of drunk throughout the movie.
What are the different types of drunk?
CASTRONE: In that first barstool scene, he is unable to stand. That is complete disaster drunk.
CASTRONE: Then when he’s breaking up with the guys, it’s that “End-of-the-night-I-should-probably-pass-out-but-I’m-upset-and-I-have-a-lot-going-on-and-I’m-just-trying-to-get-my-thoughts-in-order” type of drunk. Then when the guys don’t want to live with him anymore, that’s just sad drunk… My only direction would be a little less drunk. Because in the script, it would be written “he’s wasted”. And then Chris would play wasted. And I’d be like ‘No – not that wasted. It’s a different type of wasted.’ It was just figuring out where he should be. So it’s not that same thing over and over again.
What was the process editing this film down? How long was the first cut versus where it is now…
CASTRONE: The editor’s assembly was over two and half hours.
D’ELIA: That doesn’t surprise me at all.
CASTRONE: We just put it all in and then whittled it down. It was a process.
How do you decide what to cut?
CASTRONE: Knowing the tone you want to get across automatically eliminates all the ‘dead grandma getting raped’ jokes. Things like that…
D’ELIA: Eric would say that shit and we would tell him all the time “They’re not going to use that.”
CASTRONE: It was finding the right balance between the comedy and the heart.
Were there any scenes in particular that we’re difficult to lose?
CASTRONE: You know what I miss that I was just thinking about yesterday: when you (Chris) go back to the old house and you look into the window and there are four guys that look like you and you’re watching them longingly and they get up and start making out.
D’ELIA: Oh — I didn’t ever see that get shot. Was that in it?
CASTRONE: Yeah that was in it.
D’ELIA: So you cut it?
D’ELIA: Oh fuck – yeah that was funny. I forgot it was in the script.
CASTRONE: It was really funny. But it was a different movie. We’re so run & gun and low budget, we didn’t really shoot anything we couldn’t use. There was one scene we cut — and that was the scene pre-Halloween where you guys are practicing your California Raisin’s dance. That was the only scene that was cut. Everything else was trimmed.
CASTRONE: It just seemed like the best thing to undercut a serious moment was a raisin costume.
Do you have a favorite Halloween costume?
D’ELIA: Yeah I do… With my own “flock of dudes” — my buddy was like ‘Let’s be Clockwork Orange.’ And I was like ‘Dude – that’s what everyone does. Let’s pick a character in a movie and we’ll all dress like that guy.’ So who? I said ‘Fucking Ethan Hawke from Training Day.’ The five of us went out and all got [the same] outfits. We didn’t have mustaches so we drew one. We were just kind of dressed up because [Ethan Hawke] just wears [normal] clothes in the movie. So people would see us and they would think – ‘Oh he didn’t dress up’ but then they would see all five of us and they would be like ‘You’re all wearing the same costume. Who are you guys?’ ‘We’re Ethan Hawke from Training Day.’ It was so fucking stupid. It was also three years after Training Day came out so it wasn’t even in [the zeitgeist]. But it was funny. That was my favorite one.
SIMONE: It’s funny I tend to dress up for Halloween. And I tend to talk shit about the people who dress up as a sexy nurse or sexy doctor. It makes me nuts. It’s just not for me. Not my vibe at all. So I thought it was my karma for talking so much shit, that I then do a movie where I dress up as a sexy kitty with a cute nose [for Halloween]. So now I can’t say I’ve never been a sexy ‘something’. It’s the worst.
Comedy is so subjective — I’m interested what is that particular niche that you find funniest?
D’ELIA: It’s gotten to a point for me where it’s only funny when people get their feelings hurt. My whole life all I think about is what’s funny. Every night I do stand up and my friend are comedians and they’re brutal. So it’s funny to me — if one of the guys in the group is getting blasted and everybody is talking shit. That to me is so fucking funny.
Flock of Dudes screened this week at the LA Film Festival.