Thursday, October 24, 2013

Director talks 'Bad Grandpa' -- and That Penguin Scene

Charlotte was the proving ground for some of the funniest and most outrageous scenes in the new comedy "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa." You can read about two of them by clicking HERE. Or, you can read on for director Jeff Tremaine's explanation of how two of the most notorious scenes in the trailer were born.

These are excerpts from an interview with Tremaine conducted Monday:

On developing the concept for "Bad Grandpa": "We started loosely talking about this idea ... in 2006. But really, about two years ago we got serious about really figuring out how to crack making a movie just about Irving. And we threw around story ideas, but even before we were committed to story, (Johnny) Knoxville and I started throwing around funny scenarios, like how we do the 'Jackass' stuff, where we just think of funny scenes with Irving, not really worrying about the story. But once we started writing the story, it took the front seat. It really took over the movie. And then we started thinking about pranks. How to tell the story through pranks and stunts, really. Where they weren't just a series of pranks that are strung together with a loose narrative. When you watch it, you'll see. It's a real story. It feels almost like a normal, scripted movie, except for 90 percent of the actors are real people that don't know they're starring in a movie."

Director Jeff Tremaine with Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

On the challenges of making the film: "This movie is, from a production standpoint, a terrible idea. Because one, your star has to go through four hours of makeup before you even start shooting. Or let's say three hours. They got it down to three. But it really is three and a half to four. Two, you have an 8-year-old boy with you that comes with a lot of restrictions on what you can shoot and your time and everything else. And three, all the cameras have to be hidden. We weren't able to come up with a device that let us have a camera out for 99 percent of the movie. So everything had to be hidden. And then you're hoping for reactions. And then you're hoping, on top of that, that after you get those reactions that you were hoping for, that the people will be cool and sign the release. So it's a terrible idea. Most of 'Jackass' was just a bunch of us sitting around kicking each other in the nuts and laughing about it. It was pretty easy to shoot most of that. I mean, there's a danger element for sure, but from a production standpoint, it's pretty easy. We don't do that much stuff out in public anymore. ("Bad Grandpa") was all out in public, and that's just such a wild card. It's stressful."

Johnny Knoxville with director Jeff Tremaine. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

On comparisons to "Borat": "I think 'Borat' was more of a very loose narrative. It was more his character doing a series of vignettes that had a very loose narrative. This is much more narrative than I think 'Borat' is. And 'Borat' was smarter than we were. They had a device that allowed them to have a camera out the whole time. ... But we're fans. We like 'Borat.' We're fans of what Sacha (Baron Cohen) does, for sure."

On the funeral scene: "Right at the beginning of the movie, Irving's wife dies, and we have a funeral for her. And she never existed, so we had to figure out how to populate a funeral with people willing to sit through a funeral for someone they didn't know. And what they don't know is that she's not even real. ... We shot that scene really early, and that scene has the whole plot of the movie in it. These people have to sit through not just a funeral that goes crazy, but it's where Irving -- who is excited to start the last part of his life free of his wife that he was miserable with -- is handed his grandson that he barely knew. And there's a lot of plot that these people have to sit through, and they don't know what's going on. So when we successfully pulled that off, I knew we could do anything, because that one seemed far-fetched at the time of writing it."

On the corpse used throughout the movie: "It's a mold of Catherine Keener. We shot with Catherine Keener and ended up cutting her out. We shot with Keener and (co-writer) Spike Jonze both in old makeup. Spike was an old lady, and Keener played (Irving's) wife. We were gonna show her through flashbacks. And Spike was the one that got away, his long-lost love interest, the one before he got married. We got really funny stuff, but as we were cutting the movie together, we realized that the thing that was working the most in the movie and the thing that needed more time to develop was Irving and Billy's relationship, and putting stuff in between that muddied it up. So we ended up cutting them out. We'll put it out on DVD later."

On the above scene, shot outside The Penguin Drive-In: "What was funny is WE put the penguin there. We found the restaurant The Penguin that was cool with us shooting, and we just put this big penguin in front of it... The owner of the restaurant was in on it, but none of the employees were, so they thought that this was the new big icon in front of The Penguin... We were just going around shooting a bunch of stuff of Irving being a bad driver. That was one of the sub-themes: Irving can't drive for s---. So we set up a bunch of these scenarios where he was just gonna run over stuff in front of people, and hopefully get reactions. But when we hit the penguin, there was this angry New Yorker there for some reason. (He wasn't an employee.) The guy is like full-on Brooklyn or something -- I mean, he sounds like an actor. And he just got so offended, and (Johnny Knoxville) sensed that. Knoxville's so good at that. When someone does give him a hint that they're on the hook, he will take them for a ride. And he just made this guy really angry, then brought him down. Made him even more angry, brought him down... That ended up being a crazy scene."

On the above scene, shot outside -- and inside -- Value Village: "That's one of probably the most complicated shoots that I've ever been a part of, and it's only about 30 seconds of screen time. But the idea was Irving sits on a little coin-operated ride in front of a shopping center, and it goes haywire and launches him. Originally thought it would be funny to do it at a grocery store or a big store that he sails into. But that seemed too complicated. So we started looking at empty storefronts where we could put this thing and dress the store like it was open, but not have people on the inside, so he could just shoot in there. But then we started scouting, and we found Value Village that had the perfect setup to where he could launch inside. We cordoned it off to where he landed in the bedroom area of Value Village. When we naturally scouted that store, they had it to where there were some beds and things that would block people from being right in front of the window. So it ended up being, Alright, we can actually do this dangerous stunt. The stunt is dangerous for Knoxville, because if he sits up at all, he gets his head taken off. So he had to just keep his head low and hold on tight. And that's what he's best at. That's about the skill level he has. It was a dangerous stunt if he popped up at all ... and then you never know what the landing's gonna be. But we were more concerned -- well, at least on my end -- with other people being close enough to see it, but not being in harm's way. So that was a tricky logistical thing, and we ended up pulling it off."

On putting Knoxville at risk of being punched by someone: "I think his secret goal is TO get beat up. This is what he's really, really good at, and that is walking the line and getting people to a heightened state, without crossing the line. Although I think secretly he'd be very happy if he got punched in the face once in awhile."