Interview: Director Griffin Dunne on the no-holds-barred comedy 'Movie 43'
Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin display a deliciously raunchy version of teen angst
What do you get when you take some of best comedy writers around, a bunch of talented directors, and an A-list cast that would make any filmmaker drool, and let them loose on a series of short films that stretch the bounds of good taste to the breaking point? How about the twisted “Movie 43,” featuring the likes of Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Naomi Watts, and a bunch of other brave souls who get to say things light years away from their usual dialogue. This brainchild of Peter Farrelly and Charles Wessler is not for the easily-offended and contains some of the most disturbing storylines you will have ever seen in one film.
I talked to actor/director Griffin Dunne about his segment, “Veronica,” which stars a trash-talking Emma Stone (“Crazy, Stupid, Love,” “The Help,” “The Amazing Spider-Man”) and Kieran Culkin (“Igby Goes Down,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”) who somehow managed to convince their agents and publicists to let them participate in this crazy project.
MSN Movies: This seems like a big departure from the kinds of films you’ve worked on in the past. Did it take much convincing to get you involved?
Griffin Dunne: Charlie Wessler, one of the producers, is literally my best friend from the time I was nine years old. He’s produced all the Farrelly Brothers movies and he’s a very funny guy. He’s got his finger on the pulse of some of the best comedy writers in town and I’ve been watching him work like a dog on this project for years and pull together this unbelievable cast. I was very happy to be part of it!
When I talked to Peter Farrelly he said he was worried at first about the actors' willingness to, shall we say, go where they've never gone before, but, if anything, they urged him to go even further. Was that your experience as well?
Yes, everybody was so down for it, it was really heartening! You’ll see that my segment has some absolutely crazy “What did she just say? What did he just say?” dialogue, like it was written by a lunatic, but it’s played very, very straight, like a serious story of teenage love and heartbreak. I swear, if you didn’t speak English, or you turned down the volume and just watched the actors perform, you’d think you were watching “Splendor in the Grass!”
Did you have a hand in getting Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin to star in your short?
We made a list but Emma was at the very top and I was thrilled that she was totally up for it. And it was Emma who brought Kieran on board—she’s known him for a long time. So the two of them were able to bring their own personal intimacy to the story which was great.
Using so many in-demand actors, was it hard to find a time when everyone was available? Did you have to be very flexible—“Okay, we’re shooting next Thursday at 3?”
Thank God that wasn’t my problem but that’s exactly the kind of thing that ruled Charlie’s life on this film! Personally I find it overwhelming to get six friends to show up at a restaurant on the same day so how the hell he managed that with this cast, I can’t even imagine.
Have you thought about how the critics will respond to something that’s this out there? Peter said that he’s sure the film will get about a “4” on Rotten Tomatoes!
It’s hard to tell how critics will go down, I have a feeling they’re all going to laugh when they watch the film but whether they’re going to like that about themselves, I can’t say! But I do think that audiences will flip out over it. Charlie and I grew up watching movies like “The Groove Tube” and “Kentucky Fried Movie” and I’m always amazed there are not more of this kind of thing, it’s sort of a genre unto itself. I think it’s really fun to see shorts on a big screen in the company of other people. You get to pick which one is your favorite, you always find some of them more hilarious than others, and then you get to talk about all of them with your friends.
What was it about the “Veronica” segment that attracted you?
I loved how emotional it was. My short has real from-the-gut teenaged broken-hearted emotions but what they are feeling and what they are saying are so completely different.
As is often the case with teenagers!
Absolutely. Because of that, there’s this unexpected poignancy that comes out which I think makes this segment a little different from the other ones. We sort of used the end of “Casablanca” as our template, when Bogey is saying goodbye to Ingrid Bergman. If you take away the outrageous dialogue, you’ll find a story of people who are deeply in love but who aren’t going to see each other again. Emma cried real tears in the film, even as she was talking about blowing hobos! I don’t know how she did it, but she did!
How do you think your father (the late writer and investigative journalist Dominick Dunne) would have responded to this film?
Oh, my dad had a wicked sense of humor—he would have LOVED this kind of thing!
“Movie 43” opens on January 25, 2013.