Capone With Seann William Scott About THE PROMOTION, Peter Berg, SOUTHLAND TALES, A Live Action BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD, And More!!
Published at: June 3, 2008, 8:21 a.m. CST by merrick
Hey everyone, Capone in Chicago here.
Seann William Scott will be the first to admit two things about himself: he's made a name for himself playing a series of goofballs in the AMERICAN PIE films, DUDE WHERE'S MY CAR?, and THE DUKES OF HAZARD; and that he's made a few really bad movies in his 10 years career as a film actor (MR. WOODCOCK, anyone? Anyone?).
But in the last year or so, Scott has made a shift--not a change, but a shift, an adjustment, and expansion in the types of roles he's been taking and fighting to get. Last year's long-delayed SOUTHLAND TALES saw Scott flex his dramatic muscles in a solid dual role as twin brothers. Say what you want about the movie (I know you will), but Scott's performance is powerful and might be the best thing about the film.
His latest role might seem like more of the same since, at its heart, writer-director Steve Conrad's THE PROMOTION is a comedy. But unlike his Scott's previous comedies, this isn't about crude jokes, sight gags, and broad humor.
THE PROMOTION is a comedy of manners. It revels in those deeply anxious moments in our lives where there is no right move, but making the wrong move in not an option either. It's the story of a man (Scott) who knows he's chosen a dead-end career and will do anything to take advantage of what might be his only opportunity to get ahead in his company, even if it means humiliating a rival (played by John C. Reilly). And my changing his game just a little bit, Scott gives us the best work of his career so far, with many more interesting projects to come.
I had a chance to hang out with Seann William Scott a little bit after a screening of THE PROMOTION here in Chicago. He and Conrad did a spirited Q&A after the screening, and I think everyone in attendance had a complete blast. This phone interview with Seann was done more recently. In fact, it was the day after a certain Mr. Mike Judge has brought up Seann's name in a very interesting context, which we discuss.
Seann William Scott: Hey!
Capone: Hi Seann, how are you?
SWS: I'm good, man. I'm so glad we're doing this interview. Fire away.
Capone: When you were here, we talked about some of your recent career choices and the more serious roles you've been taking and pursuing. I'd include THE PROMOTION in that group of films; it's not like there are characters telling jokes in that movie. It's certainly funny.
Is your ideal world where directors are considering you for all types of roles?
SWC: Yeah. I think every actor would love to be in that position. I'm in kind of a precarious spot because I always wanted to do dramatic stuff, and the comedy thing just kind of happened. And I'm really blessed to have had the chance to work in these comedies.
It's not like I would have watched many of the movies that I've done [laughs], but I'm still glad I got the job, and I tried to make the best of the situation. And some of them on paper sound pretty good, like if you think of MR. WOODCOCK. Even though it didn't have an awesome concept, to work with those people was great. But when you watch the movie, you go, "Oh my God." And you think, well, there are so many things that go into watching a movie, and all you can do is try your best and cross your fingers.
But I would love to work on some films that have a little more substance, like THE PROMOTION. It's tricky for me because I made a real effort to try and make some of these smaller films, and it's hard because the can take two years to come out and still be crap. Or they may never come out. And you risk losing a little bit of momentum in your career. At this point, you just need a hit, and I really haven't had a real success in a long time, so I'm still out there really fighting, trying to prove myself, and I actually understand the issue that directors could have with me. I'm not sure I would cast me in some of these films [laughs]. You really risk somebody being distracting, even though I feel like I'm capable of doing something like that. And I like the fight, too; I'm an athlete. And I love films, so I think you have to try the best you can with every opportunity. I'd love to do things like working with John C. Reilly; I think he's fantastic.
Capone: You say you like the fight, and you do seem intent on not taking the easiest road available to you. You're working, in many cases, with fairly untested directors, Craig Gillespie [MR. WOODCOCK], Richard Kelly [SOUTHLAND TALES], and even Steve Conrad. Even when you worked with Peter Berg [THE RUNDOWN], he'd only made one movie before. You certainly are a trusting soul.
SWS: It's true. It's also, too, it's not like I get tons of offers. I follow actors' careers and the paths they've taken, and I think there's a lot of luck involved. And if you have that one movie that really works, that kind of JUNO movie, then all of the sudden, you're sitting on Cloud 9 and you can field a bunch of offers.
I've been really lucky to have worked with Peter Berg; that movie could have been total crap, and you get a guy who is a fantastic director who ends up doing some really cool stuff. I think things just turn out that way. Almost every movie I've done has been with a first- or second-time director. But I got really lucky with Steve because I really appreciate the way he tells a story, and that's why this movie means a lot to me.
Capone: THE PROMOTION relies a great deal on mannerisms and incredibly tense situations to get it laughs and its drama. I haven't really seen you do that before. Some people might not recognize the difference, but there's a big one in the way you play a role like that.
SWS: Thanks. I appreciate that more than being the clown. And that's the thing with the beginning of my career, with AMERICAN PIE, I think the only reason that character is so ridiculous and over the top is that I was trying to get as much screen time as possible [laughs].
So I was making the most outrageous statements, hoping to create a joke out of not being able to say anything, and he ended up being his complete ass. But I do appreciate the subtle humor more. Have you read any of Steve's scripts?
Capone: I've never read them, no.
SWS: He's go a real interesting voice. You should read his stuff; it's really weird. And that's really all Steve, except for John. John added so much; I didn't really add anything, I pretty much played the character as it was written. But John really…everyday I'd watch him work and it freaked me out, because I was like "Don't screw this movie up for this guy." He's so funny. Every weird nuance he would do was so good. The only reason why I came off to a degree where I wasn't distracting was because of Steve; I think he cut the film together well [laughs].
Capone: He's certainly proved that he's a gifted writer even before THE PROMOTION? How did you know you know it was okay to trust him as a director?
SWS: I've been trying to work on films like this for a long time, and I thought the script was really interesting. Like you were saying, instead of being that kind of formulaic film where it's three scenes and then a set piece, and the same kind of crap happens that you see in every comedy.
Steve actually ended up rewriting the script a lot and making it better and better. So for me, it was a huge opportunity to get the job. It's not like I said to myself, "I want to do DUKES OF HAZARD." You just try to get the best work that you can, knowing that something could be complete trash, but hoping that maybe it works. With a movie like this, I was trying to work with people I thought were real artists. It's difficult to convince some filmmakers to look past the baggage that I carry with me into the project.
But Steve, the way he spoke about the characters, you could tell he wanted it to be a simple movie about two guys just trying to make it, and really try to give their families the best chance they can at a good life. He's also really funny, and I like his subtle little jokes. I was more interested in trying to convince him to give me the job.
Capone: How much of your time these days do you spend lobbying for roles? Was this a part that you had to convince people to let you play, or did they come to you?
SWS: I got pretty lucky. I asked him for the meeting, and I heard that Matt Damon was attached, and I was like, "Oh fuck!" So I was lucky that he fell off the film. I sat down with Steve, and I think he had a chance to see that I was very different than some of the characters I've played.
I was also lucky that his brother really liked AMERICAN PIE. "You gotta work with this guy." Other than Peter Berg, Steve is one of the only directors I've worked with, he looked past all of the clown characters I've played and thought maybe I could do something else. It went through a real process too, because I got attached to it about three-and-a-half years ago, and Jim Carrey wanted to do it at some point. I think Tom Cruise did to.
And Steve was like, "I'm only going to go with Seann playing Doug" to Jim Carrey, which I thought was incredible. I don't expect to have many experiences like that where the director believes in me that much.
Capone: How was Steve on the set as a director? He seems so laid-back in person; it's hard to imagine him being a dictator on the set.
SWS: He is just as laid back on the set. It was interesting experience because I was going through a lot of personal things, and it was such a blessing to have the opportunity to work and laugh and really enjoy the process because he was laid back.
I think with comedy, I really don't know what I'm doing, but if you think you're funny, I think you're screwed. I don't think I'm funny, so it puts the fear of God in you to make a decision and really go for it. If you commit to a way of playing something, and it's half assed, you know it's going to feel totally off. What was great with Steve is that he never really made you feel like you were making a mistake even though I would say a line and go "Oh my gosh, that was terrible," he just wasn't that guy because he's such a nice guy. He really created an environment where you could take a risk and feel good about what you were doing.
I've worked on movies where you don't feel that way, and it's really hard, especially if you're not a comedian, to be funny when you feel, "Gosh, I better get it right or I'm going to be criticized. He's just a really laid-back guy, and I'm really excited to see his next film. I think the guy has so much potential; I'm really excited to see where his career goes.
Capone: I would love to see CHAD SCHMIDT get off the ground.
SWS: Oh my God, you've got to get your hands on that script. The first time I ever read Steve's work was THE WEATHER MAN, and I thought that script was awesome. I never read and I haven't seen THE PURSUIT Of HAPPYNESS. But CHAD SCHMIDT is incredible, and he was just telling me about this new movie he's doing with Jack Black called MAILMAN. He's got this bizarre…he's really smart. He's also my friend, so I'm a bit biased but I do actually believe in him as an artist.
But the CHAD SCHMIDT thing, if that happens, if Brad Pitt does that and gains weight. It sounds like a really cool, weird idea.
Capone: You talked before about directors willing to take chances with you. Obviously Richard Kelly would fall into that category.
Capone: I remember that when the film came out, you were one of the most vocal people in SOUTHLAND TALES who spoke on its behalf and tried really hard to get people to come check it out, open their minds, and maybe not be scared away by its weirdness. That was the film where it really became clear to me what you were capable of as an actor.
SWS: I read your review, by the way. I was so happy to read that. That was so nice to read. Yeah, I asked to meet with Richard Kelly, and when he said he wanted to meet with me, I thought Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out of the closet and told me I got punk'd. So I read SOUTHLAND TALES, and I was like, "Whoa, what is this?" And he wanted me to play these twin brothers, and I thought, "Here's a really amazing opportunity to do something different in a movie that makes sense to me in a way it felt like I could make up my mind about what he's trying to do.
This is another one of those movies where it took about a year and a half, two years to make it, and he kept working on it. And like I said, I just love movies, and I love people who take risks and do something different. I mean, the guy made it for $15 million-$18 million, and it look so beautiful and strange and weird. And it's a really interesting movie because people either said it was the worst movie ever made or they really got it. I like the fact that he took that risk, and he had something in his head that he was trying to do.
He wasn't a lost puppy trying to figure something out; I think he always had a plan, he had a real point of view, and I appreciate that. And I really appreciated the opportunity. You said it yourself, here was this guy who looked at me and considered me in a way that no one had before.
And then of course some people came up to me and said, "Dude, what was that about?"
Capone: I liked the movie, and I might still ask that question. Was the first film that you really felt like you were being tested as an actor?
SWS: I think I felt tested making AMERICAN PIE. [laughs] Seriously, because I'd never acted before. I'd been in L.A. for about three years, and I'd never got out for a comedy.
I was lucky to get an audition. Okay, maybe I'd gone out for three or four comedy auditions, but I was so terrible, and I'd tell my manager, "Don't do it." It would literally almost make me throw up because I was so bad and afraid. And he would say, "You're lucky to get auditions, man. You're not really in a position to turn these down." And I'd say, "I know, I know, but trust me, I can't do these." Then I'd go in, and you'd see the look on the casting directors' faces when I'd try to interpret what was on a page, and my manager would give me a call and say, "Yeah, you sucked."
Then when I got AMERICAN PIE, it was a total fluke. I just tried to create something I thought my friends would like, and speak the way your friends speak, and I was able to parlay that into other jobs. I just got really lucky.
But I do think that SOUTHLAND TALES…because I like movies so much, I've watched a lot of actor who started out in comedies, and audiences aren't necessarily ready to follow them into drama. People in comedy get so anxious to make that transition into drama. I haven't even really created a firm hold in the comedy genre yet, so it's not like I'm any of those big names that I've watched do that. But I found myself watching some of the big comedy guys try something and even I would think, "Man, I'm not sure that was the right movie for them." I felt like I was pretty safe with Richard Kelly's film because I felt like the characters were pretty straight and pretty serious…maybe not serious…but straight in this bizarre world. I always try to test myself with every movie, because I'm not at a level where I can make many mistakes.
I'm actually at a level where I have to try and get a hit. Any pressure that happens in my life, I pretty much put on myself. What else can you do? You just try your best, and if it sucks, it sucks. [laughs] But if you're messing around and not really trying or putting the work in, and then it suck, you could have some regrets, like "What could I have done better?"
Capone: You mentioned Jim Carrey before. Audiences seem really resistant to seeing him in anything serious. Is there somebody like him that you look to as a role model and say, "I'd like to have a career like that actor"?
SWS: One of my favorite comedians is Ricky Gervais; the guy is just incredible. Since I started off in comedy, I think the guys have really tapped into what people want to see them do and they've created a lot of freedom and room for themselves to try other things are Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller.
I don't compare myself to those guys at all. Like I said, I did DUKES OF HAZARD and MR. WOODCOCK, but I'd love to have some of the success that they've had in comedy. Adam Sandler has done such an amazing job, whether you like his films or you don't; he's really tapped into that demographic that will go to his film religiously, but then he can go do something like PUNCH DRUNK LOVE.
And Ben Stiller is also doing so much. But I love dramas so much and I end up watching foreign films more than anything, and I admire anybody in this business that has some success and are allowed to work with better scripts and better directors and have a little bit more of a safety net around them.
There's just so much crap out there, and most of the films I have a chance to work in, I try to create something and hope for the best. I think that's why THE PROMOTION is nice for me; it's a little bit more of a mature role and a different role, and I've never had that opportunity before and there's a nice feel to it. I think it's the best all-around movie I've done.
There might be some people that look at this and go, "Eh, it's a good movie." But I think most people will really, really like it. I don't think anyone is going to come out going, "That sucked." I've done a lot of the "that sucked" films. I think with John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer in this, if I can get more opportunities like this and surround myself with really great actors, I think that always raises your game.
I wanted to ask you this, did you see HANCOCK [the upcoming Will Smith movie directed by Peter Berg]?
Capone: I haven't seen it yet; I don't think they've screened it yet.
SWS: What do you think about it?
Capone: The more I see and learn about it, the more excited I am to see it.
SWS: Me too! I think the new trailer is awesome. Of course, I love Pete. Did you watch I AM LEGEND?
SWS: What did you think of that?
Capone: Overall I liked it. I actually thought it was a better film before the more conventional good-versus-evil stuff kicked in at the end. Just Will Smith going through his day-to-day routine with slight alterations was fascinating to me.
SWS: Me too. That first hour, when that dog died, I cried. [laughs] I was like, "Holy shit. This is a one-man show." There aren't a lot of guy who could pull that off. We could talk movie all day. But I just saw it the other day
Capone: HANCOCK is probably one of the five films I was most excited to see this summer.
SWS: What are the others?
Capone: HELLBOY 2 is probably at the top now that IRON MAN is out.
SWS: I haven't seen that yet. I saw that the reviews were insane. How about Robert Downey Jr. in that movie and in the trailer for TROPIC THUNDER.
Capone: That's in the top 5 as well. I was at ShoWest earlier this year for a day, and Downey and Stiller were premiering the trailer and clips from the film. The trailer barely gives you a sense of just how demented this film is going to me. The red-band trailer gives you a better taste. But what he's doing with that role is either going to make everyone really mad or solidify his place as one of the greatest actors of all time.
SWS: I saw a review on Ain't It Cool News the other day that was insane. I don't know if it was one of the regular guys or someone who snuck into a screening. He said Tom Cruise is incredible in it.
Capone: That's what I hear; there are a bunch of cameos in it. But I don't think any of the staff has actually seen it yet.
Let me ask you about a couple upcoming things you have real quick because I don't know if they're going to kick us off the phone here or not. I read that yesterday on MTV movie blog, Mike Judge is thinking about creating a live-action Beavis and Butt-head movie. And he said that he envisioned you and Johnny Depp in those roles, with you presumably playing Butt-head. Had you heard about this?
SWS: Ah, man! You know what? I had an interview earlier, and somebody said that, and I thought they were joking. I have to say, to work with Mike Judge, I think that guy is really incredible.
OFFICE SPACE is a really solid comedy, but I don't think Johnny Depp is going to want to work with me. [laughs] Not quite yet. But if Mike Judge asked me to work with Johnny Depp, I'd be all over that, even if it was Beavis and Butt-head. I haven't seen "Beavis and Butt-head" in a long time, but that's a pretty huge honor. What do you think about that?
Capone: I don't know what I think about a live-action Beavis and Butt-head, but I like the casting choices. I wouldn't count out Depp. If you'd told me five years ago, he would be the star of a live-action version of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN ride and Disney, I would have done a spit-take in your face. Every once in a while, Depp will do something that you almost can't believe he's doing. I don't think he'd outright dismiss the idea. He'd want to the script to be good. Beavis and Butt-head are iconic.
SWS: You never know. Like I said, I don't think Johnny Depp would want to work with me, but who knows? That could be a really bizarre, funny film.
Capone: Let's talk about some upcoming project that we know you're involved with. LITTLE BIG MEN. I've interviewed [director] David Wain, [co-writer] Ken Marino, and [co-star] Paul Rudd when they were doing press for THE TEN. What is LITTLE BIG MEN about?
SWS: David is such a funny guy. He's got such a cool sense of humor. And I'm really excited to have a guy like that do something with me that's a little bit more commercial. It's basically Paul and I play guys who work at the energy drink company.
And what's nice is, we don't come off like WEDDING CRASHERS-style best friends. It's more like THE ODD COUPLE. Paul's such a funny guy, and I'm the guy who's a total mess and doesn't want any responsibility. He's a bit of a mess too, but he's a little bit angry, and I'm the guy who just wants to have fun. It's not so much the Stifler character, but it does kind of cater to that audience.
He's a good guy, and he loves his job because he only has to work two or three hours a day and spends the rest of the time messing around and womanizing. Basically, they make a horrible mistake and make a mess of things. It sounds like a bit of a familiar device, but they've worked it so they have to go through a mentor program to save their jobs. So we've got Christopher Mintz-Plasse from SUPERBAD and a young actor from FRED CLAUS [Bobb'e J. Thompson]. Jane Lynch is in it, so is Elizabeth Banks. It's a great cast.
Basically, it's a big, crazy R-rated comedy in the vein of Judd Apatow films and WEDDING CRASHERS, and the two guys have to grow up a bit. It's actually quite funny, and Jane Lynch is incredible in the movie. I'm excited about it. I wanted to something different and take a risk, and do two or three smaller films, and it's taken so long for these movies to come out. I just wanted to go back and try to be funny. It was fun to go back. I don't think people want to see me in comedies, other than maybe a PROMOTION-type movie, and play the quiet guy, like in WOODCOCK. I don't think that I do well with that. Not to mention, as much as I love Craig Gillespie, I don't think that that movie works. So it's fun to go back and play the guy who says the things you wish you could say, but you don't have the balls to say and he gets away with it.
So it was great to play opposite Paul and the cool cast. I think the movie has a lot of potential.
Capone: I've always been a huge fan of "The State," so anything that's made by people from the troop, I'm there.
SWS: That's good. Let me watch it first, and we'll keep in touch and I'll tell you what to expect. [laughs] I think it's pretty funny; I think it's going to work. The test screening went really well, but you never know with those things. You never know if they invite all their friends and they laugh a lot or what. We'll see.
Capone: Paul Rudd is one of those actor like we were talking about before. He's been doing mostly comedies lately, but he's done his share of drama successfully. People don't seem to rule him out of any kind of role.
SWS: And he's earned it too. It's nice to see a guy who's been working a long time and really hard and had a lot of success. And he's exploded for all the right reasons. He came on as a writer, and got to write his own stuff and he kind of catered to this really cool vibe, this kind angry guy who's really bratty and pissed off at the world. He's just a funny, smart guy; he's almost intimidating. The two of us working opposite each other pretty well.
Capone: Are you doing something with Topher Grace next? Is that definitely happening?
SWS: I hope so, man. I've been producing this movie [currently titled COXBLOCKER] for a year and a half, and because of all the strike stuff, I think the studio just wanted to make the movies they already had in production. And the script is really, really funny. We'll have to see, once the SAG stuff gets sorted out, it would be great, because the movie is hilarious, one of the funniest scripts I've ever read. I really hope we can do it.
If Topher and I had a movie that was a hit, we'd probably be making that next fall, but I think we'll have to wait a little bit and see what happens with the strike. But if I could do that movie, I'd be really happy. But I think that my next film will be this one with Patrick Wilson and Amy Ryan and Zooey Deschanel. It's a really quirky…I don't even know if it's a comedy. It's a really strange script.
I love Patrick Wilson, I think he's a really bright actor, and I play his stepbrother, kind of the antagonist of the film. Really small film, but another one where I'm trying to do something different and really hope for the best.
Capone: Is that the one with the long, strange title…
SWS: Yeah. THE UNDENIABLE CHARM OF SLOPPY UNRUH. Not a very catchy title. Can you imagine seeing that on a billboard? I think the production has made a deal with SAG. I think some of these independent movies have made deals with SAG.
So all we're waiting for now is the finalizing of the financing, but it looks like we may do that in July. And that would be a huge opportunity for me, a chance to work with some really wonderful actor, and getting to play a little bit more of a darker character. It's a really interesting movie, and I love those actors. And I wonder what they're thinking. "The guy from AMERICAN PIE is doing this?" [laughs]
Speaking of Patrick Wilson, did you see that movie HARD CANDY?
Capone: A couple times, yeah.
SWS: I just saw it a month ago. I couldn't believe that movie. Patrick Wilson is awesome, but Ellen Page blew me away. One of my friends told me about it, "You gotta see Ellen Page in this movie." Shit, she was amazing in that movie.
Capone: That's the movie that essentially put her on the map. When I interviewed her last year for JUNO, that's pretty much what she told me, that after that movie every casting director would say to her, "I saw you in HARD CANDY."
SWS: I can see why. Have you ever read the book YOUTH IN REVOLT?
Capone: No, but I'm aware that they're turning it into a movie.
SWS: Oh, if you ever get a chance--I know how busy you are--but they're making this movie with Michael Cera and [director] Miguel Arteta [THE GOOD GIRL]. It's tricky because the character in the book is much younger [than Cera], but if you get a chance and you're on vacation and you get a chance to pick up a book to read, it's one of the funniest books I've ever read.
I don't know what the script is like, but I think it would be right up your alley. I have to go on vacation to read, so I can be isolated and have nothing to do. I'll mail you that book. It's an easy, fun read.
Capone: Wow, thanks. You'll be the first actor to mail me a book in my 10-plus years at Ain't It Cool. And thanks for talking to us.
SWS: You bet, bud. Thanks so much for wanting to talk. It's great to talk to you again. Take care.