20 Minutes, MACGRUBER!!! Capone has an explosive conversation with Will Forte!
Published at: May 18, 2010, 6:32 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
Will Forte doesn't ease off the gas until he's made us laugh, and there's no greater proof of that than the new film MACGRUBER, a hard R-rated feature based on the character that Forte has been playing on "Saturday Night Live" for many years. It's hard to believe Forte has been an SNL player for eight years, while building up quite an impressive resume of TV, film, and animation appearances all the while. Included on that list are features like THE BROTHERS SOLOMON, BABY MAMA, FANBOYS, BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN, and two Broken Lizard films, BEERFEST and THE SLAMMIN' SALMON. He or his voice have appeared in "Clone High," "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," "Sit Down Shut Up," "The Cleveland Show," "American Dad," "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!," "The Flight of the Conchords," "The Life & Times of Tim," and "30 Rock."
Like his MACGRUBER co-star Kristen Wiig, Forte is a former member of the Groundlings comedy group. He's got a guy-next-door quality that makes some of the things he's capable of thinking and saying all the more disconcerting and hilarious, but I don't think I've ever seen him cut loose quite like he does in MACGRUBER. Now, exactly when does production begin on that feature debut of The Falconer? Or maybe Jon Bovi? Or Tim Calhoun. Needless to say, Forte is an incredible nice guy who I think was more than a little relieved that the world premiere of MACGRUBER went over so well at the SXSW Film Festival in March. I certainly loved it. Here's MacGruber himself, Will Forte. Enjoy…
Capone: Congratulations on the premiere last night
Will Forte: Oh, thank you very much.
Capone: I don't think anyone there quite knew what they were in for when they arrived.
Will Forte: Oh no, I don't think we did either.
Capone: Whose idea was it for MacGruber to get a Twitter account [Grubes69]?
Will Forte: [Co-writers] John [Solomon], Jorma [Taccone, who also directed] and I do them together. I'm glad you like it.
Capone: They're great.
Will Forte: Oh my God, we have the stupidest…I mean, we keep writing down these potential tweets--I feel weird anytime I say tweet, I've got to cut back on the number of times I say tweet. But we've got [laughs] some pretty stupid tweets coming up. See, I've already broken my tweets rule. Oh no, there I go again.
Capone: Of all of the characters that you might attempt to bring to a feature-length movie, one that has absolutely no backstory whatsoever doesn't seem like the likely choice. Why was this the guy that got the nod on a film?
Will Forte: I don't know. Somebody approached us about doing it, adn we thought they were crazy. I think everyone thought we were crazy for making the movie, including us. But then we sat down, started kicking around ideas, and came up with some stuff that we really loved and it grew from there. But I think the fact that he had no backstory was very liberating for us, because we could make his backstory anything, so we could play around with that.
Capone: When you created the character, were there other TV characters outside of "MacGyver" that you based his adventures on.
Will Forte: It was a real amalgam of all of the '80s action films that we loved so much. John and I are 39, so all of those movies from the early to late '80s were the ones we grew up on and loved in the way that only a teenager can. Jorma is a little younger than us, but he knew those movies so well. So yeah, it was a real cross section of what we loved about those movies and trying to do our take on those.
Capone: When you put on the wig and the vest and look at yourself in the mirror as MacGruber, what are the instinctual thoughts that pop into your head?
Will Forte: [laughs] I don't know, but I'll tell you that when I wear those clothes and the wig, I walk differently.
Capone: Does that have to do with how tight the pants are?
Will Forte: I don't know what it is, but I walk like such a tool. There's no other way to describe it.
Capone: At what point did you just decide to go for it in terms of the violence and the language and everything else that made it R rated?
Will Forte: That was from the get-go. We decided let's just go for it, and at some point, they'll reign us in and tell us that we can't do this or can't do that. And they never did. We kept waiting for it to happen during the writing of the script or during the filming or the editing. We kept thinking, "Tomorrow, they're going to call is in and make us change everything around." And they never did. They really gave us so much creative freedom; it was an amazing process.
Capone: Did you love that feeling that you were getting away with something when you came to work each day?
Will Forte: Oh yeah. I'm still waiting for someone to call and say, "Oh yeah, you have to take out this or that." It was such a great experience.
Capone: When did you decide to bring it up to modern times rather than leave it where the sketches had been set?
Will Forte: To be honest, I don't even know. In my head, the sketches don't even take place in the '80s. We never said that they do take place in the '80s. To me it's always been some guy who for some reason is trapped in that world, but it takes place in the present day. But that's something we never really explained.
Capone: To me it always felt like this very short-lived series that someone just found the videotapes in their basement.
Will Forte: [laughs] There were a lot of discussion about "When does this take place? Do we need to justify that they're wearing clothes that aren't really of this era?" We did definitely have those discussions since we'd never been forced to tackle that issue on the show. They're so brief, you don't even get into it.
Capone: Having Ryan Phillippe and Val Kilmer in this film is transformative. It goes beyond the one long joke idea; they add a substance to it in a way. Val started in comedy, but Ryan is doing things in this film that he's never done before with a piece of celery. And he was so into the idea of being in a comedy; you could see it on his face during the Q&A.
Will Forte: We had the best time making this movie. Having those guys and Powers Boothe grounded the movie so much and gave it credibility. The character I'm playing is such a boob; it was essential to have legitimate actors in those parts. Ryan, I think, probably has the most pivotal role in the movie, and he just does an amazing job of grounding the movie and serving as the eyes of the audience. So he was so good in this movie, and I learned a lot from him and all of those guys. I never thought that I would have a chance to be in a movie with Val Kilmer, like this guy is one of my heroes. I still can’t believe that they agreed to do the movie. I think we all said that all of the time, “Can you believe that we just made a movie with Val Kilmer?” It’s really exciting to get a chance to work with those guys.
Capone: I like that the classic MacGruber scenario that we always see on the show, you hold that back until the very end of the film. If it hadn’t been there I probably wouldn’t even have missed it, but as soon as Kristen [Wiig] said “Three minutes MacGruber,” everyone applauded. They knew where it was kind of going from that point. What made you think to do that and not just make the movie a series of moments like that?
WF: Well I know that pretty early on we realized “We cannot just make this be a series of explosions and getting trapped in different areas,” so we knew from the very beginning that we wanted the scope of the movie to be a much bigger scope. Then it just kind of naturally evolved, because I think it just felt right to do that at the very end. At the very beginning, it seemed like a placeholder, like “Okay, maybe we will end with this, but maybe we can think of something better.” I’m so happy that we never thought of something better, because it feels really good to end like that. It gives it a nice closure.
Capone: It brings it all home.
WF: I’m glad you liked it.
Capone: I understand this was a really short shooting schedule, and in a lot of comedies there is just loads of unused material that doesn’t make the final cut. Was there much for this film? It seems like you didn’t really have time to throw away scenes.
WF: Not a ton. No, every once in a while we would get to do a little improv just depending on the day, if it was the end of the week, and we had not a ton of stuff on a Friday, we could have some fun, but most of the time it was just sticking to the script, because we had no choice.
Capone: Did that sort of timeframe and shooting schedule fuel the story? Did it fuel what you were doing and ramp up the adrenaline as it were?
WF: It was very exciting. Yeah, I think we just got, because of how tired we were, into this very loopy area, so I think that really affected the way we played it sometimes and went to some weirder areas maybe.
Capone: During the sex scene in particular. First of all, apparently it doesn’t take much for you to drop your pants…
WF: [laughs] I’m a real pants-dropping slut.
Capone: Up until now maybe not so much, but now you are in an R-rated movie, so…
WF: My mom is very proud of how much my butt is in this movie!
Capone: But the sex scene is disturbing for a couple of reasons, one just because of the noises you are making.
WF: Disturbing and educational.
Capone: Much like a medical experiment gone wrong. I know you’ve known Kristen for a long time, but I just feel like I don’t care how well you know somebody, a scene like that has just got to be really pushing the boundaries.
WF: It was. I’ve known Kristen for a long time and so doing that scene was oddly comfortable. It was physically very uncomfortable, because the room was super hot, I was sweating all over her. By the end, she was just covered in my sweat and chest hair. It was her birthday. I don’t know if she told you that, but it was the worst birthday present of all time, but we have just done so many things, it’s so much fun to do stuff with her, and I think for both of us it was not very uncomfortable. Later I had to do another scene like that with Maya [Rudolph] who I’ve known forever, but she was eight months pregnant at the time, so there were times for different shots that we had a body double for certain angles, because she physically could not do certain things, and we couldn’t get her up there, because she couldn’t do it with her pregnant body. So that was very weird to just have a complete stranger, and I am pretty naked, except for a little sack that I would tie around my genitals and that wasn’t even that uncomfortable, but we had already done the Kristen thing, so I was like “Okay, I’ve done this. Whatever let’s just do it.” [Laughs]
Capone: She said the kissing scene was more uncomfortable for her than the sex scene because if was more intimate.
WF: That really hurts me.
WF: The kisses are more real, like the sex is just fun over the top, but with the kissing, we weren’t trying to go for anything silly. We were trying to actually kiss legitimately, so yeah I would agree with that actually. It’s weird. I did this show called "Clone High" a long time ago, and I remember one of the most uncomfortable things I ever had to do was just make kissing noises, like make-out noises, and it was so weird to do that on my own and just be sitting there. I felt like I was being judged, my kissing sounds were being judged. It was very weird. It’s very interesting what your brain gets nervous about, because most people would think “Oh, you’re just making kissing sounds in a microphone? Big deal.” For some reason, that was really uncomfortable for me.
Capone: You have to think about what you sound like kissing people.
WF: It’s unbelievable that I’m running around naked all over the place in this movie, and I’ve got no problem with that, but yeah making a couple kissing sounds…
Capone: On SNL, you embody this sort of old-school, sketch comedy style, where there are a few sketches you have done just repeating words until they become funny. The one that comes to mind that floored me this season was the sketch you did when Blake Lively was on, the potato chip sketch is just you guys saying that word a hundred different ways. When Jorma [Taccone] last night said that you had the ability to say the same line a hundred different ways, that’s what came to mind. That’s something that you do really well on the show, just saying it a different way each time to the point where it just makes your mind hurt, but that potato chip sketch, I don’t know why, but it makes me laugh. It cracked me up.
WF: Thank you very much. John [Solomon] and I wrote the potato chip sketch. I couldn’t believe they let us do it. We had the best time. It’s such a weird sketch, there were probably a lot of people who hated that, but oh man we had a great time doing it and Jason Sedakis had these--you know that final dramatic shot that seemed like a Tennessee Williams play, with me in the foreground and Blake right behind me and Jason in the window with his hemorrhoid doughnut?
WF: He had that made into a Playbill.
WF: What a dumb sketch, but we were so happy that they let us to it.
Capone: And they aren’t like characters you would ever bring back, just this one little perfect sketch.
WF: Man, I’m glad you liked it.
Capone: In the SATURDAY NIGHT documentary that’s showing you here, they show you with Malkovich doing that Empire Carpet thing where you are just saying “Again! Again!” You just keep pounding and pounding until you can’t help but laugh at it, so anyway I think we are done here. I’m getting into some fanboy territory.
WF: Oh no, I love it.
Capone: I met Bill Hader last year at this festival, and he is a huge film geek. Are you kind of that same way?
WF: Not really. He is a movie encyclopedia, as is Jorma, Akiva [Schaffer], Andy [Samberg], and all of those guys. I go through periods were I watch everything out there, and I’ll go through months and months where I don’t see a single movie, but I also have a very bad memory, so I’ve seen a lot of movies, but I don’t remember anything.
Capone: I have that way with the ends of movies. I don’t remember how any movie ends.
WF: That’s good then, you can re-watch everything. You do remember how THE SIXTH SENSE ends, right?
Capone: Yes, I do. Stuff like that I remember, but just the regular ending of a movie, because so many movies have predictable endings that my mind kind of finishes them for me, and I actually don’t remember how it plays out in the actual movies sometimes unless I anticipated the ending wrong. That I remember. Anyway, it was really great to meet you.
WF: Oh, thank you very much. I really appreciate it and I’m glad you liked it.
Capone: Good luck with it.
WF: It was good to talk to you.
Capone: Thanks a lot.
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