Last Sunday I packed up my mojo, battled the elements (a splitting, beer-induced headache), and headed to the ritzy Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills for the media day for the new AUSTIN POWERS flick GOLDMEMBER. I’m glad I did, too, cuz it was a blast. Despite the absence of Mike Myers and Michael Caine, who plays Austin’s pappy Nigel in the movie, pretty much everyone else from the film was there. I sat at a tiny roundtable in a small office suite of the hotel with a couple other writers, sucked down as much of the free Coke and Sprite as I could stomach, and chatted with the cast and director as they were rotated in and out like they were auditioning. We were there for almost 3 ½ hours, if you can believe it, but I must say it was worth it. Everyone was loose, shootin the shite. I mean, hell, we weren’t there to break down the sociological complexities of CITIZEN KANE; just to hear stories about the shooting, sets, and comedic collaboration involved in a classic trilogy that showcases such gem characters as Dr. Evil and Mini Me. No Orson Welles. Try Fat Bastard instead.
The first in was Seth Green, aka Scotty Evil. Clad in a swanky brown suede jacket, Seth seemed pretty down to earth. In fact, he’s very close to earth, actually. He couldn’t be more than 5’ 5”. After getting his first big break at age 12 playing a young Woody Allen in the gem RADIO DAYS, he’s gone on to be one of Hollywood’s young comedic “goldenboys.” Other than playing heir to the Evil empire, Green recently starred in RAT RACE, CAN’T HARDLY WAIT, and played Oz on the series BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Green talked, like everyone else, about how difficult it was to act opposite Myers. Sounds like just keeping a straight face while bantering with Dr. Evil is how he earned his paycheck. He also mentioned he was only on the set for three weeks of shooting…and pretty much spent all that time, as he did previously, sitting at that one table. Seth also gave us a little inside into his writing debut, SCORNED, a film he told us little about other than he is also co-producing. Supposedly it’s been nothing but a nightmare for him dealing with the studios…almost enough to make him never want to try his hand at scripting again. Here’s some more from him….
What was it like working with Mike Myers?
My own personal observation is that he’s just become more and more well-adjusted. He doesn’t really have anything more to prove at this point. So he really fights for the integrity of his projects. And he fights for their quality. And he’s in a successful enough position that people listen to him. Unfortunately, that makes people accuse him of being difficult or whatever. But when you have someone so fiercely fight for the quality, it’s hard to claim that they’re difficult.
What do you think about Beyonce?
I was immeasurably impressed. Man, she’s like 21!!! Doesn’t that just offend you? She’s so talented, it almost made me mad. She’s sweet, sincere, and really really good in the film…and I was very happy for her.
When Mike goes off on improvising in a scene, do you find it hard to not laugh?
Oh yeah. I have to work really hard not to be an audience in those moments. I just have to focus, because every once in a while he’ll just say something that’s so funny or creative that I’ll just appreciate it as a spectator and go “Wow!”.
Does Mike prep in any specific way?
The most that I’ve noticed is that in between takes we’ll all just kind of play around and workshop stuff. But it’s not like a Val Kilmer situation, you know, “call me Dr. Evil.” It’s more of a playful thing that just comes naturally.
In between films did you come up with ideas you wanted to do?
No, we left that up to the smart people of the film. Mike Myers and Mike McCullers have never let me down. And I also know that if there was anything, it becomes collaborative once the script’s done. At that point I voice any opinions I have. On the set, we really talk about what’s going on. Everybody’s really receptive, because everybody really wants the same thing, and that’s for the movie to be great.
What’s down the road for you?
I’d love to host SNL. I think I’d have a lot of fun. As far as the future, I really take things project by project. If I read something great, I do it. As far as directing, I’ve never read anything that made me feel like I had a clear enough vision to take that on. To direct something you need to have passion and really feel like I’ve had a take on this.
Then we got the highlight of the day, Verne Troyer, aka Mini Me. Man, he was great. He’s been in other films, like MY GIANT, MEN IN BLACK, and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS but let’s be honest, he’s Mini Me. He did do a lot of stunt work before becoming an actor (his debut was as the stunt double for an infant boy in the forgettable BABY’S DAY OUT), and he’s an extremely athletic guy when you see him; but, as he’s quick to point out, the big money’s in acting…and it’s been understandably hard for him to find roles….until now. Now he’s a major celeb.
He came in with his baseball cap backwards, shades propped up on his head, a sleeveless shirt, sporting two tatoos…the yin/yang symbol and a barbed wire on his bicep…and a can of Red Bull. This was pretty much his first experience with the press, so he was a little nervous, but he was smooth. Here’s more from Verne…
Your character in this one is so physical. What was that like?
I actually like that aspect of it. I got my start doing stunt work, so for me to be able to do the acting thing and the physical comedy makes it really fun.
In your fight scene with Myers, did you get hurt?
I woke up the next day with a couple bruises, but it was fine.
Why doesn’t Mini Me talk?
Well, from the second film basically in the cloning process it didn’t work properly. That’s why he came out just one-eighth the size and just pure evil.
Your role in this film is much bigger than in the earlier ones. When you read it, were you nervous?
Not really scared, because I had played him in the second film. So I felt comfortable. But he definitely was expanded.
What was it like being in a film with Michael Caine?
Just being a part of a film that he’s in, and also having the opportunity to be in a scene with him like I was, with a legend like that, it’s funny. I was just so impressed with him, and so satisfied that I was able to be a part of it.
Some actors would be disappointed that they can’t talk in a movie. Was that ok with you?
It’s definitely been a challenge to show your emotions on your face only, and show the audience exactly what my character is going through. It goes back to the silent film era. I used to watch a lot of Harold Lloyd, and he does a lot of comedy like that. I don’t know if I got it from that. But it’s definitely fun.
Do you get letters from other little people? If so, what’s their reaction?
It’s only positive. There’s a lot of little people that want to be in the business, and they write to me and ask me how it is, and how to do it. And basically I just tell them it’s a difficult business to get involved in. If you do get in, if you don’t get the part after an audition, just stay positive and move onto the next one. It’s tough.
Do you see yourself as a funny guy? In the movie you seem to have mastered humor?
I’m very critical, especially when I’m on set and we do a scene. Usually, people do a take and then go look at it on the monitor. For me, I don’t like to do that because I’m very critical of myself. I look at it and say “I shoulda done this or that.” The way I look at it, as long as Jay and Mike are happy, I’m happy.
What types of roles are you getting now?
There are so many roles I’d like to come up with myself. But there are so many different roles I’m getting now, and unfortunately most of them are crap. But I’m trying to pick and choose what would be good, and the best for my career…But I get offered the typical things, like playing an elf or a leprechaun. Unfortunately, Hollywood stereotypes everybody, including little people. But with me I’m getting the opportunity to show Hollywood that we’re not just your typical elf, leprechaun or alien.
Next came Robert Wagner, clean-cut, tan, and clad in a nice blazer and tie. Boy did I feel dumb sitting there, red-faced and soaked in beer sweat that had turned my t-shirt into a body sponge. He plays the eye-patched Number Two in the AUSTIN POWERS movies, but has had a tremendous run in Hollywood, dating back to his years on HART TO HART…and even further back to his marriage to Natalie Wood and his roles in THE PINK PANTHER and TOWERING INFERNO.
Wagner went so far as to call Mike Myers “the Buster Keaton on our time.” Not sure about that. May be an insult to Myers. Hell, Dr. Evil and Fat Bastard, and even his SNL characters like Wayne, Simon, the Sprocket Dieter, and Linda Richman put Myers way above Keystone Cop boy! Also, Wagner said Myers wrote the part of Number Two specifically for him. In fact he said it several times, which makes me think he’s damn proud of it. Hey, works for me. Here’s a little more from him…
Does Mike Myers remind you of Peter Sellers from PINK PANTHER?
I’ve been asked that a lot. Maybe he served more as an inspiration. But Peter inspired a lot of us. Peter was a tremendous talent…But Mike has created an amazing world here. I mean if you think about it, he’s invented this world, and invented Austin, and people universally love this guy. They look at the picture of him and they just start laughing. It’s great.
Did you think this would go on this long?
No. But this is the great thing about our work. I mean, what a ride. This has turned out to be internationally accepted around the world, and people love it. And people come out of the theater laughing and you’re a part of it. It’s a dream come true.
What was it like spoofing Hollywood agents in that one scene in this time of great turmoil in the industry?
I don’t know. I just thought the material was so great. Mike wrote it all. I had nothing to do with it. And I thought geez, this is really great. But what makes it work is when you come into this Hollywood talent agency and the set is so real, and with these characters Mike has developed so well, it has such a great reality base..and that’s what you’ve got to base comedy on. It has to come out of reality. No matter how high the canvas is, the character revelation has to come out of reality. I could do that scene, but it wouldn’t work without that set.
Stay tuned for Part Two of the AUSTIN POWERS interviews including Beyonce Knowles, director Jay Roach and Basil Exposition himself, Michael York.