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. Im glad I did, too, cuz it was a blast. Despite the absence of Mike Myers and Michael Caine, who plays Austins 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 werent 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, hes very close to earth, actually. He couldnt be more than 5 5. After getting his first big break at age 12 playing a young Woody Allen in the gem RADIO DAYS, hes gone on to be one of Hollywoods young comedic goldenboys. Other than playing heir to the Evil empire, Green recently starred in RAT RACE, CANT 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 its 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. Heres some more from him .
What was it like working with Mike Myers?
My own personal observation is that hes just become more and more well-adjusted. He doesnt 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 hes 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, its hard to claim that theyre difficult.
What do you think about Beyonce?
I was immeasurably impressed. Man, shes like 21!!! Doesnt that just offend you? Shes so talented, it almost made me mad. Shes 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 hell just say something thats so funny or creative that Ill just appreciate it as a spectator and go Wow!.
Does Mike prep in any specific way?
The most that Ive noticed is that in between takes well all just kind of play around and workshop stuff. But its not like a Val Kilmer situation, you know, call me Dr. Evil. Its 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 scripts done. At that point I voice any opinions I have. On the set, we really talk about whats going on. Everybodys really receptive, because everybody really wants the same thing, and thats for the movie to be great.
Whats down the road for you?
Id love to host SNL. I think Id 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, Ive 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 Ive had a take on this.
Then we got the highlight of the day, Verne Troyer, aka Mini Me. Man, he was great. Hes been in other films, like MY GIANT, MEN IN BLACK, and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS but lets be honest, hes 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 BABYS DAY OUT), and hes an extremely athletic guy when you see him; but, as hes quick to point out, the big moneys in acting and its been understandably hard for him to find roles .until now. Now hes 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. Heres 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 doesnt Mini Me talk?
Well, from the second film basically in the cloning process it didnt work properly. Thats 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 hes in, and also having the opportunity to be in a scene with him like I was, with a legend like that, its 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 cant talk in a movie. Was that ok with you?
Its 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 dont know if I got it from that. But its definitely fun.
Do you get letters from other little people? If so, whats their reaction?
Its only positive. Theres 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 its a difficult business to get involved in. If you do get in, if you dont get the part after an audition, just stay positive and move onto the next one. Its tough.
Do you see yourself as a funny guy? In the movie you seem to have mastered humor?
Im very critical, especially when Im on set and we do a scene. Usually, people do a take and then go look at it on the monitor. For me, I dont like to do that because Im 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, Im happy.
What types of roles are you getting now?
There are so many roles Id like to come up with myself. But there are so many different roles Im getting now, and unfortunately most of them are crap. But Im 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 Im getting the opportunity to show Hollywood that were 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 hes damn proud of it. Hey, works for me. Heres a little more from him
Does Mike Myers remind you of Peter Sellers from PINK PANTHER?
Ive 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, hes invented this world, and invented Austin, and people universally love this guy. They look at the picture of him and they just start laughing. Its 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 youre a part of it. Its 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 dont 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 thats what youve 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 wouldnt 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.
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