Goldmember interviews - Part 2
Here’s Part Two of the AUSTIN POWERS interviews by John Gunn:
Next in was Michael York. He’s Basil Exposition (where the hell did they come up with these names?! - his first name is a friggin’ herb!) in the movies. York’s what everyone refers to as a “classically-trained actor.” I’ve never understood what that meant exactly, but it’s always used to describe either A) middle-aged British actors in general, or B) middle-aged British actors when they decide to take on a role like this one, the exact opposite of what people would “expect.” Anyway, the man of CABARET and LOGAN’S RUN fame (he hinted that MINORITY REPORT seemed a bit too much like LOGAN’S RUN) was very nice and quite proper. He said working with Myers is a treat, and he’s one of the comedic geniuses of our time. He also said that when he first got the script, people thought he was crazy to sign on. But he says gut and instinct is what helps him with his decisions, and it appears in this case he was right. He’s more from the Yorkmeister...
What was it like doing this?
Phenomenon is the only word for these movies. It’s amazing how this little film grew into this humongous franchise. And the fact that lightning struck twice, and perhaps it will again, is extraordinary.
This isn’t a typical York role. What happened to draw you in?
The typical way. The agent sent the script and said “Do you want to take a meeting?” with this first-time director. And I’ve always gone on instinct, that’s the only thing. You listen to advice from your agent or your wife, but it boils down to instinct. I saw it as something original and funny. But it also goes back to a time that I lived through, the swinging London 60s. And I had admired what Mike Myers had done on SNL, and saw SO, I MARRIED AN AX MURDERER. So took a meeting. And I’m not sure they were sure what they had.
Why is this series so popular?
I’m not sure. I think maybe Austin serves as this surrogate for all the unspeakable things we think of but don’t say. So, the outrageousness is appealing...Mike in all his incarnations can pretty much run riot because he’s not Mike. They may be naughty, but they’re basically nice. There’s nothing malicious about them. Wonderfully designed.
How has Hollywood changed since the days of LOGAN’S RUN?
LOGAN’S RUN wasn’t all that big of a budget. Neither was CABARET. They were sort of modest. But since the budgets have become unbelievably expensive. And leading actors took over the business and began commanding these extraordinary sums. And agenting changed. Agents used to be your partner and helped plan your career. Then they became involved in the warfare. And then this whole phenomenon of manager took over. The manager pretty much took over what the agent used to do...But I think change is good.
When you see a newcomer in the cast, like Beyonce, do you think "Oh, no, we’ve got to break someone new in here?"
I think the great thing is there is this core of regulars. But the door is wide open for anyone else who wants to jump aboard. And everyone does seem to want to be in these things, obvious in the opening credits (hint, hint)...but we’ve all been sworn to secrecy here.
Then came the jaw-dropper, Beyonce Knowles, Foxxy Cleopatra. Sure, she’s Destiny’s Child, but she could be my sister any time. She was fantastic, and very poised for - prepare yourself - a 21 year-old! Yep. Amazing. So, she and her girls control the music industry, but now she’s ready to make her film debut in this movie. All the stars I talked to had nothing but great things to say about her. They seemed to think she’s a film star in the making.
Several interesting points came up while talking with her. First, she had yet to even see a daily from the film. She had no idea what she even looked like on camera! Second, she mimicked Pam Grier, the classic blaxploitation actrees, for her role. Third, she actually sings the film’s title track “Goldmember’s Theme.” And, supposedly, director Jay Roach allowed her to first shoot a scene in which she sings the song to help get her feet wet, and break the ice for the acting virgin. Here’s more from the diva turned starlet...
What was it like coming onto this movie as a beginner, like joining a train after it’s left the station?
I was very nervous. I was doing something I really had no idea what I was doing. But everybody embraced me. Robert Wagner and Michael Caine embraced me. Mike Myers was incredible, so I got through it, and I learned more about it than I ever expected.
Who did you enjoy working with the most? Dr Evil, Goldmember, Austin?
I worked the most with Austin, so I had the most fun with him. And we had the best chemistry. Fat Bastard was disgusting. This person was unreal. I didn’t have to act at all to react disgusted to this man. It was very natural. Goldmember was also gross, and I had to hold his nasty hair and skin. Dr Evil, well, I was only in just one scene with him. But Austin, he’s just so charming. And I tried to find myself in Foxxy Cleopatra. He charms her, and she falls for him. So I tried to be as much like her as possible.
Did you study acting ever?
No. Not really. I went to a performing arts school, but I was in the vocal department and before I got to those classes I got a record deal. Then I moved to LA to start recording my album with Destiny’s Child, and I didn’t get to study. That’s why I was so nervous. I was going to work with these legendary actors who are so good, and know so much. I did have a lady who helped me with my lines, and told me about technical terms, and about choices I could make. So she made me feel more comfortable. But I think I want to take more classes. Some people say take classes. Others say don’t, because it’ll screw you up. So I don’t know. I’ll see.
In the other films there’s more sexual interplay between the woman and Austin. Why not as much in this film?
I think they wanted this relationship to be a little more romantic. Foxxy felt like Austin wasn’t mature enough. So it wasn’t about shagging. Which is nice. It’s different than the previous films.
Describe your relationship with your mom. She owns a hair salon in Texas? Isn’t that where you started?
Yep. Headliners Hair Salon. Yep. We would rehearse every week there, and perform for her customers. And if they liked it, we’d go to Astroworld in Houston, which is the Six Flags amusement park there, and perform it. We’d get tips there...But I have memories at that salon, sweeping up hair and being the receptionist, talking on the phone...It’s still there. She doesn’t work there any more, but she still owns it.
When your mom and you met with Jay Roach and Mike Myers, did she have any questions for them about the film?
They basically talked about the 70s. My mom liked Pam Grier, and they explained the whole concept of the movie and they explained Foxxy. My mom just basically says whatever I want is ok. She’s just basically there to give her opinions, but whatever I want she wants. I didn’t want to have to do any love scenes, but they didn’t have any anyway. And I didn’t want to do any nude scenes either. But that wasn’t in the script.
Lastly, we got Jay Roach, the director. He did the other AUSTIN POWERS flicks, and also recently MEET THE PARENTS and MYSTERY, ALASKA. But his directorial debut was in the first POWERS movie. Not a bad start. Supposedly, Myers refused to go ahead with the first one if Roach wasn’t doing it. The studios had other directors in mind but Myers, who met Roach through their wives (Roach’s wife is Susanna Hoffs, the lead singer of the Bangles), insisted on his friend. The rest is history…but not without bumps. Roach said the first POWERS didn’t test well at all with preview audiences. He said they hated it, in fact…claiming it would never be well-received. Luckily, the studio stuck with it. Here’s a short bit more from Roach...
How did you assemble the surprise cameos in the film?
We knew some of them, and some of them we had come to us and ask if they could do something. And some of them we called up because they were the only ones who could do their particular parts. It was a little fragile, because it could’ve fallen apart if one person said no. But every single person we asked to appear in the film said yes. And that’s all about the charisma that is Mike Myers. He loves his characters, and he loves his movies. It’s all about embracing the world that we do, and these people sensed that we’d take care of them. They let us make fun of them, but also show how much we love them.
Was there a plan to make this one more romantic than shagadelic?
It was always designed to, there was a little shift. There was this other way to go, plot-wise. She was going to be looking for her lost love who was still missing, and Goldmember was holding him somewhere. And the more we saw that they really were having a good time together in post-production. At one time she was going to go back to the 70s, but it came down to how much the audience was asking the same questions of “Will they get back together?”. And they were. So we gave them more time together in post.
We did get time with a couple others. First, Fred Savage, aka Number Three or “The Mole.” We only chatted briefly, but the actor of WONDER YEARS and PRINCESS BRIDE fame said he was a little intimidated coming into a close-knit cast like this, but ended up having a blast. He also said he’s started directing some episodes of various television series, although acting remains his priority.
Mindy Sterling, who plays Frau Farbussina, was also there. She spoke briefly about how Mike Myers first tried out the Austin Powers character back in 1996 with the Groundlings, a world-famous comedy troupe that Sterling acted in and taught for. It was a small show, but Sterling said they all saw something hilarious.
Overall, it was a good time. The folks at New Line Cinema, as always, were very hospitable…and I walked away with a shopping bag full of treats from the AUSTIN POWERS line of merchandise (shirts, fake AP teeth, stationery, a cd, and even a backgammon set), so I was pleased. And lastly, I highly recommend checking out the movie. Many surprises await that are very hush-hush (we were reminded of that several times), but well worth the $9 ducket.