INT: Mike Myers
The truth is, I’ve not always been a fan of Mike Myers work. I liked him quite a bit on “Saturday Night Live” and I respected the guy, but I never really got into his earlier work. But for some reason, as I get older, I find myself drawn to films like the AUSTIN POWERS series, SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER, and WAYNE’S WORLD. And after checking out his latest, THE LOVE GURU, I find his work even more intriguing. Although I felt the film is far from great, I at least had fun. There are a ton of laughs, and I have a feeling many an audience will love it much more than expected.
Recently, while promoting the film, Mike Myers took time out to talk one on one with JoBlo. This is a very cool thing, being that he doesn’t necessarily do a whole bunch of interviews. It was just him and I, sitting on a couch at The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. One of the things that I found is how unbelievably deep the guy is. For all his over-the-top characters, Mike is simply Mike. He has a very calm and sincere nature about him. When he speaks to you, he really speaks to you. Whether he is talking about film, the loss of his father, or people in his career that he respects and admires. His is one hundred percent genuine.
As we began the conversation, we both were talking technology and music. He began talking all about Garage Band. This is a terribly talented human being. And he is also an absolute artist. This is a man who treats his craft as a painter would treat his paintings. Whether you like his films or not, you have to give him props for the process he goes through. And if you do like his films, I think you will have a bunch of fun at THE LOVE GURU, opening up today in a theatre near you.
Mike Myers: I love Garage Band, this is my latest obsession. It’s unbelievably smart and fun. And for someone that really, truly doesn’t actually have musical talent I can… well, I don’t have a lot of musical talent but what’s great is you can maximize what you have.
You have musical talent… I’ve seen you…
I can drum. And I can pick up the bass a little bit. My brother is an amazing musician. So I kind of lived in his shadow. But Garage Band is just so brilliantly designed and so user friendly… I love that.
That’s cool. Now, I want to ask you something which has always fascinated me about your career. You have these wild characters, you have Austin Powers and you now have The Love Guru but you never seem to play someone that is just like yourself.
I have a couple times.
[We both mention… ] SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER.
I would say about forty percent of the time on “Saturday Night Live”, I’m not a character. But my heroes are people like Peter Sellers, Dan Ackroyd, and Lily Tomlin… I never remember, ‘cause she’s female, I never remember… and Gilda Radner. But Lily Tomlin is such an amazing artist…. The joy for me is in creation at all levels. In writing… in conceiving, writing and performing, recording and editing. The whole package to me is fascinating and a great experience. So part of that is manipulating my externals… it’s a whole package, I love the worlds that my characters inhabit. That is the fun part of it. I specifically called the “TV Show” on Saturday Night Live, ‘Wayne’s World’, because I wanted to create a world for this character. So that’s been fun. And of course there is no master plan for all of this, this is kind of just one thing to the next thing to the next thing, you know.
Well how did all this start out, with taking your characters on stage before putting them on film. Where did you discover that desire to take it farther and really create, you know, from bare bones?
Well, every situation I’ve been in… I got hired for Second City on my last day… my last exam in high school was at nine o’clock, it was Concept and Literature. My audition for Second City Theatre Company, the touring company in Toronto, was at twelve o’clock… so right after high school, I was a professional actor. It’s been an unusual career in that regard. I did that for two years and then I moved to England, and I was in a comedy double act called Malarkey and Myers, and we wrote and performed our own material. It is just something that has interested me and it’s something I had to do with “Saturday Night Live”, I wrote and performed my own material. So it’s never been… it’s never not been part of the equation. Even when I was a kid I wrote my own stuff and did little shows in my little neighborhood. It just was something I wanted to do. My parents were a big influence. My mom is a trained actress and my father loved culture. He loved music, loved comedies and movies… he loved all culture. It was kind of like I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I’m very lucky, my parents were not the type of parents to tell you why can’t you get a real job. They were… why don’t you become an actor [Laughing]. That is the opposite of most people who I know who are actors and had any kind of parental resistance. I had nothing but encouragement. I’m very lucky in that regard… I’m very lucky.
With THE LOVE GURU, you really took on this whole new element, you have Bollywood and all that. Where did this all come about? How did you make the Love Guru flesh and blood?
Well, you know in 1991, my father passed away and in 1994 I first did this as a character on stage. But this voice had come, as with everything, it just kind of comes one day. All of the voices, they just kind of came to me one day, you know. The first, sort of incarnation of Austin Powers ultimately was a character I did on a sketch called, “This Is How It Works”. I had done it… like three characters, like in 1990. I think I’d done Simon…
I loved Simon… that’s one of my favorites.
Oh, thank you. I think I did Simon that night and this other character that I don’t remember the name of on a show called [with a British dialect] “This Is How It Works”. You know, one of those British TV shows. And I think “How It Works” is now a show on TV. But I had a show, this crazy guy with glasses and bad teeth called [British dialect] “This Is How It Works”. And I would do something like a washing machine that had an agitated motor and I’d say something like, ‘The agitator cleans the clothes in an up, down fashion.’ [he uses his hands as example for an up and down motion], and I would turn to the crowd and go, ‘Does this make you horny?’ [Laughing] ‘Does it? The machine… doing this… does it make you horny? Does it make you randy?’ [I am laughing hysterically at this point, seriously… this guy is funny] And this was like in 1990. And that whole thing of that crazy, does this make you horny, is just a crazy, uncomfortable question from this character. And I don’t even know… it just made me laugh, it’s just one of those things. And then, in 1994, it also just came to me as Austin Powers. And the Guru Pitka as well. These things happen in very strange waves.
You have such a precise way of working, especially most comedy coming out now, it’s all so much improvised. But yours is so meticulous.
And it’s improvised. This is the thing. I like to prepare for the improvisation. I like to know that I have something on the page. And I always get the on-the-page first… done. And then you have silly takes, just for giggles, you know. And I don’t know what the ratio is but maybe fifty percent of the takes that are used are from the giggles takes. Once you’ve got it. And I’ve always worked that way. And I’ve always worked that way, you know, from when I did Canadian T.V., it’s always been this thing, you know.
Now obviously, you’ve sort of dealt with Austin Powers. Have you thought about going back… possibly with the origins of Dr. Evil?
You know, I have a lot of ideas… I have no time. This is one of the things. These things just take forever. One of ten to twenty ideas as I was saying, that sort of circle the airport… I don’t know if I’ll do it, but I don’t know if I won’t do it. It’s one of those thing, I find mysterious as to which ones get born and which ones don’t get born you know. So I don’t know if it’s going to happen. And I literally do not know what my next movie is, and I never do.
That’s amazing. People must say to you, they ask you all the time, ‘boy it takes you so long to make a movie.’ But hearing the process that you go through, the testing it out, the taking it on the road… that is such an inventive way to work.
I don’t know any other way to. I appreciate you saying that… I truly don’t know how not to do that. And in the case of WAYNE’S WORLD, I had done it on stage at Second City, then I did it on “Saturday Night Live” for a couple years. And then I did it on film, and then I did AUSTIN POWERS the same way and now THE LOVE GURU. I don’t know another way to do it ultimately.
Well now WAYNE’S WORLD you brought back for the MTV Movie Awards.
That was unbelievably fun and I loved seeing Dana [Carvey] and seeing Garth. I missed Garth for so long. And I missed both of them and I had such a blast doing it.
Whose idea was it?
It was my idea. I really wanted to do it. When MTV said, would you like to host the MTV Movie Awards, I went YES, and I want to do a “Wayne’s World”, it was the first thing I thought of. And I hadn’t thought about it in a long time but I just remembered having so much fun doing it… yeah, I loved it… I loved doing it.
Well I was there, I was in the audience. And you could hear a collective gasp when people realized what was going on.
Oh, that’s cool.
It was intense.
That’s really cool. I enjoyed it.
Any chance of ever bringing that to life in some form again?
I don’t know. It’s not likely because it was a spontaneous urge that came out of, if you were to host, what would you do… I went Wayne’s World. And I went… I want to do that again, we haven’t done it.
I’m sure you don’t necessarily want to keep making sequels. Maybe create other things which may be limited by doing sequels.
There is tons of creativity within revisiting worlds. And that’s what I do love. In the case of Dr. Evil, I think that Dr. Evil might be my most fun character to do. I love playing the character. I feel, I miss playing the character, just like I missed playing Wayne, you know. It’s a lot of improvisation and it’s really fun. And the world is cool. Jay Roach did such an amazing, beautiful… you know, the layers, the Dr. Evil lair… there’s no railings on any of the stairs. Everything is silver, jagged, black or white. Everything’s on fire, just as we were sitting there, jamming, all the different worlds… like Austin’s world is always fuzzy and soft. Dr. Evil’s world is always hard and sharp. Dr. Evil’s world is grey, silver and black. Austin’s world is always one of the primary colors. It’s fun to jam on these worlds. So for me, if I get another movie, and I did Dr. Evil it would be… there is just so much to do. But I don’t know if I’m gonna, I literally, I’m not lying to you when I tell you I don’t know what my next movie is. And at the end of every movie process, I never know what my next movie is. I never have.
When you take on a movie like that, you seem to really know your way around the way a film should look… the colors and the set design and everything else. When you are with a director, do you say we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that?
The movie process is a dialogue with everybody. Everybody throws down. Everybody… there’s a guy named Del Close, he was one of the founding members of Second City. He founded with Charna Halpern, the Improv Olympic. I had worked with Del Close. He had taught workshops in Toronto and in Chicago and I had taken them in both places. And one of the things, that’s the basic unit of the currency of creativity for him was to say ‘yes, and…’, to agree and “and” [add on]. Whenever I’m in a creative situation with people, the dialogue of “yes, and” is electric. And we could do it right now and come up with something. It’s the basis, I think, out of all creativity. And what Del Close was saying is that all creativity is transformation. And the engine of the transformation is “yes, and”. But ultimately everything transforms. So somebody believes one thing at the beginning of the movie, by the end of the movie they are transformed into believing something else. I don’t think people necessarily change. But I believe they change their perspective in a way. And that’s what makes a movie a movie. It’s a process of a transformation of consciousness of the main character. It’s all transformation. So for me, again, in the Vin Diagram of making movies, the set designer is also a comedienne, and the main comedic force is also a set designer, it’s one in the same. It’s sort of like being a stunt coordinator, you know. Everybody is working towards the collective entertainment, you know what I mean? It’s a very democratic process.
Do you feel working in that kind of process, that it can be a bit constraining… you know, maybe they are not getting your ideas the way you want or are you open to having others say, ‘Mike, this isn’t going to work, let’s try this…’
It’s my greatest joy. When I sent Justin Timberlake the script, he shot back like twenty ideas and twenty questions. So the dialogue was thrilling. And to me, the most thrilling aspect of it is beginning dialogue with people. They make it better, thousands of professionals I work with who make it better. In this case Charles Wood, the set designer made it better. Eugene McCarthy, the prop guy I’ve worked with over and over again. Marguerite Derricks, my choreographer I’ve worked with over and over again. John Houlihan, the music supervisor I’ve worked with over and over again. Marco was an assistant to Jay Roach, so he did the second unit on Austin one, through all the Austins and both MEET THE PARENTS and MEET THE FOCKERS. So I… because Jay is one of my best friends, you know, Jay is somebody I’ve had a consistent dialogue with. He reads everything that I’ve written. And I try and read everything that he’s working on. I did get a chance to read RECOUNT, and that was wonderful. Unbelievably great.
Another project we’ve heard about… HOW TO SURVIVE A ROBOT UPRISING… ?
That I am no longer part of. It’s part of that… the twenty development things that comes and goes. What’s remarkable to me is not the movies I begin to work on and didn’t do because it’s probably at a twenty to one ratio. What’s remarkable to me is the stuff that did get made, and that it got made is still a miracle to me, after all these years of doing it, is that birthing process. But yeah, it’s a great area that just didn’t turn the corner for me. But it’s a wonderful area. But there are a lot of planes circling the airport.
Let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to JimmyO@joblo.com.
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...