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INT: Samberg & Crew

Jun. 18, 2007by:

Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone are three friends from California who got together for years, shot short digital comedies, and slapped them up online with the hopes of breaking it big. Together they were The Lonely Island and after a while, people started to take notice. The trio eventually booked gigs on SNL, Akiva and Jorma as writers, and Andy as a featured player. Then LAZY SUNDAY became an internet sensation, and everything was about to change. But an internet sensation is "easy", right? The net is breeding ground for sensations, here one day and gone the next.

Whats truly impressive about these three boys is that they stuck around, and delivered fresh, sometimes startling humour over and over again. If the Natalie Portman rap wasnt enough, the trio put out another sensation that topped even SUNDAYs popularity, DICK IN A BOX. Now, after giving us gold week after week on SNL, the boys are on the brink of becoming true household names, when their first feature film HOT ROD is released on August 3rd.

JoBlo.com had the pleasure of receiving a phone call from the guys while they were in New York doing sound mixing for the movie, and we got to chat a little bit about that and what its like to be on the brink of realizing a life long dream, which is ironic, because in talking to Andy, Akiva, and Jorma, I fulfilled mine. That's right, I aim high.

Lets talk HOT ROD. Tell me about the movie. What can you tell us about it for people who dont know much about it?

Andy Samberg: Its about a wannabe stuntman whos terrible at stunts, who stages a big jump to save his ailing stepfather who he feuds with, to get him better, to kick his ass. Its your all-American story. Its a pure comedy.

Is it going to have a more R-rated feel, along the lines of KNOCKED UP?

Andy: No, its PG-13, but its got some weird bits in it.

So no F-bombs.

Andy: We could get away with one F-bomb.

Jorma Taccone: Make no mistake about it. It is in the vein of ANCHORMAN, or TALLADEGA , or BILLY MADISON or HAPPY GILMORE, AUSTIN POWERS.

I read that the role was originally written for Will Ferrell.

Andy: Yeah, it was developed for Will. He actually helped develop it and everything.

And the script was written by Pam Brady.

Jorma: Yeah, she wrote The SOUTH PARK movie and TEAM AMERICA with those guys.

And you guys took it and did some rewrites?

Andy: We added some touches.

Jorma: We had to change it a little just so it didnt seem like Andy was doing a Will Ferrell impression, because it was written so specifically for Will Ferrell, so we just had to make it for Andy a little bit.

You guys are known for writing your own comedy, so why did you choose someone elses screenplay for your first feature, instead of writing your own?

Andy: For two reasons, mainly. The first is that with the SNL schedule our time was very limited. The second being that we really liked the script and thought it was funny, and the sensibility felt very similar to our own, in terms of, sort of a silliness, a surrealness, and blind optimism, and the characters.

So can fans of Lonely Island and all the shorts expect the same type of humour from this, or is it something new?

Andy: I think its definitely in there. Theres a lot of bits that are true to what weve done in the past, and I think it also strikes a balance, in terms of...

Jorma: We gave it our own touch.

Andy: But I mean like, if youre someone whos familiar with our work, and you see the trailer, and its a bunch of crashes, thats not all the movie is. Theres definitely a lot of weirder stuff thats much more specific and detail-oriented that were into.

And was a lot of that stuff on the page, or did you come up with it during filming?

Akiva: Some of it we definitely came up with during filming, for sure. Thats how anything gets done. You improve bits or you come up with stuff on the day.

Jorma: Its a studio PG-13 movie, which a lot of our favourite movies are like those ones I mentioned earlier. That was our guideline in which to play, and I think we got away with a lot. I think when people watch it, theyll go for a big studio movie, they snuck a lot of weird shit in here.

How did the movie find you guys? Were you approached to do it or did you hear about the script and seek it out?

Andy: I was initially approached to read the script a few months after we all got SNL. They send everybody who gets the show out on a bunch of general meetings and stuff, and I met with Paramount, and they said that I should check it out in case I was interested, maybe theyd be wanting to talk to us about it. I read it and liked it, and had these dudes read it, and then Lazy Sunday happened and they became much more interested.

So this was even before Lazy Sunday?

Andy: Oh yeah. I mean, they dont take any chances. I dont think they had any idea if we were going to be doing well at the show or not, but just in case. We didnt either.

And was it hard for you guys, who are so used to making shorts, to all of a sudden stretching a film out to feature length?

Akiva: Yeah, I mean just in terms of the work.

Andy: Its a different level of stamina that you have to have, for sure. We were pretty familiar with single-camera shooting, just because of everything we had done before SNL and obviously still, at SNL, and Akiva has directed a lot of it that way.

So Akiva, on a technical level, was it harder doing this, a big budget studio picture as opposed to guerilla-style shorts?

Akiva: Its some of both. The part that made it much easier to make a movie is that theres a little bit more time, than for instance, a lot of the shorts we shoot on Friday night, and theyre on TV a day later. So there was a lot more time. And all of a sudden a 100 people and theyre all there for your movie, rather than for a whole show and youre just one part of it. And it was harder on some levels, just because youre trying to keep track of if its going to stay consistent through a whole movie. Over days, you have think about things like Oh, two weeks ago we shot this part, and now were shooting this thing, and it happens right after, and you want to make sure things feel fluid.

Did you feel pressure from the studio, or was there complete creative control, and you didnt feel like you had to make this for someone who had their money invested in it?

Jorma: We did pretty good with creative control, actually. Everybody was pretty excited about getting behind what we wanted to do.

Akiva: And since we didnt put a bunch of f*cks in there As long as we didn't put a bunch of f*cks in there. We had the assignment of making a PG-13 studio movie and then that's about where it left off, and as long as we didn't veer out of that territory, we were good. I think we got away with a lot.

Andy: There'll be like 3 or 4 things on the DVD we may or may not have actually wanted to end up in the movie but for the most part we were left alone.

Jorma: The jokes about us sucking each other's dicks. That's for the final cut.

Andy: That wasn't even for the studio. We tried to make it way gayer.

Jorma: I do have a baby wiener as well. You can print that.

Oh, I'll print it. Our readers are into that. What about the stunts for the movie? Did Andy go all Jackass and bang himself up?

Akiva: He did every stunt himself.

Jorma: He wanted to.

Andy: I wanted to do a lot more than they would let me. There's certain shit I wouldn't have touched with a ten foot pole. But I definitely wanted to do more than they would let me, but for insurance reasons, they wouldn't let me, because of I got hurt, the whole movie would shut down.

Jorma: Yeah which is good, because people did get hurt.

So in the trailer, that guy making the jump and then falling and cracking his head, that's not you.

Andy: Oh, the mail truck jump. No that's not me. Although it looks like me, doesn't it?

Akiva: There are no special effects in that shot. I will go on record as saying that, because I've seen some speculation from people, some people think it's a dummy, there are no special effects, that's a real dude. There's no wires.

Jorma: Watching that live was horrifying, actually.

What about the cast? Did you have a hand in picking them out, or was that out of your hands?

Andy: No, we were very specific about a lot of the cast.

Did you want Ian McShane as the stepfather?

Andy: He was our first choice.

And he was into the idea right away?

Akiva: We thought we'd have to meet with him, and really talk him into it, and he just read the script and called me one day, and I was at SNL, and I was like 'Alright, he's in.' We hadn't even met him in person yet, he just read the script and was like 'Sure.'

What about Will Arnett? He's got a role in too.

Andy: Ya, we wrote the part specifically with him in mind. We did that with him, we did that with Hader (Bill, from SNL).

Akiva: You mean we imagined him in the part.

Andy: Right, right, sorry. When we were reading the script we were imagining him the whole time. And when we first read it, we knew that Hader had a character, he did the bit perfectly, and Parnell as well.

Akiva: Bill Hader's part in it, it's actually him doing an impression of his friend he grew up with, and he would do it around the office, and we were like 'we're just going to put you in this movie, and you do that guy.'

Jorma: And that's just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of how crazy that dude is.

What about future projects? Do you have anything in the works? What do you want to do? Do you want to write your own feature? Let me hit you with about thirty questions and you choose one.

Jorma: I can say first off for your last question that we definitely want to write our own thing. It was cool and interesting, kind of adapting something into our style, but it'd be pretty exciting to start from scratch, although we're doing what we kinda wanted to do. The cool part about being so busy, I mean it's great to be busy, and have SNL, and have the movie, and it's been fantastic, but we're excited to do it.

So you'd shoot the movie on hiatus from SNL?

Jorma: Yeah, maybe later in the summer, who knows.

Andy: But there's nothing lined up.

Nothing at all? No ideas in the pipeline? I'm sure you guys always have ideas.

Akiva: We have ideas, but we can't tell you them. We might not get to write them for 3 years.

Can you give me one of them and I'll write it?

(Laughter)

So what's it like for you guys now, living in New York and getting recognized all the time? How has life changed?

Jorma: We don't get recognized that often, me and Akiva, except by people who already knew the website.

Andy: No, but people have discovered the website through our involvement with SNL. You guys have fans waiting for you outside the show sometimes.

Akiva: Die hard fans.

But Andy, is it weird for you?

Andy: Yeah, it's definitely weird.

Do you ever get annoyed?

Andy: Not really, you know what I mean? I try not to leave the house if I'm feeling grumpy (laughs). But in general it's cool, like any time somebody--I guess I'll start feeling annoyed if I leave the house and somebody is like, pissed off to see me. But now I'm still anonymous enough that when I get recognized, it's because people actually care, and like what we've done, which is always a pleasant experience.

You never get tired of hearing that.

Andy: Yeah, it's always cool to have someone tell you that they think something you did was funny.

What's the writing process like on SNL?

Jorma: Well lots of the ideas that we write happen at like six in the morning. There's a lot of goofing around until...

Andy: It happens different ways, too. Like sometimes you're told flat out, okay, we have to have something like this in the next 24 hours, and then you sit there and you shoot ideas out until you come up with it. Sometimes one of us will come in and be like 'hey, I thought about something in the shower, give this a shot.' You know, there's lots of different avenues.

Jorma: There's also writing days for us. Tuesday is the normal writing and idea day, stay up 'til whenever you're done, which can be anywhere from six in the morning, to like sleeping over and leaving the next day at 2 in the afternoon. And then for us, if they order a digital short or if we have an idea already for a digital short, that'll happen around Thursday, and then we shoot on Friday, and edit all day until like Saturday morning.

Did all three of you go to film school?

Jorma: These two did. I went to UCLA for theatre.

So is making a feature film a dream come true for you guys?

Jorma: I'd say it definitely is.

Akiva: It is the dream. That's why you move to Hollywood (sarcastically).

It's that easy, right? You just move down there and three weeks later you have a movie out?

Jorma: Of course, it's always like that.

Is it surreal at times to think that you have a feature film coming out this summer?

Jorma: Just the fact that we're at the sound place right now, like we're still so in it that it's very difficult to grasp.

Andy: I would say that like every time I have 20 minutes to reflect I get a little bit bugged out, have that like, shrooming on top of a mountain type kind feeling where you're like 'oh my god, this is happening.'

Akiva: Or whenever you go back to something that we did 2 years ago, or I'll go to LA and I'll hang out somewhere I hung out before, like for instance going to the Movie Awards as guests, rather than as writers on it. Anytime you're going to something like that as a writer you're looking up at the people there as guests, and you're like 'One day...' Then you can go up to them and say 'Now I did it!' You know, it's something you can check off your list.

Jorma: For me it was when that first commercial aired, on the last show of SNL, seeing it on TV for the first time, it was like 'Oh my God, this is real, everything we've been working on is actually real.

Andy: We had a cool moment too last week. Me and Kiv went to Studio City to record the orchestra, the scoring for the movie, and I used to be a PA working there, and that was not that long ago. It was kind of a cool full circle feeling like, 'And now, we're doing the movie!'

Are you guys looking to promote this as a Lonely Island movie, or do you want this to be independent of that?

Akiva: We'd like to get people in theatres.

Jorma: I think it is that, whether we want it to be or not, that's a pretty truthful thing, even though we didn't come up with the idea, it's ours and it's shared with other people as well, it's not solely ours, but it's still ours.

Andy: I think we want it to be known in any way to anyone to make them like it. At first I think all of us had way more specific ideas of how we wanted to be viewed and received and stuff like that, but once you put in that much time and effort on something, you just want it to be received well by anybody, so hopefully that'll be the case.

Jorma: You know how I would want people to go in seeing it, I was telling Andy the other day, in the Billy Madison way, that you're going to see the smartest stupid movie you've ever seen.

Well that's the thing. You guys can do the toilet humor thing but you did it in a way that's clever and absurd.

Andy: Yeah, we're always trying to sorta class up the fart joke.

Akiva: The movie is standard on the level of comedy in terms of that it has cliches in it, and every time we get a cliche we try to put a big wink to the audience, a big moment to let the audience know that we know we're doing it, whether it's a big joke, or somebody being sarcastic.

Source: JoBlo.com

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10:46AM on 06/18/2007
This film looked like it was handed to either Adam Sandler or Jason Biggs, who both probably intelligently turned it down, and they needed to find somebody who pretty much ripped off both their comedy stylings. Seriously, third picture down. That was the first photo I saw from the movie, I really thought that was pie fucker.
This film looked like it was handed to either Adam Sandler or Jason Biggs, who both probably intelligently turned it down, and they needed to find somebody who pretty much ripped off both their comedy stylings. Seriously, third picture down. That was the first photo I saw from the movie, I really thought that was pie fucker.
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7:11AM on 06/18/2007
you can tell by my last post that i am clearly an idiot. kids, dont smoke weed.
you can tell by my last post that i am clearly an idiot. kids, dont smoke weed.
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7:10AM on 06/18/2007

saw the preview

I was already a fan of these guys for a while so maybe i am not the best judge, but i saw a preview of Hot Rod in NY about 3 weeks ago and it was hilarious. it is like a mish mosh of lonely island shit, Ferrell shit and movies and Napoleon Dynamite shit. funny shit! and the 'cool beans' scene is so retarded it had me on the floor.
I was already a fan of these guys for a while so maybe i am not the best judge, but i saw a preview of Hot Rod in NY about 3 weeks ago and it was hilarious. it is like a mish mosh of lonely island shit, Ferrell shit and movies and Napoleon Dynamite shit. funny shit! and the 'cool beans' scene is so retarded it had me on the floor.
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