INT: David Zucker

Hollywood really respected comedy, David Zucker would be mentioned in the
same breath as legendary auteurs like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola
and others. Zucker, who along with longtime collaborator Jim Abrahams gave
us such offbeat classics as Airplane! and The Naked Gun, practically
invented the modern spoof. So when it came time for the Wayans to hand over
the Scary Movie reigns to a new director, Zucker was a logical choice to
helm the third installment of the series.
He returns for another go round this week with
. Check it out.


was the better experience as a filmmaker, Scary Movie 3 or 4?

4 was
harder because we had only nine months to do it from conception, first page
of writing to release was nine months. It’s impossible. I’ve negotiated for
my next deal to have merely an unreasonable schedule. [laughs] We’re going
to negotiate to have a year to do it. That would be like a luxury. We worked
weekends, nights, just…it was…mainly because one of the big requirements
is to have the main movies that we do…you know, we use two main movies.

Scary 3, there was Signs and The Ring. And for this one, we were all set to
do Ring 2, but Ring 2 was not accepted by the audience, so we couldn’t hang
our whole thing…It was just quickly forgotten, in part, maybe because of
Scary Movie 3 [laughs]. Cuz we did that, the scary little girl. So then we
had to wait for War of the Worlds. But the release date was already set.
They wanted this April 14. So we all agreed, hey, we’re just going to do it.
So it ended up, for this one, it’s War of the Worlds and The Grudge, and
then a bunch of other movies thrown in, like the Saw.

there another Scary Movie in the pipeline if this is a success?

definitely. The great thing about the Scary Movie franchise is that they
just keep making horror movies. There will always be horror movies, so it
will always be fresh. So we don’t have to follow the same premise, like in a



movie. Okay, you always have these kids becoming policemen. It’s the same
thing. So this one, we have the same characters basically, we add new
characters, and it’s a new plot every time, because we’ll follow whatever
movies come out. So I think it can be always fresh.

there any movies you had to leave out that you would have liked to parody?

No, we
used every possible one. In the past two years, I think the pickings were
thinner than they were for 3. So we had to really make the most of the
movies that were in the popular mind, like the boxing one, Million Dollar
Baby. Well, Grudge and War of the Worlds were big, Saw was big. So we really
hit those pretty hard. And the Village, which wasn’t as successful as some
of the other M. Night movies, but was still…it was a very strikingly
original movie.

makes Anna Faris such a good foil for your spoofs?

first of all, horror movies…it’s scarier when it’s a woman. It’s scarier.
And we kind of learned that the scarier it is, the funnier it is. And she’s
really a good actress. I mean, she is so convincing and can convey the
sincerity. And so it just, the more the audience can be involved in the plot
and believability of the characters, the funnier the jokes will be. Because
I don’t tell any of the actors to try to be funny. I always, my biggest
direction is, let the lines do the work. You know, just let the script be
funny. You just do the dramatic acting.

she ever said “wait a minute” to anything you’ve asked her to do,
or is she fearless?

yeah. She knows that when…like if I need her to take that baseball, she’ll
do it. Because you can’t get a stunt double. It wouldn’t be funny to have a
stunt double from behind, or something. She had to take that thing. And the
drinks cart, too. That wouldn’t work with a stunt person. So that took a
couple of takes, and it hurt. But she never objects to anything, because
she’s a trooper.

does she keep a straight face?

not as hard. You know, Anna never cracks up. Or


. Because I think…they’ve read the script, we’ve done a lot of rehearsals.
I’m actually fairly serious on the set. Except during the takes…you know,
after each take, I have to laugh, because if I don’t laugh, that means
there’s something wrong, and I’ve got to change it somehow. So it’s got to
make me laugh. But generally, our actors don’t crack up, but with the
exception of Anthony and Kevin. Really, it really is Kevin…And I don’t
blame him. Because in the tent of the Brokeback Mountain thing, he had a
hard time holding it together because they had to get pretty close to each

the opening scene with Shaq and Dr. Phil, do you cast it first or write it

we had an outline that it was going to be two people in the Saw bathroom.
But we couldn’t write it…all those things are very Shaq and Dr. Phil
specific. So Shaq’s got to make a basket, Dr. Phil has to give advice. So
that was written for them.

it like working with Jim Abrahams again?

Oh, it
was great. We’ve been friends all these years, and wanted to work with each
other again, and things just didn’t, schedule-wise, work out. So we did it
again, and it was really as if no time had passed. The shorthand that we
developed was right there again. We had a lot of fun. And also, Craig Mazin,
the new writer, well, new to…from Scary Movie 3, really enjoyed working
with Jim also. So we made a good team.

there a moment where you’re with Abrahams and you’re clicking and thinking,
“Glad you’re back”?

many moments….We had a good laugh over the Michael Madsen line which Jim
came up with. “We’ll build our own Tripods. Ours will have four
legs.” And that’s very much, that made me laugh pretty hard. Not only
because it was funny, because that’s a typical Jim Abrahams line. So he
would think of stuff like that. [laughs]

you guys get it any better than Airplane?

mean as an experience? No, it couldn’t possibly because with Airplane, we
came out of nowhere and we were the new kids. People were writing stuff
like, “These kids saved Hollywood!” after the summer movies had
bombed, and we came in. It was kind of blown even out of proportion for what
it was, but…It’ll never be an experience like that, even though the Scary
Movies will make more money, I think. It’s just a whole different thing now.
But we were just three guys from Milwaukee, and that was something.

this kind of press junket and going to Europe and doing the press, it was
great. We got to meet Charlie Bluhdorn, the head of Gulf and Western, and at
the same time, they were trying…we went to Europe with Michael Eisner and
Jeff Katzenberg and Barry Diller, who were all executives there. And they
all were working for Bluhdorn, and a little bit afraid of him. [laughs] I
mean, imagine these guys…but Bluhdorn was this monster, and they had
neglected to make a deal when we did Airplane.

had no idea what they had. And so they just made a one picture deal. And so
then we were in the driver’s seat, so when we met Bluhdorn, we immediately
said…he asked us, why aren’t you making a deal? We want you to do another
picture for us. And we immediately, we all said, well, we don’t want to deal
with these guys anymore…you know, Eisner and Diller and Katzenberg…we
want to deal straight with the main guy. And he laughed, he thought it was


Pullman, who I’ve worked with before on Ruthless People…

did a good self-parody, despite being a serious actor.

He’s a serious actor, yeah. And always had it perfect on the first take. He
has such a great instinct, which is good because every time I would direct
him, he would do something…he was un-directable. [laughs] It was funny,
because he…thank God…he had it perfect. And I always try to like tweak
things and everything, and he would just, you know, he didn’t respond
well…[laughs] Nicest guy in the world. Really, he wanted to do everything
he could to do what I wanted. But he didn’t need my help.

Leslie Nielsen fine with being naked?

Leslie’s game. We read him the script for that, and he cracked up. That was
one of the things we shot later.

body double?

was a body double, yeah. The guy from behind, yeah. [laughs]

was that casting process?

weird. That’s part of my weird job. I had to actually look at asses.

much of the script or the jokes were improvised?

little. But Craig Bierko is so good at improvisation, it turned out, which
we didn’t know when we cast him. But remember the scene where he’s trying to
let D. Ray Davis, the Marvin character, in the door, the automatic door
locks? That was all improvised. Craig Mazin wrote like a half a page. It was
a couple of exchanges. But there was none of that “count to
three.” They just went off and did that all improvised. And then also,
Craig Mazin wrote a page of the Oprah scene, and then Craig Bierko did the
rest. He did all that.

anything added sort of at the last minute in reaction to entertainment news

Brokeback Mountain was definitely not in the movie as it was written. That
was added later, because while we were shooting, that whole Brokeback
Mountain story kind of broke and that became so talked about and such a
cultural phenomenon that we wrote the scene. And also, the audience wanted
to see Anthony and Kevin back, so we got that for them.

they have parts if not for the Brokeback Mountain scenes?

they were all set to do the zombie scene and the meeting Tom in the bar, but
the Brokeback thing was added later.

you think that every Brokeback joke had already been done?

We didn’t know how that would play, and we were all set for people not to
laugh at all. But when we shot it, we thought, “Well this is pretty
funny.” But we were always thinking in the back of our minds, well, a
lot of jokes had been made in print…you know, Letterman and Leno. So how
many more laughs can you get out of this movie? But it worked. And another
big surprise was that just a mere mention of Myspace…And we just thought,
well, there’s a clever thing. And it was almost like an ad lib. We threw
that in a couple days before. But it just gets such a big reaction because
it’s so current.

looks like you had a generous budget for special effects.

it was mainly because of War of the Worlds. We had to do the Tripods,
because our audience has to feel that they’re in that movie, and we wanted
to do the jokes of the clothing and the bling.

lot of women and children get punched in the face.

you know, the women and children being punched in the face…I can’t think
of women being punched…which are the ones that are women?

just Anna Faris’s scenes.

Anna Faris gets it all the time, yeah. And the children. Well, most of that
is just…Anna is the lead character, and in a horror movie, it seems that
the best horror movies are with women in the lead because it’s just scarier.
They seem more vulnerable. But the lead character’s always going to get
bonked around, because that’s been comedy since vaudeville [laughs] and Ben
Turpin, Charlie Chaplin, Marx Brothers. That physical comedy is definitely a
component of it. And the fact that there’s always children in horror movies,
and they’re always treated with great reverence in current cinema.

that’s something that we just dive in there. We say, “We’re not going
to hold these kids sacred. They’re movie actors, and we’re going to knock
them around the same way.” So in that way, it’s a satire on how they’re
treated in movies, really. You know, my mom loved Airplane! like everybody
else, but she didn’t like…the one thing…she hated the scene of Peter
Graves talking to the child. And I could never convince her that it wasn’t
just a joke on pedophilia, we were really doing a joke on the image
portrayed in American cinema of the squeaky clean, all-American airline
captain. And this is the one thing that really undercut that image. And
that’s what made people laugh.

personally, I don’t think pedophilia is very funny at all. But I have no
qualms about using that…Or about child abuse. Of course, who thinks that’s
funny? But I think people can take all these jokes in the context of we’re
doing a spoof, and we’re satirizing movies. This is not a real life comedy.
We think that we’re following rules that are different from other comedies.
And believe me, if the test audiences didn’t laugh, that would mean that
this is offensive and we can’t do it. And so anything like that…if we make
a bad guess about something, it’s out.

going on with Superhero?

Mazin has written a script, and it’s a…You know, we’ve identified about a
dozen characteristics that are common to all these superhero movies, like
Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men…and if you can get those common
characteristics, there’s a pretty good chance that the audience will share
those references and you can poke fun at the cliches. So it’s going to be
pretty interesting.

you waiting for Superman Returns?

we’ll start writing. We’ll really do the draft this summer, and then start
pre-production in the fall.

movies are you going to parody?

all the usual suspects, I think: Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men.

you look forward to or fear running into Tom Cruise or Dakota Fanning?

not at all. You know, Tom Cruise…first of all, it’s not mean-spirited. And
I think Tom Cruise, I think he has a sense of humor, and he ought to just
laugh. I mean, he put himself out there, and he must be aware of, you know,
he went a little over the top. But I think people…also, people wouldn’t
laugh at this stuff if they didn’t like Tom Cruise. I think he is the
biggest movie star probably of all time. A lot of people love him, and he
deserves it. He’s really an amazing actor. So we can poke fun at him and
Oprah. You know, the only…I don’t have any qualms about running into Tom
Cruise at all. Only O.J. I don’t want to run into O.J. [laughs] I don’t want
to discuss old times with him.

you have to convince Shaq to do the Kobe line?

Not only did we not have to convince him, (but) that was his ad lib. Honest
to God, he ad libbed it.

Questions? Comments?
Manifestos? Send them to me at [email protected].