Along with his brother Bobby, Peter Farrelly has become the go-to guy for raunchy gross-out comedies. His works include Dumber and Dumber, Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary, Stuck on You, and the recent reboot of The Three Stooges. His latest project is Movie 43, a compilation film that embodies the distinct combination of gross-out gags and heartfelt sweetness that he’s delivered his entire career. In an exclusive interview with Mania, he talked about the project, as well as its impressive array of top-list actors.
Question: How did you guys get started on this? What was the genesis?
Peter Farrelly: It pretty much started with one of our producers, Charlie Wessler. He’d been thinking about redoing something like Kentucky Fried Movie for the Internet age. Something with a lot of funny shorts like you’d see on YouTube. That format actually helped us get the stars we got, which is really kind of ridiculous. We could never do it with a straight feature. But with shorts, we could go to someone like Hugh Jackman and say, “We have this great little bit for you.” Hugh would say, “That’s great, but I won’t be free for a year because I’m making Les Miserables.” We’d say, “No problem, we’ll wait.” That's how we did it. We had a separate director and crew for each one, so we could just shut down for six months until the next group of actors was ready. You’d do one and wait a year, and then do two more and wait six months. That’s really how it all came together.
Q: How many did you direct yourself?
PF: I did two. We have a very funny one with Jackman and Kate Winslet, where they’re meeting on a blind date. He’s handsome and successful and wealthy, and Kate keeps wondering why he’s still on the market. Turns out he has a birth defect… and I won’t say more than that.
The other one I did is about a date as well. Kind of my yin and yang of first dates. Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant meet, and they get into a game of truth or dare, and it goes to some pretty extreme places.
Q: These are big-time stars. Berry and Winslet have Oscars, Jackman just won the Golden Globe. Did any of them have any qualms about doing it?
PF: Actually no. They can all do comedy; they’ve done comedy before, and most actors of that caliber are very comfortable with comedy. They also like being challenged. So if you have a piece of really dark, twisted humor, they tend to respond with enthusiasm rather than concerns. Kate, in particular, has a really sick sense of humor, and Halle kept pushing us to take things further and further. That’s one of the reasons why those folks are at the top of the heap. And we didn’t have much money, so we had to sell them on the material. They were all fantastic.
Q: There’s a fine line between raunchy humor and just raunch, between being outrageously funny and just gross. You and your brother have gotten very good at walking that line. Is there a secret to it?
PF: Well, you need to have heart and have characters you care about. We have to like the folks we see on the screen and root for them in some way. If you can ground the humor with that, you can really go balls to the wall, and make it work. But even with the grossest stuff, you have to make sure it’s funny too. People can’t be laughing just out of shock. You have to find something that they’ll connect to.
I’ll come right out and say it: this is not a critics’ movie. Rotten Tomatoes is going to pound us flat. But we knew that going in and I think for audiences looking for that kind of hard-R humor are really going to respond to it. They won’t do that unless you have heart… and I think we have that in spades.