Director Shawn Levy ("Just Married") describes "Cheaper by the Dozen" as a love letter to the zaniness of large families. Levy believes casting Steve Martin as 'dad' helped bring the movie to a whole new level. "When you have Steve Martin, you get layers of character and comedy that go well beyond the scripted page. Steve brings Tom Baker to life through his physical and verbal humor. His work starts where the words end," says Levy.
STEVE MARTIN ('Tom'):
Have the values of fatherhood changed?
You know how things come and go [and some things] seem more important? It used to be in the '50s, the father was obligated to always be away and be gruff. Now they seem to want to share the duties. It seems to be important. Fatherhood has taken on a more important role.
Do you feel uncomfortable taking on this movie since you don't have kids?
I played fathers so many times, it's like being one. I've had children of every age. And like I say, I get to do everything but the dirty work. Their parents have to take them home and deal with all that.
What discussions were there to make this film different from the original?
The script came to me finished. I was not a part of writing the script. I made some suggestions. I don't remember the early film. I knew the title, I knew what it was about, but I didn't know until halfway through the movie that in the original, the father dies. I go, "Hey, I may read that script again." So this is a long way from the original.
What is the funniest thing one of the kids said to you?
Those questions are hard to answer - the funniest memory - but the kids were just bright and sunny, and they're just funny. Their personalities are funny. They wouldn't say one-liners. Every one of their personalities was so different. They don't come off like actors. They don't come off like professionals. They come off like kids.
Did you have fun working with Bonnie Hunt?
Yeah, she is a very quick wit - very quick. I think she's very pretty. I think she played this role so well because the wife is often underwritten and her role is to go away. But her presence in the movie is very, very strong, very felt, and heartfelt, too.
How about working with the younger kids?
I did a movie, A Simple Twist of Fate, and I was working with two twins. They were about three. This is in Atlanta. And they were delightful. They were funny and they were sweet. And I asked the parents, I said, Why are your children so fabulous? And she kind of looked surprised and said, Well, we raised them with humor. And I thought, Gee, what a great answer. Get kids into the humor mode. There's so many things you can say through humor that if you say directly, you can be harsh. Because you can look at someone in an ugly dress and say, "What an ugly dress." Or you can say, "Gee, that's pretty." And they get the message in kind of a kinder way.
This film is about chaos. Is chaos funny to us now and would it have been funny 40 years ago?
40 years ago to have these kids with all these opinions would have been probably shocking to the audience. I don't know if it's chaos that is funny to us now. There's always something funny about precociousness. It's kind of a generic TV-kid quality, but none of the kids in this film are precocious. I think a couple of them use big words every once in a while. I don't know how to answer your question, because I'm not sure that its chaos that makes it funny. It's struggle, maybe, that makes it funny and trying to contain them.
Did you ever think the kids behavior in the movie was unreasonable?
There are a couple of moments that I thought they should be sent to bed for that. But also if you had 12 kids, you probably couldn't manage sending them to bed. You have to handcuff them to the bed frame.
Can you talk about working with Ashton Kutcher?
He was hilarious.
Did he try to 'punk' you?
No, I think he sensed it would be a bad idea! (Laughing)
He came out of nowhere and now he's huge.
First of all, I can tell you, he was so funny in this movie. He was hilarious and a lot of it is on the cutting room floor, because he can ad-lib and ad-lib. It was really funny. He was fabulous. If we ever do a movie of The Pleasure of My Company, I would like him to play it.
You think he's a good actor?
I do, I really do.
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