Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, and Peter Segal Press Conference
How much did Steve and Alan stick to the script?
Steve Carell: “Our writer's here on the end, and I can say that I improvised everything. It was, I think, a mix. We stuck to the script, but there were options and there were chances to play and see what other… And in collaboration with Pete and the writers and the cast, we would come up with alternatives because you never know in the final outcome what will or won't work. So we tried to give ourselves some options on various takes.”
Alan Arkin: “Me, I like to improvise. It's my training; it's my love. But on this script, I can honestly say I think I improvised one word.”
Anne Hathaway: “Do you remember the word?”
Alan Arkin: “Yeah, nuclear. That was my one contribution. I was not only bowled over by what Matt and Tom did, but the development from draft to draft I found really amazing. These guys put in a 40 hour week. Matt told me they go to work at nine and they stop at five. I couldn't believe that. I never knew a writer that did that, except to take a drink once in a while, but these guys don’t seem to do that.”
You play such deadpan characters, what does it take to make you break?
Steve Carell: “Oh, it takes editing to cut out all the times I'm laughing hysterically. That's the long and short of it. Well, more importantly than that, I try specifically not to laugh when someone else is doing their thing because if you laugh and ruin someone else's take, if somebody's doing something inspired or incredibly funny, it's a gift. To take that away by laughing and ruining it, I think that's a cardinal sin in my mind. But there are some times you just can't help yourself. There's a scene in the movie when Alan is trying to pronounce a name at the cone of silence sequence. The scene probably took five times longer than it should've because I couldn't control myself. So I took that gift from Alan. That just killed me.”
Anne Hathaway: “That was really fun because I break all the time with Steve and most of my scenes were with Steve, so when he finally broke, it was such sweet vindication for me.”
Alan Arkin: “I'm actually laughing in the movie. There's a shot of me where I'm laughing at you in the movie. I was humiliated beyond my wildest hopes.”
Is this like The Naked Gun and what are the challenges of this type of comedy?
Peter Segal: “Well, I think Naked Gun is the hardest kind of movie to do by far. What the Zucker Brothers created with Airplane, it's a real ballet of comedy. It looks easy but it's absolutely the hardest to do. Four jokes per page, so the scripts for those movies, that particular script was I think 135 pages but the movie was fairly short because like with Second City, you just don't know what's going to work. So we test a lot. With this movie, because I had done that film and because Steve had also worked with David Zucker on a television project, we both said, ‘We can't go back there again.’ Because Naked Gun was inspired by Get Smart, so it would just be recycling upon itself.
We tried to bring our own sensibilities to this and give it a different tone. What I learned from David Zucker on that is make your bad guys bad, take your plot seriously even in a comedy. We bumped that up a notch even more on this. And talking to Mel Brooks about it, that's exactly what he tried to do back in 1965. He said, ‘Let's take 007 and just stretch it one inch further into comedy but give it all those stakes.’
If you look back at the series almost have a century ago, it was a fairly expensive show for its time. Single camera, they went on locations, there was a little bit of action. Compared to the other kinds of comedies that were on the air at that time, it was very unique and different so we just tried to take that and broaden it on the big screen.”
Steve, how much physical preparation did you do?
Steve Carell: “Well, I worked out and made my body a physical specimen to be admired. Fine tempered steel is what most people… I tried not to get killed was my MO in this. The most dangerous stunt, I probably don't know really which the most dangerous one was.”
Strapped to the train?
Steve Carell: “Perhaps. There's a scene in which we're riding a banner behind a moving SUV. So we were on a platform. We weren't hooked in to anything and just being pulled down train tracks riding on top of this platform. That probably, the only reason I think it was dangerous was because everyone said, ‘Okay, are you ready to go? Good, okay, let's go. Let's do it.’ Then we just did it. But the safety crews, everybody was great. I never felt that anything was in jeopardy and the stunt people did the really heavy lifting and did a great job.”
Anne Hathaway: “Yeah, being pulled by the train was definitely our Titanic moment. ‘If I jump, you jump.’ I did feel so safe all the time that the danger really never entered my mind. When I would describe to my mother what I was doing, she would have the heart attack for me. Being dropped 50 feet, being strapped to a cable having nothing but sidewalk… Well, I guess they, in the shot they did have a pad. But it was on a street in Montreal so you weren't in a closed set, so you felt a little bit more exposed. But I just remember giggling. You would just kind of laugh and I had to put my head down because I was laughing so hard, it was just such a rush. It was just lovely, lovely. It was so exhilarating. So yeah, we just felt so safe the whole time that it just felt like being at the best amusement park ever.”