Bobby and Peter Farrelly - the filmmaking brothers behind Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There's Something About Mary - are back with another R-rated comedy, Hall Pass, starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, and Christina Applegate. Wilson and Sudeikis star as happily married men/BFFs who can't seem to help but gawk whenever a pretty woman walks by. Their wives, played by Fischer and Applegate, decide enough is enough and issue the men a week-long 'hall pass'. So, what's a hall pass? It's basically a week's vacation from being married. The guys can do whatever they want, with whoever they want, and they won't get in trouble. It's one week off with no questions asked. What could go wrong?
Together for a press conference in LA in support of the New Line Cinema film, the cast and writer/directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly explained why hall pass may be a great idea for a comedy but a not-so-great idea to put into practice.
Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly Hall Pass Press Conference
How did your involvement with Hall Pass come about?
Bobby Farrelly: "The original script was written by Pete Jones and when we saw it, we thought, 'Wow, that's a good idea for a movie. Hall Pass - a married guy gets a week off.' Pete had written a really, really good script and from there we all kind of hopped in."
Peter Farrelly: "It was hysterical. It was very funny, you laughed out loud ten or 12 times and we just thought this is something we'd like to get involved in. And then it was a long, long process rewriting with him because it is a real balancing act to make this movie work."
"You know, one of the early problems with the movie was that the guys got the hall pass in the beginning and the women just bit their fingernails and waited, like, ‘Oh, I wonder what’s going on? What are they doing?’ And that didn’t work. I remember, and I apologize for repeating this, but my wife read it and she said, ‘I hate these f--king women.’ I was like, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Because if you get a hall pass, I’m getting a f--king hall pass. This is bullsh-t!’ [She was] literally angry with me. So we’re like, ‘Okay, calm down.’ And we rethought it.”
Were you surprised this movie ends up being very pro-relationship and monogamy considering your character is the inciter?
Jason Sudeikis: "Was I surprised? No, I read the script. But before then, no. As I was reading it, I would say not necessarily surprised. I was hoping that that’s the lesson that would be potentially learned because I do believe in the idea of love and marriage and monogamy."
Owen Wilson: "Valentine’s Day."
Jason Sudeikis: "But I was happy that it happened, and I like that the question will probably be bandied about. I feel like just the commercial alone probably causes some sofa discussion or pillow talk between couples of just like, 'Would you do that? Would you ever? Honey, what would you do if I gave you that?' And I think it could go either way, guys or gals, like the movie allows itself to do. I like that it posed that question because I think marriage is in an interesting place with a high divorce rate and people talking about the sanctity of gay marriage and all this rampant cheating going on with Tiger Woods and the internet and Chris Lees of the world, the senator - or whatever the hell he does for a living. I like that it posed that question and it doesn’t necessarily answer it. It only answers it for the characters involved."
For the Farrellys, do you look back on the gross-out scenes from past movies and wonder how you can beat that - as you did with one scene in particular in this?
Peter Farrelly: "We don’t really do that. Actually, we’re not bashful about doing that, but that’s not our goal. At first we try just to create a character and a concept that we like so much that we can hang all our gags on. And in fact, something like that - that was the last thing we put in the entire script, really. We were just about to start shooting..."
Owen Wilson: "It wasn't in the original script that I saw."
Peter Farrelly: "No, we didn't want to scare Owen away. At the very end, right before we started shooting, we sat down and we said, 'Let’s go through this one more time and see if there’s some opportunities for jokes where there’s not anything now.' And one of the writers had had an experience similar to this…I won't get into who...and it just cracked us up, so we just decided to try for it."
Bobby Farrelly: "Definitely, our wives play a big part in it, because they’re the first people who read it. And they’re very honest with us. So after that, the studio certainly is always thinking about the audience. They want to make sure it’s not gonna be, you know, just for the guys and not for the girls. But I would give most of the credit to our wives."
Peter Farrelly: "[...]We were curious and we wanted to get women's input. This is a guy concept, but the women win. Ultimately, it’s a chick flick. I mean, they win across the board. They get to do more than the guys do on the hall pass, and the guys come back humbled and trying to please them. And they have no repercussions from it, except for the immediate ones that they suffered along the way. But it has to be that way. This movie, for it to work, women had to really go for it."
Owen, you just said it is a chick flick.
Owen Wilson: "Yeah. You would often say that to me that we're making Mystic Pizza here. It beats the Traveling Sisterhood and Ya-Ya."
Do you have to explain to the audience what a hall pass or fake chow is?
Owen Wilson: "I think hall pass people know. Fake chow I hadn’t heard before."
Do you prefer movies with ensembles?
Owen Wilson: "It’s not necessarily like a plan. I think that maybe from growing up with brothers and those kind of buddy comedies I kind of relate to those, a lot of the humor in that. Maybe it’s just what I’ve responded to."
Was there anything you read in the script that worried you?
Owen Wilson: "I think it more was, I’ve kind of known you guys for a little bit but obviously had never worked together, so it more kind of I always felt comfortable that we were kind of on the same wavelength sense of humor-wise. So I didn’t have that fear like, 'Oh, these guys are going to be thinking something’s funny that I don’t think is funny.' I didn’t really have that kind of fear that sometimes you have, like, 'Geez, is this guy going to be on the same page with you?' But then it always is kind of everybody has a different way of working. You're kind of particular the way you direct. That was very specific with the way you kind of hear things. I like that."
Jason Sudeikis: "I think I only heard a couple days before we shot the scene in the bathroom with the gal with the stomach trouble that it was just passing gas, and then they did a polish, a script polish, a little find and replace, remove 'fart' and put 'shit sprayed on a bathroom wall.' Spoilers! That was a surprise to me and I don't think it was done for my benefit, but it was a shock. It wasn’t there when I initially had the script read to me."
Jenna Fischer: "Well, my character didn’t have to do anything too crazy so there was nothing that took me by surprise. In general, when you’re a little kid and you daydream about what moviemaking must be like, what you’re daydreaming about is a Farrelly Brothers movie. Their set is so fun and so easy. It made me feel like how I’d always wanted to feel on a movie set, so it was just a total pleasure. And, luckily, I didn’t have to do anything too insane. So I think I got just the absolute best kind of experience."
Owen Wilson: "There were more wrap parties on this movie than normal movies."
Jenna Fischer: "It’s like a weekly wrap party."
Jason Sudeikis: "On set gambling. More games were invented. You could have your own Olympics with the sh*t you guys do, with the birthday contest."
Jenna Fischer: "There’s a dice game also with the giant dice that you found. Remember that giant dice game?"
Jason Sudeikis: "And it would be ridiculous stuff. There was the scene we shot outside, there was a basketball court. We had a basketball. 'No, we’re not going to use the basketball. We’re going to use a football to try to throw a football into the basketball hoop.' It's like, 'What the hell is going on here?"
Owen Wilson: "That kept us going for a while. I forgot about that one."
Jason Sudeikis: "That's where I made most of my money back."
Owen, after becoming a father, did you have any moment where you realized you’ve grown up?
Owen Wilson: "Yeah, I think that definitely my character kind of has that, when he’s towards the end of the movie where he’s looking at the wedding picture and says to Richard Jenkins, realizes how special that was and what a good thing he has. Then Richard Jenkins remembers something else from the photo but, yeah, I guess that is kind of a little bit of the arc of my character, that he realizes what he has."
Is there any real life merit to a hall pass?
Jenna Fischer: "It’s a horrible idea. Are you kidding? It’s a wonderful premise for a film; it’s a horrible practical idea in your life. Don’t do it!"
Owen Wilson: "All the guys are kind of just [nodding]. 'Yeah, yeah, I agree.'"
Jason Sudeikis: "But it doesn’t have to be a week. It could be like four hours. It could be two days. Baby steps."
Besides Applebee’s and Chili’s, where would you recommend someone go on a hall pass?
Owen Wilson: "Olive Garden."
Jason Sudeikis: "Chuck-E-Cheese."
Jenna Fischer: "Go to Bed Bath & Beyond. For real, there’s a ton of women there. Bed Bath & Beyond, Target. Go where women go. We’re all there. Cosmetics counter. The MAC counter at the mall. Whole Foods. The slutty women are at Whole Foods."
Jason Sudeikis: "At the olive bar."
Jenna Fischer: "The progressive liberal ladies."
Owen Wilson: "The more wholesome ones go to Trader Joe’s."
Jason Sudeikis: "Bring deodorant though, huh?"
What about to pick up dudes?
Owen Wilson: "Golf course."
Jason Sudeikis: "Yeah, golf course. Strip clubs."
Audiences see you as a party animal but in this movie you’re different. Did you enjoy it?
Owen Wilson: "I did. I think that one of the things that you guys had in mind when you talked about me playing the character was having a real look for the guy. I remember my older brother, who’s actually in the movie, coming to Atlanta where we filmed and just seeing me in my wardrobe and he just went, 'You look so bad.' Just putting on the clothes just made you feel like, 'God, I’ve got no game.' You really don’t feel, when you’ve got pleated jeans and kind of orthopedic type shoes, you don’t feel very sexy."
How much improvisation went into shooting?
Owen Wilson: "I think there’s always, everybody was really comfortable trying to come up with stuff but it seemed like when I read the script I just thought it was really funny. That was always sort of... It’s nice when you’re working on something that you don’t feel like you’re having to change and try to come up with something. This we always had a good base and then from there you could kind of [improvise]."
Jason Sudeikis: "A real place - it came from a real place. You improvise what you know."
If you could, what person would you use your hall pass on?
Jason Sudeikis: "1967 Raquel Welch? Can I use it that extensively? Can I use a time machine? Who am I kidding? I would take 1997 Raquel Welch. Who am I kidding? I’d take 2007. Not today though. Not now. Disrespectful. I’d take Helen Mirren now."
Jenna Fischer: "I’m a newlywed. I don’t want a hall pass right now. I got nothing. I’m sorry. It’s true."
Jason Sudeikis: "I’d use mine with Lee then."
Jenna Fischer: "That would be not uncomfortable at all. That would be great."
Jason Sudeikis: "That’s her husband."
What's happening with The Three Stooges?
Bobby Farrelly: "We've been working on it for about 10 years maybe longer. We finally just got it into pre-production. We are going to shoot it a little later this spring. Right now we're diligently casting it, trying to figure out who the right guys are for it. It's not an easy job because even great actors might struggle with those particular roles. We're looking at everyone and we'll probably have it cast in about a month or so. But we are going to make it and we're very excited about it."
Is that a passion project? Did they have a big influence on you?
Peter Farrelly: "No question, they had a big influence on us. We grew up watching them. We’d come home from school and watch them on TV and we'd laugh. These are guys from the 1930s and 1940s, and we just felt like that type of slapstick humor that they did was very timeless and funny, and we want to try to recreate it."
Jason, was there a point on SNL you decided to start doing movies? How are you choosing?
Jason Sudeikis: "The decision came once people asked if I wanted to be in them, truth be told. Then the decision usually comes from being really fortunate to work with a lot of great people at SNL, continuing that streak of luck hopefully and work with more fun people, this table being one of them. Then Horrible Bosses, a lot of awesome fun people that I knew before working with them and working with them just became that much easier."
What do you get to play in Horrible Bosses?
Jason Sudeikis: "I play a wonderful employee of one of the horrible bosses, one of the murderous employees. Yeah, specifically? His name’s Kurt. I’m an employee of Colin Farrell and I want to kill him."
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Hall Pass hits theaters on February 25, 2011.