24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: The Farrelly Bros.

Jenna Fischer looks for some film love

March 7, 2011 |  2:48 pm

As Steve Carell is poised to make a lot more appearances on the silver screen, he could have company from an "Office" co-star.

Jenna Fischer, the receptionist-turned-saleswoman on the NBC sitcom (who, of course, isn't leaving the show), is putting the finishing touches on "The Giant Mechanical Man," an offbeat love story she both produced and stars in.

The film tells of a female zoo worker who falls in love with a street performer (the silver-painted, motionless kind), with each of them resisting pressure from friends and family not to get together. "It's mostly a comedy, but it's a sweet comedy. There aren't any pratfalls," the actress told 24 Frames. Currently in postproduction, the movie -- which also stars Topher Grace -- is seeking a distributor and could well end up at film festivals later this year.

Fischer said the story, which reminds a little of Miranda July's indie hit "Me and You and Everyone We Know," aims for a sort of human plausibility. "It's not a question of will they fall in love, but how do they fall in love," said the actress. In an art-imitating-life turn, Fischer also met husband Lee Kirk on the film. (Kirk wrote and directed.)

After a string of smaller roles in studio comedies, Fischer, who turned 37 Monday, had a more prominent supporting part in the Farrelly brothers' recent "Hall Pass." She says she's hoping to take even more of a leap into film -- as a producer on "Man," she's gotten her hands dirty with nitty-gritty issues such as financing and casting -- while keeping her schedule in mind.

"Television work takes eight months out of the year, so you really only get to pick one film a year. But I'm trying to pick one that really gives me the most artistic expression," she said.

In the case of "Mechanical Man" that meant deviating from some romantic-comedy cliches. "As a producer, I see a lot of these scripts about a woman who falls in love, and she's always a fashion editor or an ad executive or someone at a fun, fast-paced New York creative job that looks like it doesn't exist, and then she falls for a scoundrel who challenges her point of view," Fischer said. "I didn't want to do that."

--Steven Zeitchik




What's Steve Carell's next move? Or should we say moves?

Can the Farrelly brothers make a comeback?

From the archives: Live chat with Jenna Fischer

Photo: Jenna Fischer at the "Hall Pass" premiere in Los Angeles last month. Credit: Paul Buck / European Pressphoto Agency

Can the Farrelly brothers make a comeback?

February 25, 2011 | 10:03 am


It's been nearly 15 years since "There's Something About Mary" and its hair-gel hilarity defined a comedy culture and made superstars out of filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly.

The boys from Rhode Island have been cranking out the films in the intervening years -- a prolific seven that they wrote and directed, not to mention those they produced -- but finding a hit has been tougher. In fact, it's been nearly a decade since their last bona fide commercial success, the Jack Black satire "Shallow Hal" in 2001, as they've fought the perception that Judd Apatow and a host of other filmmakers have more successfully walked the path that they blazed.

The Farrellys will probably be most closely judged by their passion project "The Three Stooges," which they shoot this spring (their argument to us for why it needed to be made can be read here). But first they try to make their comeback with "Hall Pass," the Owen Wilson-starring story of infidelity and marital malaise, which marks only their second R-rated comedy in 11 years.

They have their work cut out for them. In 2007, their Ben Stiller romantic comedy “The Heartbreak Kid” earned the weakest reviews of their career and also disappointed at the box office. (Peter attributes both largely to the fact that DreamWorks insisted they keep the same title as the 1970s classic.) This after their previous two films, “Fever Pitch” and “Stuck on You,” tallied their second-lowest and lowest box-office totals since 1996. Even their ardent fans would have a hard time arguing against a falloff.

But if they have an awareness that other R-rated comedy maestros have taken their mantle, it's not evident in an interview we conducted with them. “There's a lot of hate on the Internet,” Peter told us. “If you Google ‘Mother Teresa,’ you're going to see a lot of hate. So I don't look at a lot of bloggers.”

Bobby explains why he thinks comedy directors can lose their touch, and why he thinks he and his brother have avoided the traps that lead to irrelevance. “The trick is to still have an idea of what's funny in the world,” said Bobby, who lives in Massachusetts. "A lot of times when people become real successful, you have a tendency to build a big home somewhere and you become reclusive and you lose touch with John Q. Public." "Hall Pass" and the "Stooges" will go a long way to determine just where they stand with that public.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Hall Pass." Credit: New Line


The Three Stooges: Cher as a nun? And Benicio del Toro's not out ...

February 16, 2011 |  1:21 pm

Larry, Curly, Moe and...Cher?

Even as they continue to seek the three leads for their big-screen version of "The Three Stooges," Peter and Bobby Farrelly say they have an unusual idea for one of the lead female roles: The brothers are aiming to put Cher in the movie. 

The goal is for the singer-actress to play Mother Superior, the nun whom the Stooges terrorize.

Cher had a cameo in the Farrellys' Siamese-twin comedy "Stuck on You" back in 2003. At the time, the writer-directors spoke to the diva about a part in the "Stooges" film, which they'd hoped to shoot next. (They've been developing it for a long time.) She agreed, they said.

"Cher is just the coolest chick ever," Peter Farrelly told 24 Frames. "It's hard to describe. You meet a lot of celebrities in our business. We're not cowed by many of them. But Cher is bawdy, she's fun, she's cool, she's lived a life, she's got experience, she's humble. It's the humility that struck me the most. She's not really a diva."  A representative for Cher did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Casting for the Fox film -- which aims to shoot, after years of development holdups, this spring -- is entering the homestretch.

Cher In an interview for their upcoming infidelity romp "Hall Pass" (more on that soon), the Farrellys say that while their initial "Stooges" trio of Sean Penn (Larry), Jim Carrey (Curly) and Benicio Del Toro (Moe) has broken up, casting may yet move in an unexpected direction. Del Toro, for instance, is someone "we're still considering," Bobby Farrelly said.

(Incidentally, Penn dropped out of the nyuk-nyuk-fest when he decided to concentrate on his charitable efforts in Haiti. Carrey chose  not to star in the film even after gaining more than 40 pounds for the role, though the Farrellys didn't exactly have a chance to convince him to stay. "We never heard from him, but we read it," Peter Farrelly said. So he never picked up a phone to call them? "Now that would have been nice," Farrelly said of the actor whose career was given a big boost when he starred in the Farrellys' "Dumb & Dumber" in 1994.)

As for the rumors that Andy Samberg and Johnny Knoxville were on the shortlist to star in "Stooges," don't be quick to rule that out.

"We like both of those guys," said Bobby Farrelly. "We always thought Samberg looks a little like he could play Larry. And Knoxville is a real-life stooge. He's a real-life Moe."

The casting challenge for the filmmakers is to find actors with a rare mix of skills: a flair for comedy and a capacity for imitation to go along with an innate physicality.

"We need to get the voices. The Stooges had very specific voices and we need to get as close as we can to that," Bobby Farrelly said. But, he added, "We've seen some guys come in that are pretty spot-on, but at the same time there's something about them that's not funny. Just because they can do a great imitation doesn't mean you're going to burst out laughing when you watch it."

What's more, the roles require a difficult balance of originality and imitation, Peter Farrelly added.

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