Brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly burst onto the scene in the 1990s, directing gut-busting tales like “Dumb and Dumber,” “Kingpin,” and “There’s Something About Mary.” Their films ushered in a new breed of romantic comedy that was not afraid to use slapstick humor and gross-out gags to elicit laughs. Thanks to their trailblazing, raunchy movies by directors like Judd Apatow and Todd Philips, have enjoyed increasing mainstream success in recent years.
The duo’s latest picture “Hall Pass” starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, chronicles the comical adventures of two married men who are given a week off from marriage to pursue whatever affairs they desire. At first, the men are overjoyed at the thought of freedom, but once they realize their wives have the opportunity to chase after men, they start to rethink their decision.
I had the chance to participate in a roundtable interview with the Rhode Island natives to grill them about “Hall Pass,” awkward personal stories, and their next project.
Q: What originally brought you guys to this Pete Jones script?
Peter Farrelly: Well we have the same agent and we didn’t know Pete Jones but he was the original “Project Greenlight” guy like 10 years ago, I don’t know if you remember that. So someone sent us the script and we just thought it was hysterical. We liked it. It was very funny, just consistently funny.
Bobby Farrelly: He’s from Chicago and he has a real like Midwestern sensibility you know? It made the guys real likable. That was a big thing for us that we did like the guys. They’re sort of doofuses but they’re funny.
Q: Since you said it was from a Midwestern guy, was it already set in New England? Or did that come in later?
PF: No, in fact it was later. It was no place; it was Anyplace, USA. We put that in later. I like to know where I am in a movie. The reason we always pick Rhode Island is because we’re from there. At our screening last night we were asked why we didn’t set it in Atlanta (where the film was shot), and we didn’t because we’re not from there. I don’t know what the people talk like in Atlanta. I don’t know what the people are really like. For me, in my head, when I see something I want to know where I am. I don’t want it to be anywhere.
Q: Did that require any changes to the characters themselves or did it strictly impact location?
PF: Pretty much just location.
The truth is that I think suburban guys in Illinois are very similar to suburban guys in Colorado and suburban guys in Rhode Island. There’s not that much difference, and for that matter probably not that much difference than suburban guys in Spain. We think that this movie works culturally everywhere.
It’s the same issue, except for maybe Italy. Someone was telling us (in faint Italian accent), ‘Yeah we have a name for hall pass in Italy, it’s called the weekend.’ We do it every weekend. We were shocked, and we were like ‘What are you talking about?’
Q: Did you hear the term ‘hall pass’ before you got the script?
PF: No I hadn’t. (Pauses) Not used in this context, no. It’s interesting because the term ‘hall pass’ comes from being in school and having to raise your hand to go to the bathroom, and when you’re married you have to raise your hand to go to the bathroom. You have to ask permission to do anything.
Q: There’s a really great scene in the movie where Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are having a private conversation that everyone can hear. It’s really hard not to be embarrassed for them in the moment, but I was wondering if you guys had any similar life experiences where were you were talking about someone, didn’t realize they overheard you, and you got caught?
BF: (Laughing) Not us but it’s happened to a few of our friends with a phone call.
PF: This guy we know, he had a date with this girl and he’d just met her. He was going over there, and he was gonna make a move on her. He was bringing over daiquiris and a whole thing to her house and he calls her up from my apartment at the time…
She doesn’t pick up and her machine comes on where she’s singing a song (Singing) ‘I’m not home tonight/ leave a message now/blah blah blah.’ And then *BEEP* so he says ‘Hey looking forward to seeing you tonight, gonna bring some daiquiris and it’s gonna be a good time, okay see you later.’ Then he hangs up, but he doesn’t hang up, the phone is off a little.
This is what he said, I’m quoting him a little, ‘Dumb f****in’ c**t. Jesus Christ, like I want to listen to that song, nah nah nah (singing in a mocking tone).’ We had no idea what was happening, but I do remember a couple of minutes later hearing the beeping and realizing the phone was off the hook. We still weren’t putting it together.
Anyway, he shows up at her house, and he knocks on the door. She says (curtly), ‘Hello.’ And then he said, ‘Hey! How are you?’ And she said ‘Not good.’ So he asked, ‘What’s the matter?’ She said, ‘Come in.’ (Making motion of playing the tape) That was that. That’s karma though.
Q: How much stuff in the movie is born out of your friendships and daily lives?
BF: Like the story he told with the guy and the phone, we just try to take things that happen in real life and work them into the movie. Then we embellish on them and exaggerate on all that, but we try to make it loosely based on stuff that happened.
PF: The closest one would be ‘Outside Providence’ for high school. It was like that you know back then, it’s hard to believe, but that was what it was like.
Q: It’s surprisingly relevant today. As someone that attended boarding school, that was something I watched and said ‘I can’t believe how relevant this is to my experience,’ so thank you for that.
PF: Thanks. I appreciate it. I just remember guys at concerts back then, I guess it’s changed to a certain extent; you guys have raves and stuff. We’d walk into a bathroom at a concert in the Providence Civic Center and there’d be guys standing there (gets up to act out the scene) going ‘Greens, Reds, Blacks, Black Beauties, Downers,” just selling, calling out, with guys stepping up buying drugs. I remember guys saying:
-Hey you want some of these?
-Yeah, what are they?
-What do they do?
-I don’t know.
-Okay give me all five! (pretends to take pills and swallow them all)
And kids would take all five. Absolute insanity. It’s amazing that more people didn’t die. It was a crazy time, and maybe it is still a little bit like that to a certain extent.
Q: Working as brothers are you drawn to the same projects or how do you decide what to work on next?
BF: We’re generally drawn to the same projects, if it seems like the right project. This one, ‘Hall Pass,’ definitely did, just a natural for us. Our next project is going to be ‘The Three Stooges.’ We’ve been working on that for about 10 years. We don’t usually think that far ahead when we have two projects going. In this case we do, and they’re both very logical for us.
Q: You guys mentioned you’re working on Three Stooges and you’ve been working on that for a while, are you guys close to announcing anything about that?
PF: Yeah. We’re weeks away. We’ve been casting for six weeks and we have really good choices but we haven’t seen everybody. We’re still seeing some more people. Until we see everybody we don’t want to make any decisions because it’s a balancing act. They’ve got to be around the same age, around the same size, so it’s a tricky one.
We are starting to shoot it April 18th, so we gotta get the hell on it. We’re pushing this (Hall Pass) now obviously then we’re going to Australia, a week from today for this. They’re gonna do a premiere there, they’re gonna do press for Australia and Asia. Then when we come back we want to make some decisions.
Q: Which Stooges will be appearing? Larry, Moe, and Curly? Or will Shemp be in there at all?
BF: No Shemp.
PF: But if we did another one I could see Shemp coming in that one. None of the other guys though. I like Shemp, but I like Curly better and you can’t have four stooges. We were thinking that if maybe this works the way we hope it will, and we make another movie that maybe they run into Shemp.
Q: When are you guys ever going to let your kids see your movies?
BF: My kids are a little older. They’ve seen them. His (Peter) are younger and haven’t.
PF: I want them to see them when they can appreciate them. Like they haven’t seen ‘Something About Mary’ because they are 11 and 10 and they’re not gonna know what the thing is. When they’re 13, 14, they can see it then and it will be funny to them, hopefully. I just don’t want to freak them out.
“Hall Pass” opens nationwide tomorrow in theaters.