Bobby and Peter Farrelly's THE THREE STOOGES went through one of the more highly publicized casting processes of the last decade, drawing interest from some of Hollywood's biggest stars, who, for one reason or another, had always wanted to indulge their inner Stooge. Sean Penn was an inspired choice as Larry, particularly if you've seen his unforgettable per-fro-mance in Brian De Palma's CARLITO'S WAY. Benicio del Toro threatened more malevolence than mischief as Moe, but that could've been fun. Meanwhile Jim Carrey was set to pack on the pounds to play Curly, until he reportedly balked at the health risk involved in gaining all that weight.
But after many years which saw several other celebrities becoming attached and dropping out, the Farrelly's finally went with the not-exactly-star-studded trio of Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry) and Will Sasso (Curly). Basically, instead of stunt casting, they went with the three best actors for the role. And while I'd love to see the alternate-universe version of THE THREE STOOGES with del Toro rapping Penn upside the head, the Farrelly's definitely made the right call.
The Farrelly's THREE STOOGES is... well, The Three Stooges. It's three remarkably silly shorts with an overarching narrative that plops the trio in a number of situations where they can perpetrate their singular brand of slapstick mayhem. While there are some slightly off-color embellishments that would've been too risque for the original Stooges, they're minor indulgences when compared to the Farrelly's penchant for R-rated gross-out humor. This is simply a PG-rated homage to the skull-cracking, nose-twisting, eye-gouging magic of the Stooges, and it works beautifully. At first, you can't believe you're laughing at the same stupid gags that made you howl when you were eight; finally, you give into the sublime idiocy, and marvel at the Farrelly's ability to nail this style of humor without ever distancing themselves or the audience. It's a gloriously moronic revel.
I had the opportunity to chat with Bobby Farrelly last week about their long-in-development triumph. We discussed the casting process, the resistance to an unabashed THREE STOOGES movie, and how they managed to keep the film pitched at a juvenile PG level. We also briefly touched on what I feel is their most underrated comedy (and, frankly, one of the most underrated comedies of the last twenty years): KINGPIN. But first, Bobby wanted to talk about the Farrellys' special connection to AICN.
Bobby Farrelly: I have an Ain't It Cool News story. When we made THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, we were in the editing room, and like any filmmaker, you don't know exactly what's working and what's not, so you have varying cuts of the movie before you decide on what the final cut is. We had a cut of the movie that we brought to a film class at Boston College. The guy teaching the course was like, "Hey, can we see a cut of your movie?" And we thought, "Yeah, this would be good. Get a little feedback." The very next morning, a kid from that class had written a review of the movie and posted it on Ain't It Cool News. And when we read the review, we thought, "That's a really good review." Not only was it a good review, he had good insights into what was wrong with it. So we ended up tracking the kid down and hiring him. Kevin Biegel [the COUGAR TOWN co-creator who used to write as John Robie]. You know Kevin?
Mr. Beaks: Sure! Kevin's a good friend.
Farrelly: (Laughing) So you already know this story! But in his review, he said, "It might help if they did 'this' or did 'that'." They were the exactly the notes that we needed to take the movie to the next level. We thought, "Hey, the kid's got a pretty good eye for some snot-nosed punk at BC ripping our movie to shreds." It was a windfall for us. For some reason, before that we were afraid to have someone critiquing you before you're done if you don't have a finished product. But after that, we realized that it's okay to get a little criticism because you can learn from it.
Beaks: Contrast that with THE THREE STOOGES, where some people were skeptical of the idea, and sort of asking "Do we need a THREE STOOGES movie?"
Farrelly: There was a lot of resistance to it for sure. "Do you need a THREE STOOGES movie?" I'm sure a lot of people don't, but we made the movie because we love the Stooges. We think they were hysterically funny, and they had their own brand of comedy, and it was never duplicated. So when we found out a whole generation of kids didn't really know who they were or anything about them, that's what we did it for. It's for kids. It's a PG movie. We did it as an homage to the original Stooges. We didn't really think that we were going to do anything any better than they did, but if we could capture that physical, unique brand of physical comedy that they invented that we would be very proud. Our three actors were really good, and we are really proud of the work that they did.
Beaks: How did you end up going this route? For a long time, there was talk of casting celebrities.
Farrelly: We opened it up early on to the possibility of anybody playing these roles. So naturally a lot of famous actors and comedians started circling the project. The one thing that my brother Pete and I insisted on was that whoever wanted to do it needed to audition for us - and that's not always the case in Hollywood as you well know. With the big guys, you have to offer them the part. We just felt like with the Stooges, we need to see it. We've got to get it right. We didn't want to do a variation on what Moe, Larry and Curly would do; we needed to see that. By auditioning everyone and filming them, we came to realize that our three guys - Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso - were the single three best at playing these parts.
Beaks: The thing I really like about movie is that it's just an unabashedly broad THREE STOOGES movie. Those kinds of gags still work. Was there ever a thought to do something different with the Stooges?
Farrelly: It would come up a lot of times when we were about to make it, like, "Are you guys going to make a biopic?" They actually already did a biopic already, and they did a nice job with it. I know Michael Chiklis played Curly, and he was really good. So we had it in our head that we were going to do the Three Stooges as the Three Stooges. Yeah, we were getting notes along the way like, "What if they're updated in this regard?" But we just felt like, "We've got to be true to them." And the guys who do love the Stooges, even though they were resisting the movie getting made, we were playing to them in that we wanted anyone who really loved the Stooges to look at it and say, "That's what Moe, Larry and Curly would do."
Beaks: In writing gags, were there ever times where you thought "Maybe we're pushing a little too far for the Stooges?"
Farrelly: Oh yeah. I mean, we do that all the time. (Laughs) It's easier to pull back because you can edit back. But if you don't go far enough, there's nothing you can do in the editing room. On the day that we're filming, we'll do things that we know will never make it into the movie, but a lot of times you're surprised about what does and doesn't work. When we made THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, and Cameron has the hair gel in her hair, everybody on the set is thinking, "This is ridiculous. This is definitely way too far." That one we really did think, "Most likely, that will never make it in the movie, but we're laughing as we do it just because of how silly it is." But when we cut it together, lo and behold, they were laughing just like we were. If you don't go over the top, you're short changing yourself.
Beaks: With this this film, it occurs to me that using the babies as urinating weapons might've been the hair gel moment.
Farrelly: (Laughs) I'll tell you this about that scene: when we had it in the script, it did go further than this. They made us take the scene out. They put their foot down, and said, "You can't do it. And besides, you only have so many days to shoot, and you only have so much money, so you need to take that scene out to save money." Well, we made a deal with them. We said, "Listen, if we get ahead of schedule, if we make up time, would you let us shoot this scene?" They grudgingly agreed. So we just shot a little bit here, and a little bit there over the fifty-day shoot, and then when we put it all together, I actually think it's the scene in the movie that gets the biggest laughs. That's how it goes a lot of time. The scene where you say, "No, you can't do that," ends up being the scene with the biggest laughs. There are always some people who say, "That's not funny," but most people are laughing.
Beaks: I saw this on opening day, and it went over huge in the theater.
Farrelly: (Laughing) In the original script, the way the scene culminated - and this will sound completely silly - but he took one of the babies, turned it over and squeezed it, and a turd went flying across the room. And the nurse came in yeling, "What's going on here?" And the turd ended up going into her mouth like a cigar. The reason why we did that is that in the old Stooges, they did stuff like that. A guy would squeeze a banana, and it would go flying across the room. And it was so cheap the way they did it: it would be on a string, and you could almost see the string. The effects were so low-tech that they would make you laugh. It was an homage to an old Stooges bit. And they said, "Absolutely not!" So we just went with the pee-pee.
Beaks: Well, the Stooges have always been a PG act, and you had to stay within those parameters.
Farrelly: We put in the movie exactly what would've been in any Three Stooges short. There's no swearing, there's no drugs, and whenever there's sex, you just allude to it. It was really whatever would go into a Three Stooges short. And when we showed it to the MPAA, they said, "That's PG. That's not PG-13 at all."
Beaks: It would seem that Kate Upton might be skirting the edge of PG-13.
Farrelly: That's a good point. We did have to pull back a few shots of Kate Upton coming out of the pool. But she's in a bikini. You can go to the beach and see a girl in a bikini. The problem is that she's so "Va-va-voom", that you think "Oh, is that PG-13?" And we did have to take a few shots out of her.
Beaks: And maybe a little bit of Brian Doyle-Murray, because he skirts the edge of PG-13.
Farrelly: (Laughs) We like working with Brian Doyle-Murray. He's a good man.
Beaks: Murray's just so amazing. He's one of my favorites. What is it about Brian that makes him such an effective supporting comedic actor?
Farrelly: We ask ourselves that a lot in the editing room. There's something about the guy. I'd work with him again in a minute. He's got a great look; his face is just chiseled... there's so much history to it. But I think his defining characteristic is his voice. He should be doing more animated movies, because his voice is just magical.
Beaks: All these years after it fell short at the box office, KINGPIN has become accepted as a comedy classic. How do you feel about it now?
Farrelly: Our first movie was DUMB & DUMBER, and it was a big hit; it was the #1 movie coming right out. Our second movie was KINGPIN, and as we're making it, we're thinking "This is great. It feels a lot like DUMB & DUMBER: it's really funny, it's making us laugh, and we've got Bill Murray!" We thought it was going to be a big hit. And when it came out... it just came and went. They brought it out during the Summer Olympics, and the studio didn't give it any kind of push at all; I guess they just didn't get it. It just came and went. It was such a heartbreak because we were so optimistic. But so many people found it on DVD, so we came to realize at that point that you just don't know. You make a movie, and they're like kids: you love them all. How they do at the box office doesn't really change the way you feel: if one misses, it'll still hold a place in your heart.
THE THREE STOOGES is currently available on Blu/DVD. If you love the Stooges, it's essential.