Peter Farrelly is best known for the raunchy comedies he directed and produced with his brother, Bobby, including Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal, There's Something About Mary and The Heartbreak Kid. Peter is the producer and one of 12 directors of Movie 43—a multi-episode comedy with a huge ensemble cast, including Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Anna Faris, Gerard Butler, Kristen Bell and many more. The title comes from an Internet rumor about a mythic movie that was supposedly so extreme and outrageous that it was impossible to find. It turns out that's because there was no Movie 43… until now.
We sat down with the 56-year-old director as he chatted candidly about pushing the envelope with Movie 43, what Halle Berry did with her breasts and guacamole for a laugh, and why he doesn’t like being called a purveyor of "gross-out humor."
Fandango: How did The Kentucky Fried Movie inspire Movie 43?
Peter Farrelly: Kentucky Fried Movie was the first movie I saw in my life that was like, holy s**t, I had no idea you could do that. It was a groundbreaking movie for me and my friends. Well, I promise you that you have never seen anything like this [Movie 43]. It's the first time you'll ever see huge stars in a very hard-R comedy where they are just pushing it. The difference between this and Kentucky Fried Movie is in Kentucky Fried Movie, all the episodes are written by the Zuckers and Jim Abrahams and have all the same actors. [Movie 43] producer Charles Wessler came up with the idea to find people from all over the world—he read hundreds of submissions—and pick the best 15. Then he went out and got all different directors. Each of the shorts feels like its own thing.
Fandango: Movie 43 has 12 directors, including you. Do you all share one collective sick-humor hive mind for this film?
Farrelly: Not really. The only thing that kept it together was Charlie Wessler seeing the big picture. Some stories are dark, some are very light, some are goofy. Today, if you have a series of shorts, after the fifth or ninth one people are looking at their watches. "Do I stay for the next one or do I get out of here?" They have shorter attention spans. What we did is have a wraparound with Dennis Quaid as another down-and-out producer pitching his ideas to people like Seth MacFarlane and Greg Kinnear.
Fandango: You have so many big-name actors in this movie. Is there anyone you went after that turned you down?
Farrelly: Oh yeah. I have a Zen view of casting. We've been turned down by everyone in town at one point or another—everyone has. There are so many things that come into it—they might be making another movie, they might not like the script, it might be financial—there are a million reasons. George Clooney was approached to do one and he's friendly with Charlie [Wessler], but he didn't do it. You can't control it, so I don't worry about it. I never have hard feelings about it. I just figure it wasn't the time.
Fandango: You directed two of the Movie 43 chapters, but you are also one of the producers on the whole film. Did any actor say something like, "I’m not comfortable with this"? Was anyone concerned about tarnishing their image?
Farrelly: I think everyone was ready to do it. They know what it is—it's an experimental, cheap movie that was fun to do. We wanted to see how far we could go, and anyone onboard got that. I would say the only people who didn't—the ones that said, "You can't be serious"—are the ones that passed.
Fandango: In Movie 43, you directed "The Catch" with Kate Winslet on a blind date with Hugh Jackman, and she is the only one in the room that can see that he has a, well, scrotum hanging from his chin. Is she delusional or are they really there?
Farrelly: In my mind, they are there. For some reason, the world seems to just ignore them, but she is like, what the f**k is going on? There is this frustration, like, am I the only one seeing this thing? She's looking at people eating at nearby tables like, do you see this? Am I crazy here? The most impressive thing is how those two committed. I'm not surprised because Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman are as good as it gets, but there was zero embarrassment. You would think it was the first movie they have ever done and they went 100%—there was no snobbery. I was so impressed with the two of them.
Fandango: People have this idea that Kate Winslet is a very prim and proper British period actress who stars in Oscar-bait movies. Care to dispel that myth? How raunchy is she?
Farrelly: I will say this: she's got a great sense of humor, and it's dark. We were on the set about two minutes, and we were dropping bombs back and forth. I thought, oh my God, she's filthy—but in a very fun, cool way. I always loved Kate Winslet, but after you meet her you really love her because she's a cool chick.
Fandango: The other Movie 43 episode you directed is called "Truth or Dare" and is about another blind date between Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant. Were you ever on a traumatic blind date that you'd like to share with us?
Farrelly: This was a strange movie because the budget was $6 million and we had big actors in it. The only way to make that work was to shoot it over three-and-a-half years. Because we had so many directors and crews, we'd shut down for six months and wait for someone like Richard Gere to be available. My two things were done about a year and a half apart. [The blind date aspect] wasn't something I was even thinking of—I was just thrilled to be working with such great actors. I don't remember ever having a blind date. The closest I ever came was when my sister came to visit from Massachusetts 20 years ago. She wanted tickets to Love Connection, so I got them. One of the girls on the show that had a bad "love connection" is someone I ended up meeting and taking out later. It was a nightmare, by the way.
Fandango: Berry and Merchant play Truth or Dare on their date in Movie 43. Can you reveal any of the dares? Did the actors suggest any of them?
Farrelly: The actors did not come up with any of them, but I have to say this: when we first sent the script to Halle Berry, she sent it back and said, "I thought this was a hard R. Come on! Go for it!" We took another pass at it and really went for it. Some of the dares were to tattoo a penis on your face—that sort of thing. They meet on Match.com or one of those sites. It starts off with them asking what the other one does, and she says, "This is bulls**t. I've been through this a thousand times. Let's play Truth or Dare." They have really big moments and it's just short, sweet and really fun.
Fandango: Snooki showed up in your "Truth or Dare" segment. Is she actually self-aware and able to make fun of herself?
Farrelly: I'll be the first guy who ever said this, but we worked with the Jersey Shore guys on The Three Stooges as well. When they were coming in, I was getting phone calls from people saying, "Brace yourselves—this is going to be a nightmare." They couldn't have been more accommodating—they showed up on time, did their job and were very interested in making it funnier. And, yes, they totally made fun of themselves. I don't have a bad word to say about Snooki. She was extremely professional and good to work with.
Fandango: Of all the actors in all the skits in Movie 43, who do you think had to step into a character that was the most removed from how he/she is in real life?
Farrelly: I think Halle Berry. She is a class act: an Oscar winner and an incredible beauty. Having hung around her for a few days, I can say that she's demure, kind, sweet and intelligent. But she played her character like, she's taking her breasts out and sticking them in guacamole to get a laugh. That was the most shocking moment for me, but she really wanted [to do] that and embraced it. She said, "Let's go nuts. Let's f**k with the image." I would say she was the furthest out of what I would have thought was her comfort zone, but apparently not because she was gung ho!
Fandango: Is there leftover material from Movie 43 that we'll see on an extended DVD/Blu-ray down the road?
Farrelly: There is a lot of it. There was so much stuff that we had to cut because they were redundant. There was a point that it felt like overkill when we put them all together—it was like we were trying hard to offend. It's all about humor. The "gross out" comments drive me crazy. We're not out to gross you out—we are out to make you laugh. So, yes, there will be a lot of [additional material] later on.
Fandango: What can you tell us about what's happening with Dumb and Dumber To [sic]?
Farrelly: It's going down the right path. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are both in. Right now we have financiers and negotiations with Warner Bros., so I'm optimistic it will be happening soon.