Fans of the Farrelly brothers have come to expect a certain level of outrageousness in their films, whether it’s Ben Stiller’s zipper issue in “There’s Something About Mary” or that heavyset fellow who defecates in a sand trap in “Hall Pass.” But all bets are off in “Movie 43,” a series of loosely related shorts produced and partially directed by Peter Farrelly (Bobby Farrelly was not involved in this project). The film, which opens today, has a dozen different writers and directors, and a cast that includes the likes of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Emma Stone, Gerard Butler, Kate Winslet, and Elizabeth Banks. “Movie 43” is also rated R for reasons that, depending on your taste in comedy, will either amuse or appall. We reached Peter Farrelly by phone in Los Angeles.
Q. I don’t normally do these things without seeing the film, but there was no screening for critics. It looks crazy. What the hell is this?
A. It’s the brainchild of Charlie Wessler. He’s our longtime producer. And he wanted to do a sort of “Kentucky Fried Movie,” except “Kentucky Fried Movie” was written and directed by the same people. He wanted to go out and get all different writers, all different stars, and all different directors, and put it together. It’s with all different people, but also it has a wraparound that holds it together.
Q. So the stories intersect?
A. No. But what does intersect is a story, but I can’t give that away. It would kind of spoil it. A story that, after every two or three shorts, we go back to.
Q. With so many actors and the schedules each of them has, I’m guessing it took awhile to make this?
A. It took three and a half years to shoot. Usually, you can shoot a movie in 10 or 12 weeks. But we knew going in, or Charlie knew going in, that you’re never going to get this many stars together over the same 10-week period. So Charlie would call guys, like Richard Gere, and say, “Hey, Richard, you know we’re doing this crazy, hard-R short movie, do you want to be in it?” And he says, “I can’t. I’m busy.” And Charlie would say, “For how long?” And Gere says, “For at least a year.” And Charlie’s like, “When could you do it?” Gere says, “A year from April.” And Charlie would say, “Great, we’ll do it then.” And we’d literally wait. We’d shoot two or three days here, and then we’d shut down for three or four months. The next star that was available, we’d go to them and do it and then we’d wait four more months. And we’d do that over and over again. This was an experimental movie so the budget was extremely small, like $6 million. We didn’t have money to pay anyone so, basically, everybody worked for scale.
Q. What’s your role?
A. There are about 14 directors. I directed two of the shorts.
Q. Who wrote it?
A. All different writers. I didn’t write. What Charlie did was scour the Internet for funny shorts and, when he found something, he’d call the guys and say, “Hey, this is hilarious, you want to write another one?” He solicited shorts from complete unknowns from all over the world. He probably read 1,000 shorts, narrowed it down to 100, and then I came on and helped him. We hooked the shorts up with young directors who we were fans of.
Q. Guerrilla style.
A. It is. All different writers, tons of different directors, and new guys who had never had a movie made. You should write a story about Charlie Wessler because he knows everybody. He was a PA on “The Empire Strikes Back.” He’s been around forever and he knows all of these people: Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry . . . Their managers and agents didn’t have a lot of interest in this because they weren’t getting paid. So Charlie just called everyone personally and said, “Hey, do you want to do this?” And they were all, like, “Sure, man.” They all like Charlie.
Q. It sounds like a lot of work.
A. Well, for Charlie it was [laughs]. He’s the one who held it together for all of these years when I went off and I’d be directing my own thing. I only shot the movie for, like, five days. Two days on the one short with Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman, and another two or three days with Halle Berry and Steve Merchant.
Q. In addition to not getting paid, these actors were being asking to do things that we haven’t seen them do.
A. That’s what the appeal was.
Q. Didn’t you encounter some stars who were, like, “Forget about it, I’m a big movie star, I can’t be telling fart jokes”?
A. Oh yeah. Clooney told us to [expletive] off, but in a nicer way. Of course, there were tons of people who said no. Whenever you cast a movie, some people want to do it and some people don’t. It’s not for everybody. But, I must say, when we got Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman to do the first one, suddenly people were thinking “Oh, they’re in it? Yeah, I’ll do this.”Continued...