DID YOU READ

Winging through “Airplane!” on Blu-ray with Robert Hays

Winging through “Airplane!” on Blu-ray with Robert Hays (photo)

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One of the greatest movies of all-time is coming out on Blu-ray. What is it? It’s a polycarbonate disc that contains the digital files of a movie, but that’s not important right now.

What is important is the classic comedy “Airplane!” available on Blu-ray for the first time. To celebrate the occasion, we spoke with “Airplane!” star Robert Hays — Ted Striker himself — about working with writer/directors David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, battling the late Leslie Nielsen’s infamous fart machine, and trying not to freak people out when they recognize him on airplanes. Disengage your autopilot, put down your copy of “Famous Jewish Sports Legends,” and enjoy.

How did you get the part? Did you audition?

Yeah, I did. My agency had a new agent and she had just come into the office. She called [“Airplane!” producer] Howard Koch, who she used to work with. They’d been all over the country having auditions, looking for Ted Striker, and they couldn’t find him. She called them up and said, “Hey, I’ve got your Ted Striker for you!”

They sent over a script; I actually read it on an airplane. Every single page had something on it that made me laugh. I met with them the next week and really liked them, they liked me. Then I read for them, and they liked my reading, and then I screen tested with Julie [Hagerty]. They really liked us and that was it.

I don’t know if people realize “Airplane!” is actually a very faithful — albeit much sillier — remake of a ’50s disaster movie called “Zero Hour!” The lead character is even named Ted Stryker. Did you watch that movie or study its Ted, Dana Andrews, before you played the part?

I didn’t really see it until after we’d made the film, but [the directors] had it queued up in their little trailer or their little hut if we were shooting on a soundstage. They had a video feed from the cameras, and the monitor was taped off so they could see just what was going to be on the film. So they would set it up so they could get the same angle and the same lighting for certain scenes.

They were that focused on it looking authentic?

Well, just in certain things — the lighting and the camera angles. But they didn’t want me to see Dana Andrews, they didn’t want me mimicking him. Which is good; I wanted to have my own character. I just did it really seriously and really straight. That was one of the important ingredients of doing the film.

Did each of the three directors have their own responsibilities or did they all do everything?

They would all confer and then Jerry [Zucker] would speak to us. David [Zucker] and Jim [Abrahams] watched the monitor. Sometimes they would all talk, but usually it was just Jerry talking on the set with the crew and the actors.

Were they always in sync or were there occasionally disagreements over things?

If there were, I never saw them. It was like three bodies with one brain. They just were so in tune with what they were doing.

I’ve read that Leslie Nielsen liked to play pranks on his co-stars.

He wasn’t known for it at that point, but he had this little fart machine that he would have in his hand. So when I was in the cockpit with him and Laura Patterson and he said “Mr. Striker, can you land this plane?” when we shot my close-up, it was “Mr. Striker, [fart noise] can you [fart noise] land this [fart noise] plane?” Farting the whole time! That was the hardest day to keep a straight face. He was very funny.

I’m sure when people recognize you, they quote lines from the movie. I imagine you hear “Surely you can’t be serious!” a lot, but what’s your favorite line from the movie that you don’t often hear from fans?

Gosh, I don’t know. One time I was racing cars, and I flew to a track north of San Francisco, in Sonoma. I got to the airport, landed, and went to get my car. The girl behind the counter says “Are you Robert Hays? You were in ‘Airplane!”” And I said “Yup.” And she said “Oh my God, I love that film! My favorite scene was…” And I’m expecting the dance scene or “Surely…” or one of those. And she said “It’s when all the people come down the baggage claim chute and the luggage is sitting there waiting for them.” I said “Oh good!” but I’m thinking, “Gosh, what a strange choice.” So she went to the back to look for my paperwork and I turned around and leaned on the counter. I look over and I realize, that’s what she looks at all day long: the conveyor belt with all the luggage! So it all depends on who it is that you’re talking to.

Do people see you on airplanes and get nervous?

[laughs] Soon after the film came out I was in New York. And I was at the airport getting ready to get on a plane and they had this little waiting room that you went into, and then after it was filled they’d wheel the room over, and that’s how you got in the plane. And when I first got there, there was only one other guy in there, and he was all dressed in black, very dramatic, with a long cape. He had a big sombrero-like black hat. He looked very fashionable, like he was some designer or something. He leaned against the opposite wall and stared at me. He never said anything until the entire room was filled, and then he very dramatically pointed his finger at me and said “I’m not getting onto any plane with that man!”

I used to get invited up into the cockpit in all the foreign carriers. On U.S. carriers it’s illegal, but in foreign ones you can go in the cockpit. All over Europe and Australia, everywhere, they’d invite me up and it was a lot of fun. And in American planes, pilots would come back and kneel down and whisper something to me like “If I need some help will you come up and land the plane?”

Of course all the problems in “Airplane!” started when the pilots eat some tainted fish. Would you ever eat fish on an airplane?

My own private, personal little joke is that ever since the movie, I’ve never had fish on a plane. It’s 31 years now. And I love fish.

There’s one thing that’s always bugged me about the movie. In the flashback scene where Ted meets Elaine, there’s a scene that spoofs “Saturday Night Fever” where you dance to “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. For some reason, the song is played at a faster speed than it should be. This has bothered me for years: why play the song at the wrong speed?

I don’t know. It might be just because it’s funnier.

“Airplane!” will be available on Blu-ray Sunday, September 25 as a Best Buy Exclusive. What’s your favorite line from the movie? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Thank Azaria

Best. Characters. Ever.

Our favorite Hank Azaria characters.

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GIFs via Giphy

Hank Azaria may well be the most prolific voice and character actor of our time. The work he’s done for The Simpsons alone has earned him a permanent place in the pop culture zeitgeist. And now he’s bringing another character to the mainstream: a washed-up sports announcer named Jim Brockmire, in the aptly titled new series Brockmire.

We’re looking forward to it. So much so that we want to look backward, too, with a short-but-sweet retrospective of some of Azaria’s important characters. Shall we begin?

Half The Recurring Simpsons Characters

He’s Comic Book Guy. He’s Chief Wiggum. He’s Apu. He’s Cletus. He’s Snake. He’s Superintendent Chalmers. He’s the Sea Captain. He’s Kurt “Can I Borrow A Feeling” Van Houten. He’s Professor Frink. He’s Carl. And he’s many more. But most importantly he’s Moe Szyslak, the staple character Azaria has voiced since his very first audition for The Simpsons.

Oh, and He’s Frank Grimes

For all the regular Simpsons characters Azaria has played over the years, his most brilliant performance may have been a one-off: Frank Grimes, the scrappy bootstrapper who worked tirelessly all his life for honest, incremental, and easily-undermined success. Azaria’s portrayal of this character was nuanced, emotional, and simply magical.

Patches O’Houlihan

Dodgeball is a “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” as Hank Azaria generously points out in his brief but crucial cameo in Dodgeball. That’s sage wisdom. Try applying his “five D’s” to your life on and off the court and enjoy the results.

Harold Zoid

Of Futurama fame. The crazy uncle of Dr. Zoidberg, Harold Zoid was once a lion (or lobster) of the silver screen until Smell-o-vision forced him into retirement.

Agador

The Birdcage was significant for many reasons, and the comic genius of Hank Azaria’s character “Agador” sits somewhere towards the top of that list. If you haven’t seen this movie, shame on you.

Gargamel

Nobody else could make a live-action Gargamel possible.

Ed Cochran

From Ray Donovan. Great character, great last name [editorial note: the author of this article may be bias].

Kahmunra, The Thinker, Abe Lincoln

All in the Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, a file that let Azaria flex his voice acting and live-action muscles in one fell swoop.

The Blue Raja

Mystery Men has everything, including a fatal case of Smash Mouth. Azaria’s iconic superhero makes the shortlist of redeemable qualities, though.

Dr. Huff

Huff put Azaria in a leading role, and it was good. So good that there is no good gif of it. Internet? More like Inter-not.

Learn more about Hank Azaria’s newest claim to fame right here, and don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Flame Out

Brockmire and Other Public Implosions

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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There’s less than a month until the Brockmire premiere, and to say we’re excited would be an insulting understatement. It’s not just that it stars Hank Azaria, who can do no wrong (and yes, that’s including Mystery Men, which is only cringeworthy because of Smash Mouth). It’s that the whole backstory of the titular character, Jim Brockmire, is the stuff of legends. A one-time iconic sportscaster who won the hearts of fans and players alike, he fell from grace after an unfortunate personal event triggered a seriously public meltdown. See for yourself in the NSFW Funny or Die digital short that spawned the IFC series:

See? NSFW and spectacularly catastrophic in a way that could almost be real. Which got us thinking: What are some real-life sports fails that have nothing to do with botched athletics and everything to do with going tragically off script? The internet is a dark and dirty place, friends, but these three examples are pretty special and mostly safe for work…

Disgruntled Sports Reporter

His co-anchor went offsides and he called it like he saw it.

Jim Rome vs Jim “Not Chris” Everett

You just don’t heckle a professional athlete when you’re within striking distance. Common sense.

Carl Lewis’s National Anthem

He killed it! As in murdered. It’s dead.

To see more moments just like these, we recommend spending a day in your pajamas combing through the muckiness of the internet. But to see something that’s Brockmire-level funny without having to clear your browser history, check out the sneak peeks and extras here.

Don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Mirror, Mirror

Portlandia Season 7 In Hindsight

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available Online and on the IFC App.

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Another season of Portlandia is behind us, and oh what a season it was. We laughed. We cried. And we chuckled uncomfortably while glancing nervously around the room. Like every season before it, the latest Portlandia has held a mirror up to ridiculousness of modern American life, but more than ever that same mirror has reflected our social reality in ways that are at once hysterical and sneakily thought-provoking. Here are just a few of the issues they tackled:

Nationalism

So long, America, Portland is out! And yes, the idea of Portland seceding is still less ludicrous than building a wall.

Men’s Rights

We all saw this coming. Exit gracefully, dudes.

Protests

Whatever you stand for, stand for it together. Or with at least one other person.

Free Love

No matter who we are or how we love, deep down we all have the ability to get stalky.

Social Status

Modern self-esteem basically hinges on likes, so this isn’t really a stretch at all.

These moments are just the tip of the iceberg, and much more can be found in the full seventh season of #Portlandia, available right now #online and on the #IFC app.

via GIPHY

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