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Leslye Headland talks “Bachelorette,” this fall’s sleeper hit comedy

Bachelorette movie

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By Leigh Stein

“Bachelorette,” Leslye Headland’s scathingly funny directorial debut, is likely to be the breakout hit this fall. Starring Kirsten Dunst as the alpha Maid of Honor from hell, the film follows three bridesmaids (played by Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fischer) on the eve of the wedding of their friend Becky (Rebel Wilson), along with groomsmen that include James Marsden and Adam Scott. But this isn’t “Bridesmaids II.” For one thing, there’s a lot more coke. For another, there are no baked goods in sight. Headland’s talent as a playwright (the film is based on her stage production of the same name) shines through in the wicked dialogue, and impeccable pacing of this dark comedy, in which these women destroy (and maybe repair) each other.

We sat down with Leslye at the Provincetown Film Festival, where “Bachelorette” was selected as the opening night film. She wants everyone to know how quiet and demure she was during this interview. It’s not like she said “finger-banging” within the first two minutes or anything like that.


IFC: Was it awkward having your parents at the screening?

LESLYE HEADLAND: No, they loved it. They’d seen a very early version of the Sundance cut, and they’ve seen the play a bunch of times.

When they saw the first play I ever wrote, that was when they were like, “What’s happening? Are you okay?” It was my lust play, so it was all about, you know, finger-banging. My poor father actually got out of his seat in the theater and stood in the back and was pacing.

So that was in 2005. That’s when they got the bomb dropped on them. Now it’s seven years later: they expect some terrible, scatological humor, and some sort of reference to some sex act and all of that… They’re smart enough and hip enough to see that it’s not all mean-spirited. They get that there’s empathy for the characters, and it’s not all terrible. It’s just that…there’s going to be some fucked-up shit happening.

IFC: Well, on the note of mean-spiritedness, the movie is about a commitment to marriage and how this is a big step…

HEADLAND: Yes!

IFC: But I was thinking: girls are committed to each other, and they’re fucking bitches, but they’re committed and they’re loyal.

HEADLAND: Dude, I love that you brought that up. It’s so funny that a lot of people don’t in the interviews, and it’s one of those things where it’s like, “Am I the only person that notices this?” At least with my girlfriends, like my best friend in the world, Melissa, who actually plays the wasted stripper in the movie…we’ve known each other for eight years. I wrote the play on her couch when we were both living in the same studio apartment. And it is like a relationship. We have to sometimes remind each other of why we became friends in the first place, in the same way that you would with a couple. You have to go on dates, and just be like, “Remember when we were living together? And had no money?” We have to constantly go back to the origin story of our friendship because a lot of times, you can get really sick of somebody. You can be very hard on your friends in a way that you wouldn’t be hard on your coworkers, or your family.

IFC: It’s like, “You’re my best friend. This is for life.”

HEADLAND: This is it. This is happening now. And, not to spoil anything for anybody who hasn’t seen the film, but that scene with Rebel and Kirsten towards the end, where you as the audience are finally let in as to why they’re friends, and what connects them…I always thought of it as a love scene, like that moment in a marriage when it’s like, “Remember when you swept me off my feet? And I fell in love with you?” It’s like, “Remember when I covered for you and everyone made fun of me?”

IFC: Remember when we were puking in the bathroom together?

HEADLAND: Remember when we were puking in the bathroom together? God, that was my favorite part of life! (laughter)

Leslye Headland

IFC: One of the things I loved about the movie was the pacing of it. And the dialogue was so excellent, and I think that probably speaks to your talent as a playwright, because that’s all you have: people talking.

HEADLAND: Yes. All you have is people talking, all you have is what the audience knows but the characters don’t know. You have a lot of dramatic irony, a lot of they-saw-something-happen-that-the-other-character-didn’t…maybe that’s why I talk about sex so much because I’m like, “This is getting boring.”

IFC: We need a blow job joke…

HEADLAND: We gotta bone it up with a blow job monologue…that’s probably where it came from: being terrified that people are going to be bored. I used to say that, when I started to write theater and invite people to it, especially in L.A. People would be like, “I don’t know if I really want to go see a play…” And I was like, “No no no, I write plays for people who hate plays.” I’m terrified people are going to get bored. And it’s the same thing with the movie; I think that’s why it’s so fast. And also, I’m obviously just a fast-talking, crazy person.

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Bill and Teds Bogus Journey Everett

Die Laughing

5 Depictions of “Death” in Comedy

Catch Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey this week on IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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With Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey airing as part of IFC’s Rotten Fridays, we got to thinking about how exactly the character of Death made his way onto the screen – and onto the poster – of a 1991 comedy sequel.

Ingmar Bergman’s depiction of Death in his 1957 classic The Seventh Seal set the tone for how most people think of The Grim Reaper. Portrayed by Bengt Ekerot, Death was a chess-playing philosopher, answering deep existential questions while capturing your rook with his knight. In Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Death is partial to board games.

Here then is the journey of Death in movie comedies, from Bill & Ted to Whoopi.

1. The Dove / De Duva (1968)

Three years after The Seventh Seal hit theaters, this short film parodied as much Ingmar Bergman as could fit into 14 minutes. The centerpiece is of course the pale-faced and shrouded Death, challenged this time in a game of badminton. It’s also the film debut of Madeline Kahn, who would go on to become the queen of parody with Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety and Blazing Saddles.


2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail trailer (1975)

One of the greatest comedies of all times parodies one of the greatest movies of all times –- but only in the trailer. Referring to the director and title by name, this preview promises something “all rather silly” when compared to The Seventh Seal. To wit: Death takes a pie to the face.


3. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

Bill and Ted
Orion Pictures

If Death can play chess, then why not Twister, Clue and Battleship? Of all the comic portrayals of Death in movies, this is the one that holds up best. William Sadler brings a vulnerability to the role while never losing Death’s sense of menace. Like the Bill & Ted movies, it’s brilliantly smart and stupid all at the same time.


4. The Last Action Hero (1993)

"Ian
Columbia Pictures

This action-comedy-trainwreck acknowledges The Seventh Seal as a movie and then takes a big leap as the character of Death leaves the land of Ingmar Bergman and jumps into the world of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ian McKellen (the Bengt Ekerot of our day) takes over the role and wreaks havoc in 1990s America.


5. Monkeybone (2001)

Monkeybone
20th Century Fox

Whoopi Goldberg plays Death in this bizarre 2001 comedy, where Brendan Fraser’s comatose cartoonist must get an “exit pass” from Death in order to return to the land of the living. Also, Death has a giant robot. It’s a weird movie, folks.

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Rick Moranis Honey I shrunk the kids

Rick of Time

10 Best Rick Moranis Roles

Catch Rick Moranis in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

Everyone loves Rick Moranis. It’s just the truth. This month on IFC, you get a chance to rediscover his awesomeness in Honey, I Shrunk the KidsAs you enjoy that family comedy gem, here are a few other roles that showcase Rick Moranis’ greatness.

1. Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour Krelborn

Only Rick Moranis could play a character that you still root for even though he’s murdering people and feeding them to an alien plant. Audiences loved Seymour so much, the studio had to reshoot the ending of the film. Originally, the film ended like the original Off-Broadway play, with Seymour and Audrey being eaten and Audrey II taking over the world. Test audiences couldn’t stand the fact that they were killed, so a new ending was shot with our leads victorious and the film became one of the best movie musicals of all time.


2. Ghostbusters, Louis Tully

In a film with so many comedy legends, it would have been easy for Rick Moranis to fade into the background as the hapless Louis Tully. But he more than holds his own up against the rest, making Tully just as funny as he is pathetic. And when he goes bug-eyed as Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer, that’s when the fun really starts.


3. Spaceballs, Dark Helmet

You don’t often think of James Earl Jones and Rick Moranis being typecast together. But in Mel Brooks’ goofy send-up of Star Wars, Moranis takes on his version of Darth Vader. As Dark Helmet, Moranis is a perfect mixture of occasionally threatening and mostly inept. If Brooks ever decides to revisit the Spaceballs franchise on the big screen, hopefully he’ll find a way to bring Dark Helmet into the new Star Wars universe.


4. Parenthood, Nathan Huffner

Directed by Ron Howard, Parenthood is a wonderfully truthful movie about marriage, having children and the dangers of oral sex while driving. Moranis plays Nathan Huffner, an intellectual who’s more interested in raising his daughter as a science experiment than being a loving father. Though there are many comedic moments, this is a much more understated performance for Moranis. And he gets easily the sweetest moment in the film when he serenades his estranged wife in front of her students.


5. Strange Brew, Bob McKenzie

Bob and Doug McKenzie were breakout characters from SCTV that were originally created by government demand — the CBC mandates that a certain percentage of all shows in Canada have specifically Canadian content. So, Moranis and Dave Thomas thought of the most stereotypical Canadians possible and the McKenzie brothers were born. The duo appeared on SCTV, in Pizza Hut and Molson commercials, on a platinum-selling comedy album and their big screen debut, Strange Brew. It’s a tale of poisoned beer, mind control plots and an escape from an insane asylum. Plus, it’s a loose take on Hamlet. Probably not what you’d expect from characters made as a joke, but that’s what makes Bob McKenzie a great and surprising “hoser.”


6. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Wayne Szalinski

In this 1989 classic, Rick Moranis plays a bumbling inventor who accidentally shrinks his kids and neighbors to the size of ants. Though that may sound horrifying, Moranis is great as a man who’s thrilled that something of his finally worked and just as comically terrified by what he’s done. With impressive special effects for the time, the film still holds up as a fun family comedy.


7. My Blue Heaven, Barney Coopersmith

Did you know that Rick Moranis was in a comedic version of Goodfellas? My Blue Heaven, starring Steve Martin and Moranis, came out one month before Scorsese’s legendary Mob film. Though the silly comedy and gritty gangster drama may seem completely different, both are based on the life of Henry Hill, known as Vinnie Antonelli in Heaven. Moranis plays the average neighbor who tries to keep former mobster Vinnie (Martin) in line so he can remain in witness protection. Though Goodfellas was based on a novel about Hill’s life by Nicholas Pileggi, My Blue Heaven was written Nora Ephron, who happened to be married to Pileggi at the time. It’s a small mob world.


8. The Wild Life, Harry

This ’80s teen comedy has been mostly forgotten, but it’s notable not only for a performance by Moranis as a trendy manager with very big hair but it’s top level cast. Eric Stoltz, Randy Quaid, Lea Thompson and a bleached blonde Chris Penn all star, with a soundtrack by Eddie Van Halen. It’s all the more surprising that this film isn’t better remembered, since it was writer Cameron Crowe’s follow up to Fast Times at Ridgemont High.


9. Head Office, Howard Gross

This 1985 satire of the corporate world stars Judge Reinhold as a new employee who gets mysteriously promoted within a huge company and learns of the seedy underbelly of business. The film features a few subplots, one starring Danny DeVito and one with Moranis as a failing executive whose screaming idiocy is a great parody of the executive top brass. Though it may not be much of a parody, since we’ve all probably experienced our fair share of screaming, asinine bosses.


10. Brewster’s Millions, Morty King

In Brewster’s Millions, Richard Pryor finds out he’ll get a $300 million inheritance only if he can spend $30 million in one month. (If only we all had such troubles.) As Pryor’s character gets more attention for his big spending and eventual mayoral campaign, he attracts a bunch of odd characters. One of which is Moranis as Morty King, King of the Mimics. It’s a small role where he plays a guy that always repeats everything that’s said, but Morty has got a great costume and Moranis plays this confident weirdo with delightful skill. Also, the idea of anyone crowning himself “King of the Mimics” for doing a trick that little brothers use to annoy everyone is a pretty insane thought.

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Jay Pharoah SNL

The Great Pharoah

Catch Jay Pharoah Post-SNL On the Oddball Comedy Festival

The Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival kicks off August 25th in West Palm Beach, FL.

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Photo Credit: SNL/NBC

Like autumn leaves or an Italian government, Saturday Night Live cast members seem to change with each passing day — and this upcoming season is no different. Earlier this month, it was announced that regulars Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah will not be returning for SNL’s 42nd season, however you can still catch Pharoah and his incredible comedy chops — seriously, did you see him do Leon in the “Bern Your Enthusiasm” sketch? — on tour with the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival.

The 28-year-old comedian is confirmed for the Portland and Seattle shows on September 17th and 18th, but lineups are subject change. You can also catch other great comedians on the tour, including Documentary Now! writer John Mulaney and Maron star and alt comedy favorite Cameron Esposito.

The Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival kicks off August 25th in West Palm Beach, FL. Check out the official site for the Oddball Comedy Festival for tickets and more information.

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