DID YOU READ

“Arrested Development” casting director describes how the Bluth family came to be

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Michael Bluth could have been played by Ben Schenkman. Think about that as you binge-watch season four of “Arrested Development” this week.

One of the previous casting directors for 20th Century Fox, Marcia DeBonis, told IFC that her proudest achievement was placing the three New York hires: Will Arnett as G.O.B., Tony Hale as Buster, and Jessica Walter as Lucille — and not getting her way when it came to the part of Michael. “Ben Schenkman came in for the part of Michael, and we sent in the tape for him, and they wanted to fly him out, to test him, and a week later, they suddenly started testing Jason Bateman instead,” she recalled. “I was furious, and I called them, and they said they would still test Ben, but that if they didn’t test Jason that week, they were going to lose him. And I was like, ‘Who the fuck is Jason Batemen?’ Because, remember, this was his comeback. And sure enough, they loved him, and Ben didn’t even get to test.”

Of course, once she saw the finished product, “I realized I was wrong and Jason couldn’t have been more perfect for it,” she said. “I was apologizing to everyone, ‘I’m sorry I was such a bitch!’ because I had been apoplectic about it.”

DeBonis, however, had previously had someone else in mind for Michael Bluth — Will Arnett. DeBonis had known him “forever,” but she wasn’t aware of his capacity for comedy. “He was beautiful,” she said, “but because he was so cute, I wrongly judged him as the cute guy.” At first, she thought he would be a good fit, but Arnett wasn’t available because was in the middle of a play, so she let it go. But three or four weeks into the casting process, “Arrested Development” was still having a hard time finding someone for G.O.B., and so they started checking on people who previously weren’t available but whose schedules might have freed up. And with the table reads already in progress, the part needed to be cast right away. Luckily, Arnett’s part in the play was over, so in the space of a day, “we got him in [for a cold reading] that afternoon, and he totally got it, very much by the seat of his pants,” DeBonis said. “And he made Gob what he was. I didn’t get what G.O.B. was — the arrogance of being a dick and still being likeable, clueless with an edge, with something still vulnerable about him in a weird way — until he did it. I didn’t know how funny it was, until he did it.”

Walter, DeBonis had to convince to test for the show, because she was more of an “actor of reputation” than the others being considered. “I don’t think she understood the tone of the show at first,” DeBonis said. “Nowadays, everything’s a mockumentary, but back then, there wasn’t a lot. So I got the first breakdown, which was a very bare bones run-and-gun piece, with a loosie-goosie feel, and I said to her, ‘This is like ‘Spinal Tap.’ Because the Christopher Guest movies were the closest thing to this. And once I explained that to her, she totally got it.”

Hale, DeBonis discovered doing a funny dance to Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” in a Volkswagen commercial, an origin that was later used as a joke on “Arrested Development.” “I was like, ‘That guy is so funny!'” she recalled. “I tracked him down, and I was just smitten with him. I thought he was so special.” DeBonis had tried Hale for a number of parts over the years but he was never quite right (“he’s interesting and off,” she said), but this was one where she knew he would be just right. “They wanted off!” she said with glee. “Finally, here was a part where Tony wouldn’t be considered too offbeat.” Hale was the first person she put on tape for consideration for Buster, and then the network flew him out for his audition. Buster wasn’t a big role in the pilot, but he added some “deep-seated sweetness” to the mix of abrasive characters, and what Hale brought to the character was a way to make Buster seem “more clueless than dumb,” DeBonis said. “You just want to take care of him.”

“I never thought in a million years that this pilot would get picked up,” she said, laughing. “It was so new and different and unique, and sometimes new and unique just doesn’t get picked up. So the fact that this all worked was a great surprise.”

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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