Last up were directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord. Their hit animated family movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” may have grossed nearly $245 million worldwide, but that success didn’t mean they could waltz right into whatever live-action project they wanted.
Your big film was “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”
Both: It’s true.
What was the transition like to live-action?
Phil Lord: It’s faster. And shorter. In animation you can sit and go to lunch and figure out the answer to something and on set you have to kind of figure it out right away. But other than that, you know, animation has human people, and its basically the same thing as being creative with other human people.
Chris Miller: I mean, yeah, there’s a large crew and there’s obviously the cast of that movie that we dealt with, and this was a similar situation but just, as Phil said, a lot more fast-paced and crazy.
What’s it like getting the call to do an R-rated raunchy comedy?
PL: It’s so weird. One minute, you’re sitting in bed, you know, having a perfectly normal breakfast. And then you get a phone call from Hollywood and they’re like, “You’re doing ’21 Jump Street’,” and I’m like “I didn’t even wanna do ’21 Jump Street!’”
CM: They said, “That’s what you’re doing.”
PL: And they’re like, “That’s what we decided!” and then you’re like, “Well, we’ll make the best of it.”
Was it a call from Hollywood in general?
CM: The mayor of Hollywood.
PL: The mayor of Hollywood. [Adopts ’30s carnival barker voice] “Hello, Hollywood speaking! How are you doing? How would you like to direct ’21 Jump Street?’” [back to normal voice] “Do I have a choice?’ [back to carnival barker voice] “No!”
CM: [Also in ’30s carnival barker voice] “A motion picture! I got Douglas Fairbanks and a pirate ship, see?”
PL: “You’ve got one week!”
[Joining in the ’30s carnival barker voice] It’s a talkie!
CM: We actually sought this out because we wanted to do something that felt very different from “Cloudy” and we thought doing a crazy, R-rated action comedy would be a lot of fun. And we were big fans of Jonah, who was already involved and working on the script with Michael Bacall, and so we actually were the ones making the call rather than the mayor of Hollywood.
PL: Yeah, we kinda went after it. We had to take a bunch of meetings and convince people the cartoon dum-dums could make it.
What’s it like working with an actor who also happens to be the writer?
CM: It was great. Both Jonah and Channing were producers so they were wearing different hats where they were thinking about the whole movie and not just their parts. For the most part, on the set, they were two really smart actors and we had a nice open set. We had a good script and everyone was very familiar with it. We did a lot of table reads so everyone knew where their characters were at any given time, and it was a nice springboard for them to do a lot of improvisation and stuff. Everyone was so familiar with the movie in its entirety and not just their little part in it that it made the improv a lot better.
PL: We’re greedy, you know? I want as many people with ideas and writing talent as possible, you know? It’s awesome to have Jonah there. It’s awesome to have Channing there, who’s got a great mind for story and comedy. It’s awesome to have Ice Cube there, who’s like, you know, a quadruple-threat. It’s great to work with amazing filmmakers. I’ll take free ideas from anyone. And take credit for them. (Laughs)
Were you fans of the TV show?
CM: Yeah, we both watched the show growing up. When I was a kid, the popular girls watched the show, so I also watched the show, thinking maybe we could talk about it in the hallway. Which we did not. It never actually happened. But I had a fondness for the show so we tried to put as many little details, little nods to the show, throughout the movie as possible, even though the movie itself has a very different tone. But it was a lot of fun.
Any plans on doing an adaptation of the “Booker” spin-off?
PL: Yeah! I’m all for it. That sounds hard.
Somebody call Richard Grieco.
PL: Somebody call him. He’s around. Doing stuff. He’s out in the world.
CM: It’s true. (Laughs)
PL: He is. He’s still with us, God bless him.