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April 2004
The Whole Ten Yards: An Interview with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry

By Todd Gilchrist

The Whole Ten Yards: An Interview with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry

Outwardly, Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry seem like an unlikely comic team-up. Willis, of course, is the swaggery, confident star of such action flicks as "Die Hard", while Perry is best known as the neurotic Chandler on TV's "Friends". When the two made their big screen collaboration "The Whole Ten Yards" back in 2000, no one could have predicted how successful the pairing could be, and this week sees the release of the sequel. Willis and Perry recently spoke to Blackfilm.com about their experiences making the sequel.


Did they get the idea for a sequel from the first movie's press junket?

MP: I think it was the fact that the day after the movie came out and it did really well. I don't know if it's the press junket. But the reason we are here doing it again is we all like the ensemble cast and we all had such a blast doing the movie. Then everybody watched it and it had this great shelf life on DVD and all that stuff.


Bruce, what's the connection between all your characters and chickens this, "Friends", "Hudson Hawk".

MP: Chickens are funny.

BW: Contractually, every five years, I have to do a film. It's for the chicken related audience, the poultry industry.


How many times have you put your head through glass in your career?

MP: Six.

BW: Two. Next question.


Are you domesticated at home, Bruce?

BW: The point is to be kidding. That was Matthew's idea that we switch roles, and me be this kind of domesticated doesn't want to kill people anymore guy and Matthew would be the tough guy who had to heroically save the day.

MP: One of those worked. We decided early on that me being the heroic guy wasn't funny, so we dropped that out.


Why?

MP: It just wasn't that funny. One of the great things about the first movie was that I was scared of everything. I was scared of him and I was scared of all that stuff. So in the opening table read- - we had the idea of making me kind of this Clint Eastwood guy in the beginning and him being this Martha Stewart kind of person. We had to drop half of that out.


Do you have similar takes on comedy?

BW: I think that we understand timing. For me, I can attribute that to two things. To the sixth, seventh and eighth grade when I was entertaining my class, all through high school actually. And the other thing is from working with TV. When you work on TV every day, your goal is to try to make people laugh and be funny, you become adept at paying attention to where the joke falls. How long to hold a take. It's an exercise every time and that's all we do. We just fool around on the set and try to get it to where it just looks natural and sounds natural. It's like the Three Stooges, it really is.


Were you class clown?

BW: If I had my yearbook here, I would show you right now. I was a class clown in 1976. Did they always know?

BW: Oh, in my home town, sure, I'm an icon. I'm a legend. I'm world famous in Philadelphia. Do you wear bunny slippers and cook?

BW: Well, that was just the start of it. That was all just part of Jimmy's plan. My character, Jimmy Tudeski, has got this plan that is the most arcane, Aborinthian, Byzantine goofball plan that, with a really great script written by George Gallo, also Matthew's idea, that just all we wanted to do was try to make each other laugh.


Would you wear the slippers?

BW: Those bunny slippers, I have a pair right now.


How domesticated are you?

BW: Quite domesticated. I can cook. I'm tidy.

MP: You are tidy.

BW: Like windsurfing.

MP: That's what we should next is The Odd Couple III.

BW: I'm thinking road pictures. I'm thinking Matthew Perry, Bruce Willis road pictures.


What do you cook?

BW: I make lasagna, I make Chicken Caccatore. Actually, my chicken caccatore would make you start crying. It's so good. The chicken falls off the bone.


How do you stay comic when you're pointing guns at women seriously?

BW: Isn't that the joke? That he was- - I was just trying to play a guy that nobody knew what was going on with him, that was capable of anything at any time and it evolved, just like the first film did. We did the first film on our feet [SOUNDS LIKE: spritzing] the same way every day and in between takes going, "Okay, how about you try this? Why don't we try this?" And it's such a- - there's a shorthand of comedy that happens because we, first of all, everybody gets along so well. And we did work together on the first film and kind of moved through that one. It's fun. It's fun to do it as a job. It's fun to have a job where you're just trying to be funny.


What did you learn about comedy from Friends?

MP: Like Bruce, I was the class clown as well. Lucky we didn't go to the same school.

BW: Runner up class clown.

MP: What I learned from Friends was this idea of best joke wins, no matter who thinks of it. If there's a tyrannical presence, it's wrong in a comedy world. That's what's great about this movie, to get back to the question before. This is kind of a nice place to be, this movie. It's just a funny place to be while everybody's shooting at each other. And that's kind of fun. So, it does scare you and you find yourself laughing at the most crazy, weird things.


Did you cry at the finale?

MP: I kind of had that feeling of you're just about to cry for five hours, but Jennifer Aniston's over there sobbing so you have to go take care of her. Is this character like Chandler?

MP: It's Chandler times 1000.


How do you keep that fresh?

MP: As an actor, on autopilot is the worst thing possible, so you just make sure the script was written by the right person. You make sure you're surrounded by funny people and then you just literally try to beat the joke. The goal is to have to do the shot again because the camera guy shook a little bit as he was laughing. Without that happening, I'm not happy because there's nothing better for me than a world that everybody's just trying to make each other laugh and that everybody's trying to analyze the funny and trying to make it as good as possible. So I think Chandler grew up through the 10 years. What I love about a character like Oz is there's no rules. He's a scared guy and he's in a set of very scary circumstances. He can do all these physical really over the top kind of things.


Is it hard to leave Chandler behind?

MP: No. I loved doing the show and I love the opportunity to go and do different things now.


Bruce's next film, drama with Kevin Pollack?

BW: It's not that difficult. It's just a different set of muscles and a different set of things you think about at your job. But it's really great to work with people that you've already worked with. There's a shorthand, you know them, you know you can suggest things back and forth and have that creative freeflow of information. And Kevin is incredibly funny. We could not do off camera for him on at least five or six shots. He would say something different every time and what's in the film is the funniest stuff, but he would just crack us up every time. We'd be standing off camera, there was a shot where everybody was trying to do off camera for one line that he says, "This is reminding me of Sandchildren Through the Hourglass." No one could stand in there and do off camera for him. I think he was saying it to Amanda.

MP: I had to run off the set and Amanda ran off the set. Bruce just held up his hand.

BW: The camera's shaking, the camera guy's laughing, I turned around, I didn't look at him and held my hand up and said, "Just look at my hand. Say the word to the hand." And he just killed us every time.

MP: Because he was given the opportunity, he was just freer as an actor with all that prosthetic stuff. So I wanna do that at some point because he told me when you have the prosthetics, the big glasses and stuff, there's no concern about what you look like. We're standing there trying to be funny, but going, "I look okay too, right?" He didn't have to worry about that, so he was a lot freer. And walks away with the movie as a result.

BW: So funny, I'm so proud, I have to say, I'm so proud of Kevin Pollack. This guy has so many little genius moments in the film that if you watch again, just watch his character all the way through and it cracks you up because these asides and lines that he says that he just said on the day. Just on the day and we're dying laughing, just going where did that come from.


Approaching 50?

BW: I'm actually going on 60. You got it wrong, and I think I look pretty good. You look great.

BW: Thank you. I've had some work done [joking]. I'm just in a good place. I'm happy.


You set a tremendous example for divorced couples staying involved for the kids. How hard does that become?

BW: It's not hard at all. That's the whole point. Demi and I just chose to put our children first and we do it well and we're really fortunate.


Do the kids have questions about your new boyfriend and girlfriend?

BW: Of course they do, but I don't think this is the forum for me to discuss that. But they do and I think their questions have been answered.


Do you want to get married again?

BW: I want to get married like seven times. I want to be like Mickey Rooney. I'm patterning myself after Mickey.


Would you be the best man at Demi and Ashton's wedding?

BW: No, but I saw that article in the National Enquirer also and I thought it was a little kooky. I'm the last to know when it comes to stuff like that.

MP: This is awkward but I'm going to be the best man.


Why return to Die Hard?

BW: Well, we're talking about it. People wanted to see it. People keep asking me about it and it's hard. We're having a contest to come up with the ending.


What do you want?

BW: I have no idea, what can we do? Have two planets crash into each other? Juggle an asteroid maybe?


Who is the name on your shirt?

BW: I have no idea. I bought this shirt.


Will Cheyenne produce stuff you won't star in?

BW: You know what? I'm producing a TV show called Touching Evil that's really good.


Would you be in something like that?

BW: I want to appear on the show, yeah.


Still interested in TV?

BW: I like doing good work, that's all.


How is your band?

BW: We went out and played last summer. We recorded it and I put out a little DVD music video just for fun.

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