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September 2005
The Man : An Interview with Eugene Levy

The Man: An Interview with Eugene Levy

By Wilson Morales

Eugene Levy has been making folks laughs with his dry humor for years since his days on SCTV, and "Splash", and one can say that he really hit a home run when he was cast as the father in the hilarious comedy film, American Pie, and its subsequent sequels. Levy also was funny as part of the ensemble that appeared together in the recent films directed by Christopher Guest (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman). Now, Levy gets to headline a film along with Samuel L. Jackson in "The Man", in which he plays a dentist who gets mixed up in a caper. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Levy goes his character and working with Mr. Jackson.

This is a departure from the American Pie movies. Was that something you wanted to do?

Eugene Levy: This was there are similarities what attracted me to the American pie movies, certainly the first one was the relationship between the father and the son and I think that was the key thing. Fortunately we did a lot of improvising to get the character where I wanted him to be and that was the key factor. In this movie it was really a great two hander and certainly
a meatier role than I had before and that was the key. There was a great relationship here with these two guys and I thought this could be rewarding. It's my kind of picture because I'm a character guy and I believe in charcters and this is astory about two characters.

Given your background with Second City you guys have etched a brand of comedy that has had a long lifespan (with Christopher Guest)

EL: Those movies are a great release for me and Chris he doesn't do a lot of acting but as a director we get to create those movies. It's our idea we get to follow it through, nobody tells us what to do and the movies come out exactly the way you want them to come out.we never have to worry about who is going to see them, we never worry about if it's going to have a great opening weekend because we only play in like 500 theatres and there is no expectations that these films have to kick ass at the box office. They just hear the idea for the movie if they like the idea and which they always do, they're great guys at Castle Rock that run it and then we go ahead and start writing and then they go ahead and start prepping the movie, it's almost at the same time. I think in the first movie we did (Waiting for Guffman).We did a treatment for the story so they could see what the story is going to be and after that we just give them the idea and then they prep and we start writing. In the real world of movies you don't always get to have your thumbprint on the project you don't have that kind of control. It's a give and take thing so you honestly take the projects that you think you can makes something out of if it's not already there a hundred percent in the script and honestly do the best job you can and keep your fingers crossed and that's pretty much how it is in the movie world.

How much improv was used for the film?

EL: There was nothing that was improvised in the movie.

Not even the slap on the behind?

EL: The slap was actually Sam's idea. That's the great thing about Sam in this picture because he gets it he got the fact that audience was going to be so behind me. I mean I get to slap him I'm the only guy in the history of movies who has ever slapped Sam Jackson in the face and lived to tell about it. It was such a great thing for me and for me such a great moment because he played that scene so well that the slow burn that he was doing before he had to admit he was my bitch then it was then he says why don't you smack me on the ass as I'm getting into the car as a little salt in the wounds there. He got what was funny about it. He was more than willing to be the kind of dupe in the scene.

What is Sam like to work with?

EL: Sam is a one take wonder. When he comes in to a picture right from a rehearsal he knows what he's doing. He knows what he wants, he knows how he wants to play the character, it really doesn't change that much. He has a bead?? On it. I try to do that and don't always succeed. I certainly do more takes than Sam and he's very patient sometimes. It varies for me.

Had you wanted to work with Samuel before?

EL: I never, ever, thought it would happen. I've been following his career like everybody since Pulp Fiction. You never think that you'll get to work with somebody like that. The stuff that I had done was mainly comedy, and I work with people
who do mainly comedy. I think Sam Jackson si the actor whose credentials I don't thik I ever worked with before it was excititg and a little intimidating for me because I knew that I had to hold up my end and hopefully he's going to find it an enjoyable experience.

Do you feel more pressure to do a movie like this?

EL: Well this is like the biggest role that I've had. I'm a character actor this is what I do a support role. I was comfortable doing that. When this was presented to me I looked at the role I was like boy I'd love to do this role because it was along the
lines of what it is I do. It's the kind of character that I kind of do I wanted to do some work on the original draft because I thought the character was one dimensional for me I just wanted to humanize the guy a bit. It wasn't because it was a co-starring role. I never really got excited about that so much as a litte nervous because there is more riding on your shoulders and there is more pressure and I never had to worry about carrying a movie and normally in a part this size you have to give exposition you have to give story stuff that is normally not that interesting or that funny. I always prefer to be the guy who comes in and gets a few laughs and gets out. It was a little intimidating. I knew the character had to have an arch.

Do you like the quirky roles?

EL: I think the quirk is kinda me I try to I get a script an d I will do work on the lines and the scenes and my part and I try to make the character comes through my mouth and my eyes and come through me. I try to make everything appear spontaneous so I will alter lines to steer it in that direction.

Who is the inspiration for the character?

EL: There was no inspiration for the character. It was kind of amalgon of characters that I've done. I start with the fact that this guy is a dental supply salesman that he's going to a convention to give a key note address. That's where I start. He's
a good guy, he's a family guy and he's the guy who has to have an effect on Derek van's life. Derek comes from a place that Andy probably woulnd't have no idea exists he's a cop he deals with life and death, he doesn't trust anybody. This is the guy
that is the little angel that comes into his life and tries to turn him around. We had such a gret time doing this thing. He's already talking sequel and taking Andy back over to Turkey.

Dream Role?

EL: I don't think there is a dream role. I really love to do what it is I do where there is a great storyline going on. Nancy Meyers, Jim Brooks. There aren't many directors doing great adult story movies that would be a directoion that I would like to go in. I've worked with Steve Martin, we go for laughs, Ben stiller gets to work with Robert DeNiro. I think that that would be a kick one day. To work with someone like Dustin Hoffman that has some kind of import that may have a little comedy in it.
I would have done the part that Jack Nicholson's driver, John Fabro's role. I honestly looked and I said I didn't get it. I love Nancy and "Something's Gotta Give" was a terrifc script.

Do you have any plans to work with Christopher Guest again?

Eugene Levy: Well, we’re doing our next film in October. It’s called “For Your Consideration” a nd it’s about people working on a small independent movie. When the magical word, “Oscar”, gets tossed into a conversation in regards to one of the actor’s performances in the movie and once the word gets dropped, you can’t shake it, and you can’t get it out of your head and permeates the production.

Are all the regulars coming back?

EL: Everybody’s back. Parker (Posey), Jennifer (Coolidge), Bob Balaban, Michael McKeon.

Any newcomers?

EL: Well, we had a couple of people in smaller roles in the last production bumped to larger roles. Chris Moniyhan. He was one of the main street singers in the last movie and Rachel Harris, who’s had very small roles in the last two movies, “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind”, a funny girl, is in it and Ricky Gervais (from British TV’s The Office) is coming. A little part for him in it.

Which character do you play in the film?

EL: I play an agent called Morley Orphkin, who ran this agency called DOA, the Dorfman Orphkin Agency, a talent agency and I represent one the actors in this independent movie.

Did you base it on your agent?

EL: No. I’m really not basing it on any person. We’re experiencing right now with the look of the guy. I try to start with the look and may go back to SCTV.

Is Christopher playing the director of the movie?

EL: Chris is playing the director of the movie. Yes, Jay Berman, a guy who came out of sitcom.

Who’s releasing the film?

EL: Castle Rock, Warner Bros.


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