Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Frank Coraci talks perfect blend of Sandler, Barrymore

Sixteen years after the smash romantic comedy “The Wedding Singer” charmed moviegoers, the film’s stars and director are blending seamlessly once again in three-part harmony.

The stars, of course, are Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, who have reunited with director Frank Coraci for the family comedy “Blended.” In a recent interview, Coraci, who went on to direct Sandler in “The Waterboy” and “Click” after “The Wedding Singer,” said he was thrilled to finally get both Sandler and Barrymore together in one film again because the three click so well.

“It was such of a great feeling. We stayed friends over the years, but sometimes you don’t see each other as much as you’d like to,” Coraci said. “It was not only a great chance to all hang out again, but do what we do well when we’re all together.”

Frank Coraci, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore on the set of 'Blended'
Frank Coraci, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore on the set of “Blended” (photo: Warner Bros.)

Opening in theaters nationwide Friday, “Blended” stars Sandler and Barrymore as Jim and Lauren, a pair of single parents who briefly meet on a disastrous blind date, only to be serendipitously thrown together with their kids on a vacation at an African resort.

Coraci said the timing of “Blended” couldn’t have been any more perfect, because Sandler and Barrymore, who ended “The Wedding Singer” as a new couple, have each grown into important phases in their personal lives.

“Adam and Drew both have kids, so it really helped the storyline in every way because they understand what it’s like to be parents,” Coraci said.

Naturally, there are some romantic sparks that fly between Sandler and Barrymore in “Blended,” but the movie also addresses how important it is for parents to put their kids first in their personal lives.

“The movie does not fall into the typical cliches of a romantic comedy. They don’t fall in love over the typical things you see in movies, they fall in love because each realizes how great the other one is as a parent,” Coraci said. “They really need each other because Drew’s character has two boys and they really need a father figure, and Adam’s character has three girls. But when you see the way the girls dress and have bad haircuts, yet are trying to grow up into women, they need some guidance and Drew is a great person they need in their lives.”

Coraci said for the preview audience members who have seen the movie already, the “kids first” narrative has resonated the most.

“That’s the core that people really love the most, that it was a whole different way for two people to appreciate and fall in love with each other,” Coraci said.

While the chemistry between Barrymore and Sandler was instant, Coraci said what really added to the magic of the production was the fact that the cast and crew filmed the bulk of the movie on location in South Africa.

“We were all there together and it really felt like we were a family. We’d doing things on the weekends like go on safaris with the kids. It was great,” Coraci said. “There was something really special about being on location there. Africa has such an amazing rawness as a backdrop. There’s not only the nature, but a spiritual thing there. We put a lot of great African music in the movie. We really went beyond the next level of what we did in ‘The Wedding Singer.'”

Fans of “The Wedding Singer,” Coraci added, will notice a big change in the dynamic between Sandler and Barrymore, and the director couldn’t be any more thrilled about it.

“For Drew, I have to say, when we did ‘The Wedding Singer,’ comedy was a newer thing to her,” Coraci recalled. “But with ‘Blended,’ she is the total champ. The comedy stuff she does in this is unbelievable. She does a lot of the heavy lifting with the physical comedy. It’s so great to see her and Adam together because they know each other so well. There’s a confidence and fearlessness between them when they’re together. There’s a section of the movie where they don’t like each other so they get to make fun of each other, and because they’re such good friends they were really able to go for it.”

The release of “Blended” comes on the heels of the debut of Coraci’s new Travel Channel series “Chow Masters.” Each week on the show, which airs Tuesday nights, the director and his longtime friend/celebrity chef Sammy D. pit three chefs in different cities across the U.S. to come up with the tastiest and most creatively cooked comfort foods.

In Tuesday night’s episode, which travels to Los Angeles, the production promises Coraci and Sammy D. will chow down with a “major Hollywood superstar” and “another celebrity pal.”

Could it be that Sandler and Barrymore are the ones who will be added to the “Chow Masters” mix? Coraci is tight-lipped about that idea and any other celebrity appearances planned for the show, but the prospect for some delicious cameos are certainly looking good.

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Interview: ‘Blended’ director Frank Coraci talks ‘Chow Masters’

Disclaimer: If you like food (and who doesn’t?), the new Travel Channel show “Chow Masters” is bound to have a compelling effect on you.

It’s going to, well, make you want to chow down.

“That’s what we’re trying do,” co-host Frank Coraci told me, laughing, in a recent interview. “We want to showcase other chefs, get you hungry for their food and have a good time along the way while we’re doing it.”

Sammy D and Frank Coraci (photo -- The Travel Channel)
“Chow Masters” stars Sammy D. and Frank Coraci (photo — Travel Channel)

Coraci certainly knows eye for talent. After all, he’s the director of several hit comedies, including “The Waterboy,” “Click,” “Zookeeper” and “Here Comes the Boom.” He also directed “The Wedding Singer,” starring his frequent collaborator, Adam Sandler, who starred opposite Drew Barrymore. Later this month, the director’s latest comedy, “Blended,” hits theaters reuniting the trio that made “The Wedding Singer” a smash hit in 1998.

In the meantime, though, “Chow Masters” each week finds three “off the map” food places in different parts of the U.S. Judged on creativity and taste, the winner is awarded $10,000 and a “Golden Skillet Award.”  Chowing down with Coraci is Sam DeMarco, aka famed New York City chef Sammy D.

Click HERE to read more of Tim Lammers’ interview with Frank Coraci on WCVB.com (ABC, Boston).

Interview: Kristen Wiig talks ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’

Although she’s experienced amazing success on TV with “Saturday Night Live” and the big screen with the 2011 blockbuster comedy “Bridesmaids,” Kristen Wiig said doesn’t take anything for granted as she continues to savor every step in her ever-burgeoning career.

Following a voice role in the summer smash “Despicable Me 2″ and a hilarious turn as Brick Tamland’s (Steve Carell) love interest in “Anchorman 2,” the latest and greatest opportunity to come Wiig’s way is a starring role opposite Ben Stiller in the actor-director’s fantastical dramedy “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

Wiig told me in an interview that the biggest thrill of her latest big-screen adventure is the fact that the film doesn’t rely on her comedic skills. The film has laughs, to be sure, but it’s also loaded with heartfelt moments that lets the actress, 40, show that she’s capable of engaging audiences in a much different way.

“I was extremely flattered when Ben thought of me for the role because I knew he wasn’t going for a broad comedy,” Wiig recalled. “I love to have the opportunities to do other things and in this past year, I worked on three smaller films that are much more dramatic in tone. You have to be given the chance to do that and prove that you can do it or at least try.”

Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig in 'Walter Mitty'
Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (photo — 20th Century Fox).

That’s not to say Wiig spurns her work as a comedic actor. In fact, she’s very grateful for it. But having great success at it can work against a performer, too.

“I think it’s natural for people to associate you with the work that you’re known for, and that makes complete sense to me,” Wiig said. “I had been on ‘SNL’ for seven years and did a handful of movies, all of which were comedies, so I totally understand why people think that’s all I do. So for Ben to think of me in this role, which I really wouldn’t say is comedic even though it has funny moments, is great. For the most part, it’s pretty subdued and subtle, and I was really excited for the opportunity.”

New on Blu-ray and DVD (Fox Home Entertainment) “Walter Mitty” follows the title character, a longtime photo editor at Life magazine who spends his time daydreaming of an extraordinary life, including ways he can inspire a romance with his relatively new co-worker, Cheryl Melhoff (Wiig).

But when word comes down that the company is ceasing its print edition and he’s responsible for a big part of the final issue, Walter finally finds a way to connect with Cheryl, who is pivotal in helping him embark on an amazing trek across the globe that’s more extraordinary than anything he could have en

visioned.

Based on James Thurber’s classic New Yorker story from 1939, Stiller’s version of “Walter Mitty,” written by Steve Conrad, is an updated tale for modern times — and the inclusion of Wiig’s character is a big part of it.

“The short story is very different in that regard, but in this movie, Walter really needed that relationship,” Wiig explained. “He needed a person to be supportive. The way that Steve wrote it, Cheryl is a huge inspiration for Walter. She’s really the only person that understands him and propels him into this journey, which is very different for him.”

Despite the updates, Wiig assured that fans of the original work shouldn’t worry about the story losing its essence.

“What Steve did when he wrote the script was really special and brilliant in he took what we love about the character of Walter and modernized him in a way that we can all relate to,” Wiig said.”I think that’s one of the reasons that the story is so timeless, because we can all relate to Walter. We’re all a little bit of Walter in that we have a fantasy life and we all daydream. We all imagine our lives to be different.”

In “Walter Mitty,” Wiig definitely got the chance to live the life of a rock star, where in one of the film’s most memorable scenes, she strums a guitar and sings David Bowie’s classic song “Space Oddity.”

But while we get to hear Wiig singing Bowie’s famous lyrics, including “Ground control to Major Tom,” she admits the rest of what you see involves a bit of movie magic.

“The actual guitar you’re hearing is not me, but I did take guitar lessons so it looked like I was playing the chords as we filmed it,” Wiig said. “Of course, as we were shooting it, everything went out of my brain and I don’t even know if I was moving my fingers.”

Since Wiig’s rendition of “Space Oddity” morphs into Bowie’s original version in the film, I suggested to her that she say she’s actually done a duet with the rock icon.

“That’s what I do say,” Wiig said with a huge laugh. “People are like, ‘Wait, you sang with him?’ and I’m like, ‘No, not really.’ But I pretend that that’s what happened.”

Q&A: Actor-filmmaker Marlon Wayans talks ‘Haunted House 2,’ embracing success, failure

Marlon Wayans is doing double-time. On the road most of March and April, the comedy actor and third of five Wayans brothers  — he’s wedged in between Dwayne and Keenan Ivory, and Damon and Shawn – has not only been previewing his mid-April horror movie spoof “A Haunted House 2” in markets stretching from San Francisco, Dallas, New Orleans, Minneapolis  and New York; he’s been doing a Q&A session with fans that often times feels like a stand-up act.

The comedy routine certainly isn’t by accident. After all, Wayans is in the running for the coveted role of Richard Pryor in an upcoming biopic about the iconic funnyman. Until then, it’s his resolve to be as outrageous as he can be on the big-screen with his “Haunted House” sequel, mocking such horror movie hits as “The Possession” and The Conjuring. The latter especially takes a beating from Wayans, given that he has an outrageous sex scene with a creepy-looking doll that’s a dead-ringer for the menacing “Conjuring” plaything Annabelle.

Wayans,  41, recently called me to talk about everything from the creative use of male body parts in his films and the perceived fallout over the “Scary Movie” franchise, to how he gets serious with his preview audiences and his not-meant-to-be follow-up role for “Noah” director Darren Aronofsky. He even takes a shot at embattled Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

Tim Lammers:  Congratulations on “A Haunted House 2.” You do realize you’ve created a new awards category with this movie, right?

Marlon Wayans: (laughs) Best Sex Scene With an Inanimate Object?

TL: I was thinking more of Best Performance of Sex Acts on a Demon Doll, but your category works. I know it’s parody, but did you have to get permission from Warner Bros. to use the likeness of the doll?

DW: Nah, you don’t need to get permission. We knew as long at the doll didn’t look exactly like the doll in “The Conjuring,” the laws of parody would allow us to do that. We had to change her name, too, so instead of Annabelle, it’s Abigail. Plus, I think our doll is a little cuter.

TL:  Plus you reveal a little bit more with your doll. The dress stayed on her in “The Conjuring.”

MW: I loved the stuff I did with Abigail, how she turned into the crazy girl that you date. It was a pretty fun spin.

Marlon Wayans in 'A Haunted House 2'
Marlon Wayans and “Abigail”  in “A Haunted House 2” (photo: Open Road Films).

TL:  There are horror films ripe for parody coming out all the time. How many different versions of the script are there before you settle on one, or is it an evolving process?

MW: It’s an evolving thing. You pick one, and we talk about the story line and beat out the ideas before you start writing it down on the page. We had a pretty good idea once we saw “The Conjuring” and “The Amityville Horror,” “The Possession” and “Insidious” that we knew where were going.

TL: Plus you leave plenty of room from improvisation.

MW: That’s how it happened with the doll scene. It was completely improv. I just looked at it and went, “Hmmm,” and everybody on the set went, “Noooo.” So I just went there. We didn’t write the scene for it. We take it to weird places.

TL: I’ll never get out of my mind the image from the first “Scary Movie” where Shawn gets stabbed through the ear with a penis while in a bathroom stall.

MW: Yep, that was Shawn. Shawn was a dickhead.

TL: Now with “A Haunted House 2” you have a male appendage popping up in a scene reminiscent of “The Possession.” How tough is it to get –

MW:  To get somebody to show their dick?

TL:  (laughs) Actually that wasn’t what I was going to ask!

MW: It was a real actor! No, it was actually CGI, so we had to get somebody to create a penis.

TL: (laughs) That must be a very awkward request.

MW: And expensive. Doing 3D appendages is very expensive.

TL: So the MPAA is weird with how they allow full-frontal nudity for females, but with males it’s a different story. Even though it’s a CGI appendage, how tough is it to get the images past the ratings board?

MW: Since our movie is R it was a lot easier to have it in there. But there is a number of seconds you can have it in there that they will allow.

TL: How many seconds?

MW: I’m not sure. But we followed their lead because I didn’t want an NC-17 movie. That’s irresponsible. R is crazy enough.

TL: I love how at the Q&A you brought up what people might perceive as failure. But I’m impressed with the way you’ve handled it. You noted how you shouldn’t hold grudges and how missed opportunities aren’t bad things, necessarily, but things that led to more opportunities. That’s some really important stuff for people to hear.

MW: Thank you – because I honestly do believe it. If something doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen for a reason. If one door closes, a thousand others open up. You can look at it as a loss or as an opportunity, and to me it’s always an opportunity. You don’t let anything beat you down, you let it build you up. You don’t place blame, you accept blame and you grow. I don’t say, “This person did this and that,” I say to myself, “OK, how can I get better? How do I prevent this from happening again? What things can I create that can’t be taken from me and I can’t be written out of?”  I try to grab onto the positive and leave the negative behind.

TL: Sounds like what you’re saying is based on what happened with you and Harvey and Bob Weinstein with the “Scary Movie” franchise. It’s so interesting how you ran into Bob Weinstein years after the franchise was wrestled away from you guys, and he said something to effect that he thought you’d still be pissed at him.

MW: Bob thought I’d be pissed or we were pissed at each other, or we had some sort of war going on. I said, “No, not at all. It’s quite the opposite. I actually appreciate everything I’ve been through with you guys. I learned a lot and made a lot of money, and it was a great experience. There’s no need for bad blood, because we went to war together and were victorious together. Why turn the guns on each other?” Instead, we sat back and laughed about some of the old war stories we had and enjoyed the success we had together.

TL: You’ve also had some of would-be moments, like when Tim Burton cast you as Robin for what would have been his third “Batman” film, but it all fell apart when Joel Schumacher took over the franchise.

MW: I’m the guy who always would have been a huge star (laughs). I’ve always been a step away and something else happens . Some would think that anyway, and I just go, “You know, it just gives me more time to prepare for what’s to come.” I think I’m growing and maturing, and as a man, I’m able to articulate things a lot better. I came in as a child and I get the business and I get the industry, I got my emotions intact and learned a skill set. I know how to write and produce, and I know how to edit and put together a film. There’s so much that I’ve learned that’s going to help me in the first 25 years that I’ve learned, that’s going to really propel me that’s going to propel me to the next 25 years and allow me to sustain a certain level. It’s not about success, it’s when I have failures and going back and assessing them. You have to go back and look at them as failures, but steps backward to regain momentum and take a huge leap forward. I believe in alchemy. I read (Paulo Coelho’s) “The Alchemist” and I think it’s a wonderful book, and the reality of success is that there’s no destination called “success.” Success is just a road that you travel on, and as long as you walk on it every day, you are being successful. I’ve been blessed being successful and taking care of my family while doing what I love. I can’t ask God for nothing better than what I have.

TL: Besides, success at a very young age can be a very destructive thing.

MW: I would have done so much crack (had I been successful when I was younger). I would have been the Jim Irsay of moviemakers. (laughs). I’m glad it didn’t happen. Thinking of success now, I’m an adult man in his 40s and I still look young. I think I understand success and the responsibilities that come along with it. I’m much more prepped the level of stardom that is destined for me, whatever that means. I’m not saying, “I’m going to be the biggest star in the world!” I just mean that whatever level of success I attain, I’m going to be prepared for it.

TL:  Is there a chance that success will include playing  Richard Pryor?

MW:  I filmed a great Richard Pryor screen test. If it materializes great. I’ve been doing stand-up for three and a-half years preparing for it. If it happens I’ll embrace it and work my ass off.

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