Will Forte and Jorma Taccone talk about blowing up ‘Macgruber’ to feature length
BY TODD GILCHRIST
On Monday night, Austin, TX played host to the first-ever public screening of MacGruber, director Jorma Taccone’s feature-length adaptation of the Saturday Night Live skit of the same name. On Tuesday, Taccone and the film’s star, Will Forte, spoke to the press and fielded questions about bringing MacGruber to life on the big screen. Hollywood News participated in a roundtable interview where Forte and Taccone not only talked about their approach to the material, but explored the many challenges of expanding the original concept, and reflected on the collaborative process that was involved in putting the movie together.
Hollywood News: How did get 175 pages out of this script?
Will Forte: I don’t even think that we finished the third act, either. I think we were still trying to figure out some things, we were like, “Okay, let’s just…”
Jorma Taccone: We did have several scenes that were probably like 15 pages long I think. All just friendship probably. Is that a good answer? Out of friendship. 175 pages out of friendship.
Hollywood News: Was there anything that had to be cut?
Taccone: I think, I will say this. We originally wanted to actually cut Cunth’s d*ck off and shove it in his mouth. That became sort of a note.
Hollywood News: The MPAA wouldn’t go for that?
Taccone: It wasn’t that.
Forte: We all had pretty equal say so individually there are little things that one of us would love and the other two would not. We all had to – –
Taccone: It was a democracy.
Forte: The last pass, we all had to suck it up and lose our individual babies, so most of the stuff in the movie is stuff that we all three agree on.
Hollywood News: Was this always going to be an R rated movie?
Taccone: Yeah, the original draft I think I looked up the phrase “f*ck you” in the original draft and I think it appeared 16 times. So it’s less than that now but it was always aggressively hard [R].
Forte: 16 sounds light to me for some reason.
Taccone: In an 84 minute movie, to say the phrase “f*ck you,” it’s insane. There’s a lot of f*cks I would say.
Hollywood News: How much of this came from MacGyver, or what was your frame of reference for developing this into a full movie?
Taccone: I’m really not saying this because of whatever impending lawsuit. I really don’t know anything about any kind of lawsuits but absolutely none, I would say. [But] we really were looking at 80s and early 90s action movies for inspiration. I will say that me and John were watching maybe a Seagal movie or something like that, [and] there was a moment where over an explosion you heard a cougar growl. We were like, “What was that? Oh my God, we have to put that in.” It is a technique, obviously, but you’re supposed to put it low enough that it’s just a hint of something. So our sound dude, we kept being like, “No, louder. You’ve got to do it louder.” He was like, “No, people are going to think we’re bad at our job.” We were like, “Don’t worry, we’re going to put your credit, it’s going to come up right when that cougar growl comes up.”
But all sorts [of inspiration]. I actually rewatched Rambo III after we had written the script. The monastery scene, I could not believe how similar it was to Rambo III, and that was not intentional actually at all. It just sort of felt right to find this dude who’s opted out of society. He’s so crushed by what’s happened with his nemesis and the loss of his wife and everything that he goes off to a monastery. I think originally we were going to have [MacGruber] burn down the monastery too, right? He was going to throw an oil lamp at Cunth’s [picture], burn it down, walk away in slow motion as monks are desperately trying to put out the fire. He’s just such a bad person.
Hollywood News: Will, how did you figure out this guy’s combination of obnoxious self-importance and total naivete?
Forte: I don’t know. I think just we would just feel it out from day to day, just constantly through the scriptwriting process and doing it each day.
Taccone: John and I would occasionally give the note of, “More MacGrubery? No, less MacGrubery.”
Hollywood News: The gag in the original skit is that MacGruber never makes a device in time and the explosion goes off. Could you not get away with the joke of dying over and over in the movie?
Taccone: Actually having him die? We’ve already written the next three installments, so we can’t have him die. And it’s definitely going to work out. End parenthetical sarcastic note.
Forte: I think a lot of people out there probably think that’s what the movie will be is just a series of explosions over and over again.
Taccone: Which was so odd to us that that was the comments [we heard]: “What’s it gonna be?” You’ve got to make a plot out of it. What do you expect? It’s so odd, but we did put that one little sort of nod to the original sketch in the movie which is really nice that people kind of seem to really get that moment when that music comes in, that Megatrax song comes in. I don’t know how often Megatrax is used in movies, but it’s nice that people get that moment.
Hollywood News: You nail the Tony Scott/Adrian Lynne aesthetic. Did you have specific visual references?
Taccone: No, we were really trying to just, with how fast we were having to shoot, we were just trying to be conscious of keeping the camera moving a lot. Then just from ‘80s film, our DP was fantastic, his name’s Brandon Trost. He had just done Halloween II. This was his 20th film. He’s 28 years old so he started when he was like 17, which is crazy. He does not want to mention any of the films that he’s worked on because a lot of them he’s not [proud of]. But he’s great. His big thing, he’s a huge fan of ’80 movies too. When we first started talking to him, he was just like, “Yeah, f*ck, Robocop!” It was very mutually similar sort of tastes. We just put smoke in every single interior and wet down every single exterior. Even with our tight schedule, we were like, “Gotta get the water truck in” every single time.
Hollywood News: Why do you feel it was necessary to have Ryan Phillippe’s character in there as the capable alternative to MacGruber’s bumbling?
Forte: Well, in the sketches, there’s always three of us so I think just starting out, that seemed like the logical structure in just having a character there which could really ground the craziness with something that we thought would be useful also. He did it so perfectly.
Taccone: Perfectly. Val was just telling me this morning how unbelievably essential Ryan’s character is and how well he played it. It’s probably the most important role in the movie. With any comedy as you know, it just becomes this sort of goof fest if the audience doesn’t have some sounding board of one person they can relate to, a man who’s watching this through your eyes of why would you do that? It’s absolutely crucial.
Hollywood News: How difficult was that role to cast?
Taccone: We got really, really lucky. Both those guys were at the table read. We just got amazingly lucky, because also that preproduction schedule was really, really tight too so it was like an “Oh my God, what are we going to do” sort of thing. It really fell into our laps and we couldn’t believe we got Powers Boothe as well. Everybody worked so hard for like nothing so it was great.
Hollywood News: What other characters would you like to make movies for?
Taccone: I actually would love to see a Laser Cats movie, except for I want to shoot it on VHS – super shitty.
Hollywood News: What’s next for you guys?
Taccone: Don’t know. What are you working on? Let’s f*cking workshop.
Hollywood News: Will you continue MacGruber on the show during the lead-up to the film’s release?
Forte: Yes. We’re at a very stressful part with it just because we would love to do it but now there’s so much.
Taccone: We don’t want to do a bad one.
Forte: We don’t want to screw up the movie’s chances by doing a bad one and now we’ve done so many of them that it’s hard to find new territory. I would be surprised if we don’t do another one before the movie comes out just to keep it out there.