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Interview: “Dinner for Schmucks” director Jay Roach on Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and Sacha Baron Cohen


By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Don’t call it a remake.

Yes, Jay Roach’s latest comedy “Dinner for Schmucks,” which opens this Friday, drops Steve Carell and Paul Rudd into hilariously uncomfortable situations that are reminiscent of French director Francis Veber’s 1998 comedy, “The Dinner Game.”

But Roach, who recently spoke with Hollywood News about the production, was quick to point out that they moved away from the “Dinner Game” premise to weave their own, unique joke.

The film stars Rudd as a ladder-climbing corporate executive who is asked to invite an idiot to a strange dinner-party game. He thinks he discovers a slam-dunk dork in Carell. Then, however, Roach says their film goes down several different avenues as it distances itself from Veber’s film, which he considers a masterpiece.

“Our film starts with that premise. It’s inspired by (the original movie). But the entire third act was not part of the original French film. It’s a great film. I am a huge fan of Veber. But we went with ‘Inspired by’ instead of ‘Based on’ because I felt we couldn’t beat his jokes. And though we borrow the concept of the story, basically none of the jokes are the same,” Roach said.

For Roach, it’s always a learning process. In addition to directing Myers through the “Austin Powers” films, he helmed two “Meet the Parents” films and served as a producer for Sacha Baron Cohen’s outrageous “Borat” and “Bruno” comedies.

“His comedy is so specific, and he is so amazing at it,” Roach said of Cohen. “I’ve never seen an audience laugh harder than they laughed at ‘Borat.’ I can remember, literally, just looking around at the audience during that naked fight sequence and going, ‘Oh my God, I will never direct anything that has people flopping around in their seats as hard as they are right now.’

“So I learned from those experiences that he is a master,” Roach continued. “I was a producer on those films, and I helped with the post process where we screened it over and over and kept finding the film with the interactions with the audience. I think I evolved through that.”

Audiences will find out how far Roach’s comedy styles have evolved when “Dinner for Schmucks” opens in theaters Friday, July 30.

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