When you throw Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson onto a movie set together and hand them a script like the one Todd Phillips wrote for "Old School," good things are bound to happen.
Add naked wrestling, a dart gun and Snoop Dogg to the mix and suddenly you've got one of the year's best comedies on your hands.
"Old School," set to open nationwide on Friday, Feb. 21, is destined for box-office success thanks to its hilarious script, memorable scenes and magnificent cast. Ferrell (Frank), Vaughn (Beanie) and Wilson (Mitch), starring as three 30-something guys who start a fraternity in hopes of reliving their college days, recently sat down with Bullz-Eye.com and other members of the press to talk about their latest release. Needless to say, even the press conference was filled with laughs.
Fresh off his split with "Saturday Night Live," Ferrell started working the crowd the moment he walked through the door, announcing to everybody in the room, "So far, we have been unable to detect any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. We probably need another two weeks at least. We've only done the first two floors of the hotel."
Of course, it's this kind of humor that drives "Old School," but as Vaughn explained, it's comedy with a purpose. "I find things that make me laugh are things that are an over-commitment to a very real thing, not just falling down for falling down's sake. When I met Todd (writer/director) and saw this script in particular, I thought what was cool here is in all relationships between guys and girls, the themes that are discussed are universal: Am I ready to be married? Am I not? Somebody cheated on me. I'm married, but am I missing out on having fun? So you take those circumstances that are universal and you make them extreme. You walk in and maybe you catch your girlfriend cheating on you, but you have two naked people jump out of the closet. It's still based in reality…. I think what separates this movie…from a lot of big comedies that had scenes that may be effective is you can follow and start to see what's at stake for the characters."
Although Farrell, whose streaking scene is one of the highlights of the film, is best known as the flamboyant actor from SNL who would seemingly do anything for a laugh ("If the money's right, man, I'm there," he joked), he also said that his over-the-top humor provided necessary depth to his character. "The fact that this character, that his streaking was kind of a result of falling off the wagon, the fact that it made sense was the reason why I was really into doing it, and was why I was able to commit on such a level. If it was just for the sake of getting a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense."
Apparently, however, not every cast member was as committed as Ferrell. When asked what it would take to get them to streak in front of the camera like their co-star did for "Old School," Wilson admitted, "I would never have the guts to do that," while Vaughn said, "There's not enough booze in this hotel, honey."
Speaking of booze, Wilson suggested that Ferrell had some help getting ready for his "exposed" scene, saying, "Well, I know Will flew in his acting coach from Kentucky, Jimmy Beam, that night."
"He's a great guy," Ferrell said, adding a little later that he needed additional support from "another buddy of mine, Old English 800, which is a malt beverage acting coach," when he had to actually drop his drawers in front of rapper Snoop Dogg, whose cameo appearance really livened up the set. "Snoopy, as I like to call him," Ferrell said. "That was probably more intimidating because we shot that the very last day of shooting, so I'd already done the streaking part by myself. But to actually be in front of Snoop Dogg that close naked, that was more intimidating than anything."
"That was done through bribery," said Phillips on the casting of Snoop, who will play Huggy Bear in "Starsky and Hutch," another film that Phillips will direct. "If you remember the TV show…Huggy Bear was this street informant, sort of a pimp. And you never knew what he did but he was kind of like a snitch. So all these guys, all these great African-American actors, really wanted to be Huggy Bear because they grew up like I did on the show, and he was the coolest guy on TV. So I know Snoop wanted it…and out of respect I had to go to him first anyway because he is the coolest guy in the world. So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in "Old School," a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."
So what was it like working with the legendary rapper? "It was great because it was the last day of shooting, so it was very much a party, almost like a rap party mixed in with shooting," Phillips said. "It really was a good way to end the movie. And this was before Snoop quit [smoking pot], so it was a different Snoop."
"I didn't actually get to spend much time with Snoop," a somewhat disappointed Wilson admitted. "I was in my little room watching TV and then I ran into Vince, who was speaking in tongues at that point after having spent a couple hours in Snoop's trailer."
"I got a knock on my door: 'Snoop Dogg's a big fan -- he wants you to come hang out and play games,'" Vaughn continued, picking up the story. "So we all went in there and had a good time. We played video games and just laughed and hung out for a while. Then I came out and I saw Luke and he was watching the news. I was like, 'what's going on?' and he says, 'no one told me everyone was in Snoop's trailer.'"
Vaughn also briefly referenced a scene he shot with Snoop that didn't make it through the final edit, but he didn't give any details. Luckily, Phillips had the low-down. "That was a scene basically -- and I don't even know if I should say this but whatever -- where Vince and Snoop shared a joint. I don't know if it was real or not -- I never really looked into it. We basically put three cameras on them and [they] kind of smoked a cigarette together, and we just thought it would be interesting. It was interesting but it didn't really fit the movie. It's basically 12 minutes of these guys talking philosophy and music and life and speakers. Snoop was really sharp in trying to bring it back to the movie and Vince was a little bit, ya know…. It's the chronic, ya know, and I don't know how experienced Vince is with that." Don't worry, though -- Phillips said the deleted scene will be on the "Old School" DVD.
Yet despite the presence of Snoop, the guys admitted that the rowdiness was surprisingly limited when asked by Bullz-Eye to describe the atmosphere on the set. "We [had] this phrase: Let's shoot this movie '70s style," Wilson recalled. "Come on. It's us three…let's have some fun on this movie, because we got caught up in just how well behaved we all were at the time. Really, we were, and we never did manage to go '70s style."
"We had a lot of fun, we were always joking around with each other," Vaughn said. "We called ourselves the Wolf Pack because we'd always turn on each other, make fun of each other. It was never safe -- whoever was getting picked on, five minutes later everybody would turn on someone else. But we never got '70s style -- the closest we got was that last night [with Snoop]."
Even though the guys didn't live up to their motto, Phillips said everybody had a great time during filming. "I always think it's important to set the tone of the movie on the set of the movie. We're doing a light comedy, a broad comedy, [so] it was very fun to show up in the day. We would just hang around and laugh and try to make it funny in any way."
So we've got a college, a fraternity, binge drinking, and a bunch of 30-year-old guys who seem to be wading through their own mid-life crises. Who exactly is "Old School" targeting? "This movie's really ultimately not about college and it's not even really about fraternities," Phillips explained. "It's really about that point in life where people in their early 30s get to and they're kind of making a decision about 'should I be a responsible, tax-paying, married this or should I kind of stretch out my 20s a little bit longer, kind of go more the irresponsible route?' So I'm 32 and a lot of my friends, this movie speaks to them probably even more than a lot of college students."
In other words, if you're simply looking for endless laughs then you can't go wrong with "Old School." There's Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Snoop, heavy drinking, streaking, a dart gun, more booze, rhythmic gymnastics, a blow-up doll, and even appearances by Jeremy Piven ("PCU"), Seann William Scott (Stifler from "American Pie") and Craig Kilborn. What more could you want?
Oh yeah, the naked wrestling. "Old School" has that too.