‘Other Guys’ Director Talks Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg And Derek Jeter

Adam McKay describes his stars' unexpected chemistry in the August buddy-cop comedy.

Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have dressed up the local news in polyester, taken the NASCAR circuit for a ride through Wacky Town and followed two strangers picked to live in a house (after their parents get married) and found out what happens when infantile adults stop being polite and start beating the crap out of each other.

Now after “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights” and “Step Brothers” comes the buddy copy flick “The Other Guys.” Co-written and directed by McKay, the movie stars Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as NYPD desk jockeys thrust onto the streets to fight crime. Destruction and laughs follow in their explosion-filled wake. As part of MTV News’ Summer Movie Preview Week, McKay gave us a call to chat about Ferrell and Wahlberg’s onscreen chemistry, some of their wild action scenes and Derek Jeter’s awesome cameo.

MTV: The movie comes out on August 6. Where you at right now in the process?

Adam McKay: We just did our first legit, recruited screening last week. But we do lots of informal, in-house ones. We got our first full, beginning-to-end, starting-to-look-like-the-movie cut going last week. Now we’re trimming. It gets shorter and shorter as you go along. We’re, like, a month and a half from locking picture. We’re getting our special effects finalized. Our composer is starting to work on pieces. We’re right on schedule.

MTV: How much is the movie changing at this point? You guys are known for shooting a ton of improv as you go along, so are you trying out new stuff as much as you’re trimming in the edit?

McKay: That’s exactly what we’re doing. Overall, you have your story arc. There are always certain parts that can play a little long or if you put in a digression in the late second act, sometimes there’s not room for it. Inside the movie, we’re going through all of our improv, looking for alt lines, looking for different takes. Overall, you’re cutting and getting the shape right and inside the movie you’re trying different things.

MTV: With all that improv, have you given any thought to putting out an extended version of “Other Guys” or something similar to what you did with “Anchorman”?

McKay: We did it with “Anchorman,” and it worked out well because we had an entire plotline line that got cut. Our villain plot didn’t quite work the way we wanted it to, so we had to reshoot. When we were done, there was enough improv mixed with the scenes to literally craft a whole separate movie. With “Talladega Nights” and “Step Brothers” and most likely this movie, we haven’t cut any storylines. You could do a director’s cut. The first cut of this movie we had was four and a half hours long. It’s not fun to watch. We tried to even do a two-hour cut, and it worked, but you could feel it drag in certain areas. One-forty is usually a good time for us.

MTV: Will has had some great onscreen pairings with guys like John C. Reilly and Danny McBride and others. What’s special about Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell together?

McKay: John C. Reilly is as good a partner as you could ever have. The two of them are so funny together. But the second I saw Will and Mark together, it was just a completely different energy. In a weird way, almost the last two guys in the world you’d expect to see together. That’s what made it so fascinating. Mark has the confidence of someone who could kick anyone’s ass in the room. And Will has the confidence of someone who doesn’t want to kick anyone’s ass in the room. The two of them together are instantly interesting. The big secret we knew is that Mark’s really, really funny. So it wasn’t as risky as it might have seemed from the outside, because people associate him with dramatic roles or action stuff. I loved him in “I Heart Huckabees.” I thought he was hilarious in “The Departed,” and I thought he was really funny in “Boogie Nights.”

MTV: Did you find he was willing to take risks and sacrifice himself for the good of getting a laugh?

McKay: Absolutely. He gets the joke. He knows what he’s messing around with. I think his theory is that anything that can be parodied about you should be shaved away anyway. I don’t think he minds going after the fluffy parts of his own image. We had him do some crazy sh– in this. He danced ballet. We got him a ballet coach and he learned moves. There wasn’t one moment where he was like, “Come on guys, I can’t do this.” He would do anything.

MTV: This one’s a lot more action-oriented then your past films. Is there one action scene you’re particularly proud of or that was tough to pull off?

McKay: You know, a lot of the trimming we’re doing is around the action. We shot some cool stuff with this shootout in a conference room that’s sort of super-slow-mo. It’s borderline kick-ass. We did this crazy scene on Chelsea Piers at the driving range involving a helicopter and insane explosions. But the best thing we do is the comedy and the specificity of the writing and the absurdity. As good as the action is, Zack Snyder or James Cameron still do action that’s way better.

MTV: You’ll just do your three-hour alien epic as your next movie…

McKay: Believe me, I’m game! The coolest thing we shot was actually not an action scene but a night of hard drinking with Will’s and Mark’s characters. It’s a 100 percent stylized visual thing with no dialogue and using some motion-capture stuff you’re talking about and this still-frame technology. It gets a lot of laughs.

MTV: How did you convince Derek Jeter to sign up for his cameo?

McKay: Of all the cast we got for this movie — and we got some pretty tremendous people — Derek Jeter was the most essential get for the whole movie. We wrote it into the script that he was a major part of the story. He’s a fan of Will and the movies we’ve done in the past. He’s a fan of Mark. The crazy thing is [the Yankees] won the World Series, and we’re shooting a scene about 10 days afterward. I’m like, “How does this guy come off that — there must be crazy parties, he must be exhausted — and then show up and have his lines memorized?” Sure enough, he was there and he was game. Professional athletes tend to fall into one of two categories. They’re either super-conceited and standoffish, or they can be sweet and nice. He’s definitely a sweet guy, very unpretentious. His girlfriend [Minka Kelly] is beautiful and just goofy and nice. He’s a fan. He’s hosted “SNL.” He’s got that sincerity that just works if he’s delivering a line straight. He’s an old-fashioned baseball star.

MTV: Paris Hilton also shows up at one point …

McKay: It’s an ongoing joke in the movie that Mark keeps getting in trouble — arresting the wrong people or trying to save people but doing the wrong thing — and we have this final climatic scene where he needed to save someone. There were a bunch of ways to go with the joke but ultimately I thought, “If he saved Paris Hilton and didn’t know who she was!” The trick was she had to make fun of herself because the joke is a slam on her. Fortunately, we’d worked with her before on Funny or Die. I said to her, “You always look good taking a jab at yourself.” She was cool enough to get it.

MTV: Any other cameos we’re gonna see? Any folks in the McKay-Ferrell family who might show up?

McKay: There are a lot of people in this movie. People I even forgot are in the movie. There are people that even show up for, like, four seconds in the background. We wanted to have this Manhattan, exclusive feeling to it. There’s sort of a Bernie Madoff-type villain. We wanted wherever he was to have celebrities. So in random scenes, you’ll just see notable people in the background.

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Other Guys.”

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