Bruno Mars and director Cameron Duddy were determined to make “Gorilla” more than a standard strip-club video … so they decided to do an exhaustive amount of research in order to get things just right. Making videos is hard work, after all.
“Me and Bruno went to probably seven or eight strip clubs, you know, for research,” Duddy laughed. “We’d be in there on, say, a Tuesday night, we’d walk in, and the few people that were actually in there were watching the dancers, but we’d be looking at the architecture of the place for inspiration. And then we’d have our one drink and leave.”
Ultimately, their search for the perfect strip club proved fruitless, so Mars and Duddy decided to build one of their own: a joint that seemed like it was lifted straight out of Havana, dark and sweaty and seemingly untouched by time. They painted the walls themselves, and went back and forth on just what color neon they should use … and, as someone who’s worked with Mars plenty over the past few years — Duddy had directed several videos for Bruno, including “The Lazy Song,” “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Treasure” — none of that was even remotely surprising. Turns out, he’s a stickler for details.
“I don’t know when Bruno sleeps, if he does at all. He’s the hardest-working person I’ve ever worked with or met,” Duddy said. “He pays attention to everything; he’s the one who came up with the basic idea for this video, when he was rehearsing for his tour in, like, Cleveland. We’d have conversations about it, then later, he’d call me at 2 a.m. and be like ’We gotta do this.’ or ’We need to add that.’”
And one of those late-night suggestions was the casting of actress Freida Pinto, whose turn as bad-bitch stripper Isabella has certainly had folks talking since the “Gorilla” video premiered on Tuesday. In hindsight, her addition to the video seems like a stroke of genius … but Duddy admits that, at the time, he was having his doubts that she could pull off the role.
“I’ve got to tip my hat to Bruno for that one. We wanted to do a stripper, and we wanted a name, but there were no other names thrown around besides Freida Pinto,” he explained. “And I said ’Aw man, she’s so safe, it may be difficult if you go that route.’ And he was like ’Listen dude, it’s important to the video to use someone who hasn’t been seen in this light before.’ It was a gamble, and I wasn’t all the way sure about it, but I trusted his instincts …and he was right.”
And once on set, Pinto threw herself into the role — “She’s an actress, so for her, it was about grasping her character’s background, and then getting up there and doing it,” Duddy said — and even subjected herself to harm in one of the video’s key scenes: when she sheds her clothes amongst a sea of sparks. Luckily, she came out unscathed … though the same can’t be said for members of Mars’ band.
“It was dangerous for sure! Ask Bruno’s guitar player,” Duddy said. “He got dangerously close to having his head burned; in fact, I think there is a small hole in his afro. We had pyro on set, we had an iguana on set, we had Luis Guzman and Bruno’s dad, all these dangerous characters with switchblades and stuff.”
And while he’s got plenty of of stories from the making of the video, Duddy wouldn’t weigh in on the debate that’s arisen since “Gorilla’s” debut: Namely, was that really Pinto working the pole, or did she use a stunt stripper?
“Oh, man,” he laughed. “I wish I could answer that, but this is where I hop off the phone!”