In an interview with MTV News, McKay talked about why the project interests him so greatly, why the movie will be anything but preachy, and why Jim Carrey or Ed Norton might be the perfect actor to play Atwater.
MTV: “The Other Guys” clearly has some political themes going on, and now we hear about this Lee Atwater biopic. Is Adam McKay maturing before our very eyes?
Adam McKay: Aw, man — I am doing “The Boys” next! So I don’t know if I’m maturing. But what draws me to the Lee Atwater story is the fact that he’s such a larger-than-life, massive, mythic American figure. He was a badass blues guitar player, and hilarious and charming, and had absolutely no moral center whatsoever. It’s a crazy story. I think it’s an opportunity for a great role for a big, powerhouse actor. There’s also no way you spend more than $10 million on that movie — probably we’re just getting $5 or $6 million. I like that too, which gives us a certain freedom. The final lynchpin was that we got Jesse Armstrong, who co-wrote “In the Loop,” which is one of my favorite movies. We’re getting a script written right now.
MTV: When I heard about the project, I checked out some photos on Google. He’s got a little Bill Pullman in him, maybe a little Mark Wahlberg too.
McKay: I thought Jim Carrey actually. Atwater went through a lot of phases.
MTV: He’s got a real boyish look going on.
McKay: He looks like Steve Spurrier, the football coach at South Carolina.
MTV: Exactly. There’s a little John Edwards too.
McKay: A little John Edwards — absolutely. The footage to check is him playing blues guitar at the inauguration.
MTV: With George Bush.
McKay: It’s an amazing Rome-is-burning kind of moment, but at the same time it’s undeniably fun. I’m sure when they partied when Rome was burning, that was a really great party. Everything this guy touched sort of changed the landscape of how leaders are elected in our country. And at the same time, there’s nothing preachy about our story. Lee Atwater is a great way to dig into how things have changed in a funny, disturbing way that’s not remotely preachy.
MTV: Are you going to send the script to Mr. Carrey?
McKay: His name came up early on. I thought he was such an interesting choice. He’s got that kinetic energy that Atwater had. I don’t want to handcuff myself. He’s a busy guy. And you could go the other way and go with Ed Norton.
MTV: When are you planning to shoot it?
McKay: If I’m done with “The Boys” by next fall — it would hopefully be the case, because Atwater isn’t that big — I’d just jump right into it afterwards. Maybe it’s only a 30 day shoot.