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"I see one insane, dysfunctional family after another [in the Bible]," he told MTV News. "To take someone with a contemporary consciousness and put him in that situation at the origin of all our worst social and political and religious issues and have them comment on it could be a very funny movie."
Thus, laughs — not biblical accuracy — became the driving force for screenwriters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg ("The Office"). Instead of Holy Scripture, influences skewed toward old-school comedy: Monty Python's "Life of Brian" and Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner's "2000 Year Old Man" recordings. Ramis maintained that another comedy set in ancient times — Brooks' "History of the World, Part I" — did not serve as an inspiration.
"I think we'll be filling people's heads with some terrible misconceptions," Ramis laughed. "I'm sure we'll end up being protested."
The only problem for would-be protesters might be choosing which scene to get huffy over. The first people Black and Cera run into are Cain and Abel (Paul Rudd and David Cross), who get into a ridiculous, vicious brawl leading to Abel's painfully slow death ("The violence begins!" Ramis laughs). Then there's the dynamic, played for laughs, between Abraham (Hank Azaria) and his son Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), whom Dad's been instructed to sacrifice. And finally, Black and Cera end up in the city of Sodom, where they contend with a pedophile priest. The Sodom set was reconstructed, ironically, in the heart of the American Bible Belt.
Ramis knew from the start he wanted Jack Black to play one of the lead roles, but when producer Judd Apatow pitched Michael Cera for the other main part, Ramis replied, "Isn't he, like, 12 years old?" Then Ramis watched scenes from "Superbad" and realized, "Wow, the kid's amazing."
The actors' almost 20-year age difference didn't matter at all. "Jack is so completely juvenile and Michael is sweet, but he's mature beyond his years," Ramis said. "They were great together."
"Year One" comes out June 19, in the middle of a summer packed solid with sci-fi reboots and big-budget sequels. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" appears just one week later, but Ramis isn't concerned about his film's box-office prospects.
" 'Transformers' is worried," he joked. "[Michael Bay is] scared."
"I think we're sandwiched," he added with a shrug. "It's like driving a Smart car between semis on the expressway!"
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Check out everything we've got on "Year One."
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