Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan are teaming up in a cop comedy, Cop Out. The two actors sat down with Buzzine to discuss their on-screen chemistry, keeping things funny, and work that they would like to do in the future.
Emmanuel Itier: Bruce, when you decided to do Cop Out, was Tracy Morgan already a part of the package?
Bruce Willis: I think the studio already had their eye on Tracy, but it was a laugh-out-loud script; it was a really amazing script that I literally went back and read three times to make sure what had made me laugh out loud -- what could still make me laugh out loud. It was the script by the Cullen Brothers. This is their first feature film.
EI: Did you see your Cop Out character as possibly a cross between your Die Hard and 16 Blocks characters -- the frazzled cop versus the action hero?
BW: No, but I know it's your job to try to find linear connections like that. I've done a lot of cop pictures, and other actors have too. (Director) Kevin (Smith) will tell you, "Oh, it's 60 percent action and it's a throwback to Lethal Weapon, and it's an homage to the action pictures of the '80s and '90s..." We've answered this question a lot, the comparisons to 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon, but it's not that. We may be the first mixed-race buddy-cop film that made the choice to ignore the whole racial issue. We never played it. Not one time. Never thought about it. It was never written in the script. It was never done; we just played it like friends.
EI: Is it a bromance between the two of you?
BW: I hate that word. I know it's the new catchword.
Tracy Morgan: The love is there.
BW: That was exactly what I was going to say. The love is there without having to put a label on it. We could talk all day, but you can't put a label on a relationship that two guys have [who] have to protect each other's lives every night. Every night, they are on the job and get shot at. If Paul (Morgan) gets hurt, I've got to save his life. If I get hurt, he's got to save my life. If you want to call it bromance, call it bromance.
TM: Basically, it's like Ralph & Norton meets Starsky & Hutch. [Laughs] I think that was the glue that solidified the movie.
EI: Was there a lot of improvisation while filming?
TM: For us, it was easy because it was already funny once it was on the paper, so it was just playing in character. Bruce and I made it seem like it comes across as improv because, before we started shooting, Bruce and I had a couple of talks and we gave these guys history, so that made us so much closer to the characters. By the time we started shooting, I was already Paul and he was already Jimmy, so it was easy for us.
EI: Can you talk a little about your chemistry together? Did the two of you shoot some scenes together before it was cast to make sure you worked great together?
BW: No, we never did that; we just rolled the dice. It was love. We did some improv in almost every scene, every day, but that doesn't mean the improvs we did on camera is what this film is comprised of. We would always go back and look at the tape and say, "What worked out of this improvisation? This worked. A worked, B worked, D, E & F didn't work." So then we went back in and cobbled it into the script. So it was done with a lot more thought. A lot of thought went into it than just a line or two...except for that scene with Seann William Scott in the back of the car. No one can do that. [Laughs] No one could write that scene. That was just genius.
EI: Can you predict chemistry?
BW: You cannot predict chemistry, that's for sure. Tracy and I...I don't know what you would call it. It wasn't an audition because we had both already gotten the job. We were already working, money was being spent on the budget...
TM: You said something yesterday: "Had there not been chemistry the very first take, we would be having a very different conversation right now.”
BW: We might not have been sitting here together. [Laughs] We clicked immediately, and on a lot of levels and in a lot of ways, we found that our timing was effortless. There's a lot of overlapping dialogue in the film between our characters. I've worked with actors who can't do that...at all. They just get flustered.
EI: Would you like to name them?
BW: No. [Laughs]
TM: We are going to stay professional on that one.
BW: But about five minutes into that first master, I just said to myself, "Thank God.”
TM: I was calling him Jim.
BW: We were already in character, working, and whether that scene got to live in the film is neither here nor there. It's just the fact that we won and that we showed ourselves that we could work together and make it look effortless.
EI: In this movie, you make a joke about your character from Die Hard. A lot of audiences don't like when actors spoof themselves...
BW: Unless they are laughing so hard they can't really get upset with it. Had it not been funny, I would have said, "Maybe we should take this out," but it was funny; it got a laugh. I've been around long enough, I think, that I've earned the right to make fun of my own films.
EI: How did you keep a straight face working with someone as funny as Tracy? Even when he's eating corn chips, he gets laughs.
BW: It's impossible. That corn chip scene should have taken five or six minutes. It ended up taking close to an hour. [Laughs] They like the way I do that...what do they call it? Slow-burn attitude. [Laughs] The most important fucking thing is happening in the world right now, and he asks, "Do you want to eat some corn chips?" It was great. It's just great timing
. EI: Tracy, you have been having great success with 30 Rock. Is Cop Out your chance to hit it out of the park with a mainstream movie hit? Do you see it that way, as an opportunity?
TM: Absolutely. Working with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin was getting me ready for this opportunity. To work with actors like Alec Baldwin and Tina is great, so by the time I got to Bruce, I was sort of relaxed going into it, so it was good. EI: Tracy, you really embraced the jealous husband aspect of your character's role. How did you make it seem so believable?
TM: I was married for 21 years, man! So, you know where I grew up, jealousy is abundant. I come from the 'hood, I come from the ghetto, so you know that as soon as you let your girl's hand go, there's a dude right there, so you gotta hold tight. But growing up the way I did with the abandonment issues or whatever, I think that was Paul's whole thing right there -- his abandonment issues. Maybe emotionally his mom wasn't there so he didn't want his girl to leave. That's what I drew from "I'm just jealous." It's like John Lennon said in his song, "I'm just a jealous guy.”
EI: Bruce, is there a genre or type of movie that you would like to do that you haven't?
EI: What about a musical?
BW: That's the one thing that I clearly haven't done.
EI: We all know you are a great singer.
BW: I don't know about that.
TM: If you are joining The Lion King, I'm coming to see you. [Laughs]
EI: Would you like to do another installment of Cop Out?
BW: I would love to.
TM: I would love to do another one because I love working with Bruce. He made me feel really at home doing my funny. He said, "Just do you and you'll be great," and that's what I did. I called him The Chief, like Robert Parrish who played for the Celtics. He was The Chief. I follow him into battle. I'm going with him.
EI: Tracy, since you are known as a comedian, would you like to do drama?
TM: I'd love to do a great drama. I would love to cry on film. I think I could do it. But right now, I'm just really getting affiliated and associated with the funny, so I am not looking to do anything dramatic right now. I'm embracing the feeling of being one of the funny guys.