Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey, Jr. discuss their roles in what's set to be one of the most talked about comedies of the year. Buzzine hears how the stars of Due Date retain personality when submerged in movie franchises, on-set comedic antagonisms, and the percentages of professionalism. The two men detail a balance of personality within character creation, their focus on the 'now' of a moment, and just how many fingers some people can fit in their mouths.
Izumi Hasegawa: Zach, is this character closer to your standup persona than the other characters you've played?
Zach Galifianakis: No. I don't think that Ethan Tremblay is anything like me. God, I hope not. My standup is more like how I am in real life. I don't really do a character thing in standup. It's just a bunch of sentences that are supposed to be funny. This Ethan guy is a lot more complicated, I think.
IH: So there's a reason he says random sentences that end up being funny?
ZG: Yes. His reasons were not intentional. When you're doing standup, you're kind of doing, "Hey. I thought of this. This may be funny." But Ethan has no idea he's being funny, and I think people that are not self-aware and kind of a truck with no brakes are really kind of funny. He's saying things, but he doesn't understand why they're funny, which, I think, is inherently funny.
IH: Robert, how much fun was it to gut-punch that kid, and what was it like working with kids in general?
Robert Downey, Jr.: I love that we've actually gotten more push-back from spitting in a dog's face than punching a human child in the stomach. Those are the two things--Todd told me to do both of them. On one of them, on the day, he said, "You should spit in that dog's face." I was like, "Yeah, yeah. Anyway..." He goes, "I want you to spit in the dog's face." I said, "That's so definitive," and he goes, "I know, but I think people like you enough. I don't know if they will. Just spit in it's face." He loves dogs, and I actually don't like dogs, so I felt kind of horrible and splendorous doing it.
IH: Zach, did you have a problem with spitting in the dog's face? That was your dog.
RDJ: Jesus Christ, dude. Answer the question.
RDJ: Yes or no? That dog made you sick.
ZG: Oh, I didn't like the dog. But that doesn't mean it's okay to spit. Robert spit in my face every morning. Plus, the dog and I have a certain bond...
ZG: That's right. That's exactly right.
IH: Robert, were you channeling a bit of Todd in this, especially in the look of your character?
RDJ: I'm actually glad you asked that because I think that every time I feel that I really hit critical mass and I'm in the right place is when I feel like the director and I become a third thing, and that's the character. Even though the central subject of the movie is Ethan, the person who you're kind of seeing it through is Peter. Absolutely, and particularly when he said, "There's just a lot of hostility and there's a lot of fear," and his attitude and his anger is covering that fear, and we like to commiserate. We're genuinely pretty happy guys, but we love getting crabby together. And he is kind of like a hostage child that we've taken who's watching mom and dad, or dad and dad nowadays, just hash it out. But you're the first person who's asked that, and I think it's absolutely true. I always feel like I'm playing an aspect of the director, particularly when he's an auteur. To me, it's a way of almost making him a proud parent. I'm a bit of an appendage of some aspect of the director.
IH: Guy Ritchie?
RDJ: Yes. I just say yes to Guy Ritchie. Guy, in a way, a bit more of the kind of a British, smart, fighter-type thing.
IH: The film evokes Planes, Trains and Automobiles in its pairing and its plot. What classic road films were you thinking of as inspiration and/or templates for the film?
RDJ: Michelle was saying Wages of Fear quite a bit. I hope you guys don't blow up the studio.
IH: Can you talk about how you worked out or developed the scenes together on this, and also, if it does resonate with audiences, would you like to see a franchise out of this, or are your dance cards full?
RDJ: It was a great script, which just made me hate it all the more. Well done, by the way, fellas.
ZG: I think that each morning there was a meeting. I would read the minutes from the last meeting. "Todd yells. Robert Yells back. Let's get on with the new meeting." No. There was a discussion for at least about an hour each morning, it seemed like, sometimes longer, and it really helped it. As far as the franchise stuff goes, we were kind of fantasizing on the last day, certainly, that I was working–I can't remember–and it was the last scene at the hospital; there was a moment where Ethan says to Peter, "Call me." Then I'm like, "No. Call me tomorrow," whatever I say. We were fantasizing. I've never seen a movie jump genres. So the sequel would be more like a Cape Fear thing. My character is not actually dumb at all. It's just been an act...
RDJ: An elaborate ruse.
ZG: ...this whole time, and I then stalk Robert's family. That would be great.
IH: Can you talk about the franchise and the process, Robert?
RDJ: That's what I need--three franchises so I can utterly have a personality meltdown and no real life, but I would do it with these guys. I have to say, too, that there was something so cathartic, and as we all know from the writers and Michelle peripherally and our involvement in it, I think it was the most healing project I've ever worked on, and I've never come up against anyone who is so confident and so thoughtful and so spontaneous that it's not even daunting. He's just in a class by himself, and I think Todd is the best director that I've ever worked with, bar none.
IH: Often, modern protagonists get sanded down from focus groups into this kind of vanilla blandness. Was it refreshing to play someone with so many real and yet repellent moments in their arc?
RDJ: Absolutely, and I don't know why, but it was an invitation to me to get in to touch with everything that annoys me about everyone and all the fear I have about everything that everyone can relate to. So in a way, I felt like I was a conduit to this. It wasn't very pleasant. I'm sorry, by the way. I don't know why. I'm not a method guy. I can't be bothered to have a method. I just want to be a part of a good movie, and I can't stand to be surrounded by morons, but we had such a great group of people in the whole thing. It's funny because you could say this is a two-dimensional commercial comedy. I feel that this is the second greatest story ever told.
IH: The first being?
RDJ: Oh, come on! The Bible.
IH: Robert, how do you feel about Iron Man 3 going to Disney?
RDJ: Love it. What's that mean?
IH: That it'd be released under Disney's deal with Marvel?
RDJ: I really loved our relationship with Paramount, but to me, I don't care about any of that. They're going to make all those moves. I just want to make a great movie, and thanks to my tutelage under two guys who know how to play with power–Zach and Todd–I know exactly what to do with Iron Man 3. That was almost mad with power.
IH: Robert and Zach, do either of you have friends like the people you portray in the film, and what do you think is the definition of friendship?
RDJ: To me, friendship means loving tolerance.
ZG: I think Robert and I formed a friendship on this movie, albeit a very antagonistic but fun relationship. He's really very, very funny and he makes fun of people a lot, and for some reason, I like to be made fun of, even if it has to do with my fingers not fitting in someone's mouth. That's really hilarious.
IH: Zach, how was it being on the set of Two and A Half Men? And while we're on the topic, do you have any advice for Charlie Sheen right now?
ZG: I've only heard a little bit about what happened to Charlie Sheen, but I wouldn't want to congratulate him, from what I've heard. Be nice now that the holiday season is coming up. But that sitcom acting is tough. You have to hit your mark. It's a tough thing to do, the sitcom.
RDJ: I'm sorry. You have to hit your marks? That's the challenge? Within the context of that show, I thought it was a very strong cameo.
ZG: Thank you. I'm going to be on next season.
IH: Can you talk about how Sherlock 2 is going, as well as whether or not you'll be in Gravity? Zach, there's a viral video going around the Internet of an interview you did with a Dallas morning talk show guy, and it's very reminiscent of Between Two Ferns. Is that real, or is that staged?
RDJ: I don't want to waste time talking about other projects. Sherlock 2 is fantastic. We decided together we were going to do some viral videos to promote the movie, and then we could barely hit our ass with both hands just to even show up and do the regular press, but the idea was that we were going to have this double inner monologue going. We were going to walk down Venice Beach out to the sand and shake hands and then walk away from each other. That would only take an hour shoot, and then we were going to lay the most awesome double internal voice-over over it and it would've been–we'll never get to it–the greatest viral video of all time. So just imagine that we had the time to do that, and we're happy to comment on that because we'd like to know what it would've been.
ZG: I don't want to give away the thing. I think sometimes that spoils it if you know.
IH: Who's more likely to break up during a take?
RDJ: Let me put it this way: I'm 85 times more professional than Zach, but I was hoping that we'd have some good gag reels so maybe I'd chuckle a little bit more. He might not actually know how funny he is sometimes too. He has a ghastly tic. It's my favorite thing about him, to tell you the truth, particularly when we're doing press and it takes him 45 years to answer one question. He's trying to think about what the answer is, and then he stutters and then he judges himself.
ZG: I know my face is turning red. I don't want you to interpret it as being embarrassed. It's rage. The color of my face is rage.
IH: Can you talk about the opportunities that have opened up for you as a result of The Hangover? I saw people in costume as your character from the movie on Halloween last year. Can you talk about being an iconic character?
ZG: We were shooting Due Date in Albuquerque last year for Halloween, and I went to a Halloween party. I didn't really know anybody. I went with a couple of people from work, and I was just dressed like this, and there was a guy there dressed as the character from The Hangover. I thought it would be interesting to walk up to him and say, "Hey. You're dressed as me. I'm the real person." He goes, "Yeah, right," and he just walked away. So that was a bit freaky. As far as opening opportunities, Todd has told me, as of late, that I've never thanked him for anything, and I'm here just to say that I'm probably not going to do it today. In all honesty, it's strange to have a little bit of [fame]. Todd helped me. He took a chance, I think, in plucking me out of the standup scene, and nobody knows a movie is going to be so big, and we just got lucky and I'm thrilled that it happened.
IH: Your character, Robert, has an awful lot of insight into acting for an architect. Was that part of his background? Thinking about your character in Tropic Thunder, you seem to take great joy in poking at the actor's process. Is that true?
RDJ: I think Todd and I said his neighbor was a casting director. So it's like I tell you that the Guggenheim opened in '59 or whenever it was, '69. You tell me about what's going on, casting a show, and everyone wants to be an actor, but everyone knows that everybody thinks that they want to be an actor and has no chops... I think I'm worried for him, so my fear is that this moron that I'm stuck with...I'm actually trying to give him some insight. I'm just mad at him when I give it, but also--and this is a disgusting thing to say, and it speaks to my–it's not as bad now–my hugely inflated ego at the time--I felt it was my duty to teach this guy to fucking act. But he already knew how.
IH: Zach, we all know you as a comedic actor, but you have a pretty powerful scene in this film too. Was it hard to switch gears in that scene?
ZG: No, it's not. It's fun to do. I think probably, editorially, it might be difficult to put together. But if you can make people a bit emotional watching a scene and then make them laugh prior to that, I think you don't see it that often. I think Todd got it right, but the whole thing about that scene--the bathroom scene, I guess, is what you're talking about. To me, it's not so much what Ethan does but it's the look on Robert's face that I think sells that, as Robert told me yesterday.
IH: Has it been easy to get back into Sherlock mode?
RDJ: Sequels are always tough, but we have a great group. We're three weeks in and it's already pretty fantastic.
'Due Date' is in theaters now