Last week we attended a press conference for director Todd Phillips upcoming comedy Due Date starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis and there was an interesting, albeit entertaining dynamic between the three gentlemen who were not always so kind to the others in the press conference. Downey with his quick wit and self-confessed ego seemed to enjoy taunting and at times even mimicking Galifianakis’ having trouble remembering his lines on set.
All and all there was a rather interesting vibe in the room and you got the feeling the three had a bet going on as to who could get the best jabs in. See for yourself…
Zach and Robert, this film deals a lot people being out of their comfort zones, where are you most comfortable?
Zach Galifianakis: (Mumbles) My comfort zone is press conferences.
Robert Downey Jr.: Conversely mine actually is press conferences.
Robert, how much fun was it to gut punch that kid and what was it like working with kids in general?
Downey: 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, ‘Ha! Yeah, yeah. Anyway…’ He goes, ‘No, I want you to spit in the dog’s face.’ I said, ‘That’s so definitive,’ and he goes, ‘I know but I think that 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. There was a question there somewhere but I’m sure whatever I said was far more entertaining.
(One of the many examples of Zach being picked on by Robert…)
Zach, did you have a problem with spitting in the dog’s face? That was your dog.
Galifianakis: Well –
Downey: Jesus Christ, dude. Answer the question.
Downey: Yes or no. That dog made you sick.
Galifianakis: Oh, I didn’t like the dog. But I don’t think, 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 –
Galifianakis: That’s right.
Downey: That’s exactly right.
Which of you would be more likely to breakup horribly in the middle of a take and Todd can you weigh in with a verdict?
Downey: Let me put it this way, I’m eighty five 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.
Todd Phillips: Yeah. Zach doesn’t really break up. He’ll read his line halfway and he goes [cough] and start over.
Downey: 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 forty five years to answer one question. He’s trying to think about what the answer is and then he stutters and then he
judges himself –
Phillips: And then he starts over and that would make Robert laugh.
Downey: ‘Sonny stop it, we’re going to be late…[clearing his throat], Stop it sonny, we’re going to be late [clears his throat]…’ I’m sorry, ‘Sonny, late we’re going be… Sonny, stop it. Stop it, Sonny. Stop it, Sonny, we’re going to be late. Stop it, Sonny, we’re going
to be late.’ and I’m just there, like, ‘This is an anthropological study.’ ‘Now what are we supposed to do?’ ‘When will you be done? That will be my cue.’
Galifianakis: 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.
Now them ganging up against the press…
This movie is about fatherhood, becoming one and losing one. Can you talk about fatherhood for a moment? Why did that story resonate with you and with the rest of you?
Downey: Don’t answer that, Todd.
Phillips: I refuse to answer that question.
Galifianakis: I’ll tell you. No. It actually is very personal, maybe –
Robert, were you channeling a bit of Todd in this role, especially in the look of your character?
Downey: Well, I’m actually glad that 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 kind of attitude and his anger is covering that fear and stuff,’ and we like to commiserate. We’re genuinely pretty happy guys but we love just 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 just hash it out. 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.
Can you talk about how you worked out or developed the scenes together on this and how much was in the script and how much was improved?
Phillips: Well, the way that we worked it out is the way that I’ve done it on all my movies, but this film in particular had an interesting process because Robert has a very producorial brain. He’s basically another writer in the room. Zach is really an empty vessel. He just sits and waits. No. But Robert and I had lots of spirited discussions every morning about [it.] We had the pages and he’d go, ‘Okay, what are we really doing?’ Not to discredit the writing process which I was a part of, too –
Downey: It was a great script which just made me hate it all the more.
Phillips: Yeah. Robert has an aversion to things that are typed, I’ve learned. So even if we just rewrote the actual scene on a napkin, even if it was the same scene, he felt better about it. I’ve said this before, he made me a better director and the reason for that is that he’s constantly challenging what we’re doing everyday in the larger, bigger picture. A lot of times you hear about actors and they’re worried about their lines and their thing and Robert thinks of the movie as a whole. He thinks of every character as the whole and that’s what I mean by a producorial kind of approach to it. For me it was an unequaled experience. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I think that was the process. You witnessed a lot of it.
Galifianakis: Yeah. I think that each morning there was a meeting. I would read the minutes from the last meeting. ‘Todd yells. Robert Yells back. Lets get on with the new meeting.’ No. There was a discussion for at least about an hour each morning it seemed like, sometimes longer –
Phillips: Sometimes three.
Galifianakis: Yeah, and it really helped it. It really did.
On the topic of making a sequel to this film, Galifianakis comes up with an interesting idea…
Galifianakis: As far as the franchise stuff goes we were kind of fantasizing on the last day certainly that I was working – and it was towards the last scene or it was the last scene at the hospital; there was a moment and I don’t know if you recall it where Ethan says to Peter, ‘Call me.’
Downey: Okay, yeah.
Galifianakis: Then I’m like, ‘No. Call me tomorrow,’ whatever I say. We were fantasizing, like, 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.
Downey: An elaborate ruse -
Galifianakis: This whole time and I then stalk Robert’s family.
Phillips: I thought what you were going to say and what would be interesting is if you just pick it up from a minute later. Instead of jumping a month or a year that it’s literally from that moment that you left. That would be fun.
Todd were you always intending on showing up in the film?
Phillips: I wrote myself in that morning. It was never in there.
Downey: By the way, what is it that you’re whispering to Juliette Lewis? I’ve been trying to figure it out.
Phillips: That is called great acting. It’s understated.
Downey: Unintelligible, yet to me the best single line in the movie because I can’t even tell you what you were saying.
Phillips: I said, ‘Did you remember to tape “Judge Mathis”?’ She says, ‘Yeah, it’s on there. Just look on the menu.’
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?
Downey: 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, yeah, because you could say this is a two dimensional commercial comedy. I feel that this is the second greatest story ever told.
The first being?
Downey: Oh, come on! The Bible.
Thought Zach did get some punches in as well…
Can you talk about Juliette Lewis because she’s had a great year of cameos. If you did do the ‘Cape Fear’ thing would she be in it?
Phillips: She would but I don’t think that Zach could fit his finger in her mouth.
Downey: You got to hand him the baton there. (Zach pauses and Robert gets antsy) Do you want a piano?
Galifianakis: At least my father didn’t leave me. Okay? News is out. That’s what the father issue is about. There it is.
But the mocking continued…
Zach, how was it being on the set of the greatest television show of all time, ‘Two and A Half Men’ and while we’re on the topic, do you have any advice for Charlie Sheen right now?
Galifianakis: I’ve only heard a little bit about what happened Charlie Sheen but I want to congratulate him, from what I’ve heard. Be nice now that the holiday season’s coming up. But that sitcom acting is tough. You have to hit your mark. It’s a tough thing to do, the sitcom.
Downey: I’m sorry. You have to hit your marks? That’s the challenge?
Phillips: It was a lot that day for you to memorize and do right on the spot. We showed up and we were shooting it fifteen minutes later and it was a little bit like Zach getting thrown into their world.
Downey: Within the context of that show I thought that it was a very strong cameo –
Galifianakis: Thank you. I’m going to be on next season.
Phillips: Those guys at ‘Two and A Half Men’ were great to have us and they understood the tone of the movie and take part and it was really fun to do.
The again the two did seem to have a bond…
Robert and Zach, what do you think is the definition of friendship and you seem to have an off friendship now?
Downey: To me friendship means loving tolerance.
Galifianakis: I think that Robert and I formed a friendship on this movie, albeit a very antagonistic but fun relationship. He’s really kind of 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.
And now to end on a high note, after all the teasing Robert did give the two a nod…
Robert, can you talk about being a part of so many franchises and if this film does well possibly doing another sequel or franchise?
Downey: Yeah. That’s what I need is three franchises so that 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, but I think it was just the most healing project that 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.
Phillips: Did you all get that?
Galifianakis: And don’t forget about the part before that which I thought he was talking about you the whole time.
Watch the two tear each other apart in Due Date, which will be in theaters November 5th.