Interview: ‘Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’ Co-Director Jorma Taccone on How Steven Spielberg Helped Make One Great Joke Happen
Posted on Friday, June 3rd, 2016 by Jack Giroux
The Lonely Island joined forces 15 years ago. Instead of waiting around and struggling to find work, the trio — Jorma Taccone, Andy Samberg, and Akiva Schaffer — began generating their own, which led to them working on Saturday Night Live. “Lazy Sunday,” “Dick in a Box,” “Laser Cats,” and their other digital shorts are some of SNL’s most memorable sketches from the past decade or so. The Lonely Island has always had a talent for music as well, a skill that’s on full display in their latest project, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
Samberg stars as Conner4Real, a pop star struggling with ego and failure, and Schaffer and Taccone co-star as his former bandmates. The trio co-wrote the film, and Schaffer and Taccone also co-directed. Taccone, whose last feature was MacGruber (he’ll make the sequel “before he dies,” he promised), was kind enough to discuss Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping with us.
Below, read our Jorma Taccone interview (minor spoilers are ahead).
Taccone: Sorry, we’re just trying to figure out phone stuff. How are you?
It’s no problem. I’m doing good, thanks. How about yourself?
No, it’s all good. I’ll bring this over here. I’m sorry, I’m just trying to be relaxed, sitting on the couch while I talk to you. All right. Here we go, this is great. Oh man, I’m so relaxed. You’re going to feel it in the interview. You’re going to go, man, this guy’s relaxed.
[Laughs.] It’s obvious over the phone you’ve got a good energy going.
Thank you. We’re doing a lot of press, so I’m slightly punchy.
[Laughs.] I understand. The noise that Owen’s (Taccone) helmet makes, is that a sound effect from War of the Worlds?
I’m so glad you brought this up, because yes, it is the sound from War of the Worlds. From even the moment we saw the trailer to that we were like, “Holy shit.” That one and the Prometheus trailer just had the best, clearly made for those movie sound effects, that we were like, there’s nothing better than this.
We don’t make mention of it, but nothing else would do. They tried to replace it. They told us we’d never get the rights to this. We were told we would not get the rights to many things in this movie, but we were told absolutely no way [for this]. We had made a “Laser Cats” on SNL and Steven Spielberg was in it. We were also friendly with his daughter through our buddy. We had contacts with him, called his office directly, asked for permission, and got an email confirmation from him, and that was good enough for the lawyers at Universal. I’m sure we had to pay some amount of money, but it had to be approved by Steven Spielberg, which is very funny.
What else was difficult to acquire the rights for?
One of the other things that we were told immediately that would never happen was with this one joke at the beginning of the movie. There is a mention of a former DJ of ours, who is played by DJ Nu-Mark and it’s mentioned that he went off to Japan to hunt dolphins at one point. There is a picture that we use that is directly from the documentary The Cove, and we were friendly with the writer of that movie. We were told by the lawyers, whose job it is to protect the film, and good on them for that, and… They were like, “You want us to get the rights from the Oscar Award-winning documentary The Cove?” We actually contacted them personally again and got the rights to the photo. We did a lot of that.
There was a lot of like going out, using every personal relationship we’ve ever had, or a third party, a friend of a friend kind of relationship to be able to be able to get the rights. We had to approve a lot of stuff like that. So you’ll notice there’s a cutaway of Justin Bieber and Jay-Z, and those obviously have to be approved by those camps. We hope they’ll take it into account that Bieber’s a supporter, and he’s worked with us before. He’s been nothing but kind to us. We feel the same way about him.