A Futile and Stupid Gesture Review

Just a couple days ago, Sundance played this Robin Williams documentary [Come Inside My Mind], which is going to be on HBO at some point. And it reminded me of something that your film also maintains, which is that like cocaine was a hell of a drug at one point. It ruined a lot of lives, and took a lot of people away. I wouldn’t say you glorify it, but you at least remind us that, for a little while, it was about having fun before it started destroying worlds. Was that a tricky thing?

David: That was the tricky thing. You can’t tell the story without it; sometimes we wish we could. Because it’s almost a cliché in a movie of this time: “And then they got into drugs, and then they went down.” It almost seems like we’ve seen it. So how do you tell the story that doesn’t feel like you’ve seen it before, in the right way? And you’re quite right, it was fun for them, and it was part of the fabric of what was their exciting time, moving to LA, being a movie-maker, and doing tons of cocaine. That was what it was.

Peter: In that time period, there was nothing known about it being destructive. It was like drinking a beer or having wine. You’re just doing a line of coke, and it was completely recreational, with absolutely no information. So it was an ignorant yet innocent time of drug use.

David: Times have changed to the point where neither Will Forte nor I had ever one speck of experience with what cocaine’s all about at all. So, we actually hired an old friend of mine who is a recovering addict to come in and teach us a little bit about it.

One of the other challenges with making this movie is to not make it a colossal bummer by the end. Again, I think the way you use Martin’s character diffuses that possibility. Plus, the memorial scene ends things on a nice note. Was that something you had to worry about, as things in your characters’ lives are falling apart?

David: Well I thought that was one of the really brilliant touches that Colton and Aboud came up with, which was just how to end a movie that basically, spoiler alert, ends with someone dying in such an early, tragic, senseless way, on a somewhat positive grace note. Also, the great grace note of Martin Mull’s song at the end really makes me leave the movie happy. But it still is a bummer ending, and I don’t think we shy away from the fact that it sucks.

Peter: We wanted people leaving feeling good and inspired, but also, wanting to cry: I wanted to cry. And I felt like in a movie like this, you had to cry at least once. But I still leave feeling good about the fact that this man touched so many people. The legacy is just unbelievable.

Jonathan: There’s a line that Martin Mull says to Will Forte in that scene,”Look, if it’ll make you feel better, years from now, Caddyshack will be beloved. People won’t shut up about it.”

Peter: “They’re kind of annoying about it.”

[Everybody laughs]

Jonathan: And that line always makes me think, there are people, especially people who make movies like Doug did, who are driven by creating a legacy that outlasts them. But is there any fulfillment in that if you are not aware of that legacy?

David: That’s a question for God.

Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah. He’s died before Caddyshack became what we know it to be. So Dous doesn’t know the legacy, but we gave him a chance to find out in that scene.

Was there any thought given to how Doug might have told this story, presumably the unconventional way that he might have told his own story?

David: That was our original seed. I think the very, very first obvious ideas of  “We’ll start when he’s born, then we’ll take him to college, and da-da-da.” But in our earliest discussions, we were like, “Well, wait a minute. Doug Kenney wouldn’t approve that.” How would we tell it in a way that he might’ve gotten a kick out of? That was the launching point, from my memory.

Peter: But also from that story point, we tried to be fearless in telling. He was somebody who was fearless in the way he looked at the world and the way he just would put things on paper so quickly and intelligently and brilliantly. It’s one of those things in thinking about it, talking about it, even using the modern Doug storyteller was something that we had a lot of conversations about. There was a fearlessness to it a little bit like “This is something that we think maybe Doug would be like, ‘Fuck everybody. I don’t need to know what’s going on. Let them hear the story.’”

Was there anyone who was a part of this scene that you spoke with that was particularly helpful?

David: A lot of people were extremely helpful. That was really nice. Everyone gave varying degrees of help and insight into Doug and to the time. There were a few people who said that that was a closed chapter and they’d rather not go back there. But of course, everyone has their perspectives too, which was always interesting.

Peter: When we were making the movie, we heard from a lot of people that wanted to be heard from, because we were trying to be very reverential to the people that were still alive in telling the story. So each of the actors, for the most part, we put them in touch with their alive counterparts, if they wanted to have a conversation. Some did, some didn’t, as David said. Some didn’t want to relive that time and just wanted to leave it where it was. Some were happy to talk about it. Then, the players like the Henry Beards and the Matty Simmons, they were all very good resources of certain aspects of it. And Judy Belushi, people who were there, even Janis Hirsch, Tony Hendra, and all of these people.

David: Rick Meyerowitz.

Peter: Yeah, even people from the ancillary worlds, like some of Doug’s agents called. Some of his old producing partners and people that produced stuff or knew him and were friends, they

heard we were making the movie and just wanted to call and tell a few good stories about the people there. And we took ideas from that, and certain things that we put into the movie as a result of those conversations.

David: Even during the middle of a shoot, sometimes, we’d hear some little tip. I think it was mid-shoot, we heard, “Did you know that Chevy Chase had this brief case that was all decked out, with all the paraphernalia for cocaine?”

That might be the most damning thing in this movie, by the way.

David: [laughs] As soon as we heard that, we were like, “Props department!”

Peter: A studio executive, at one point, had a sign on his door that he literally put up when the guys were coming up for a meeting saying “Friend of Comedy.”

David: I will say, the making of Animal House alone would be a great movie. There’s so much there. Same with the making of Caddyshack. Same with the early days of SNL. There are so many side movies you could do. I would love to see these same cast members play the parts too.

Speaking of meeting with their counterparts, the one bit of casting that blew my mind on several levels was seeing Joel McHale as Chevy Chase. There are so many reasons that works. Physically, he resembles him at that time, the height, plus having had that access to him for so many years [both men were in the cast of “Community”}. Whose idea was that?

David: It was Joel’s idea.

Peter: Netflix, at the time we were making the movie, gave us a couple of things that they wanted as we moved forward, and one was “We don’t want to see famous people playing famous people. We don’t mind famous people playing unknown people or soon-to-be-known people playing famous people, but we’re a little nervous about famous people playing famous people.” And Joel, we had gotten a phone call from him about [playing Chevy Chase]…

David: I sat down with Joel, and my own instinct was Joel is a great actor, as well as a really funny and smart guy. And I really was like, “If he feels like he can handle this, I bet you he can.” That was where I took it. I had no clue that he would channel this character and play it so brilliantly.

Peter: He also did what we wanted from everybody, which was we didn’t want soundalikes, lookalikes, or just impersonators; we wanted people who embodied the spirit, embodied who these people were.

David: As it happens, he also looked and sounded exactly like him.

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