Andy Fickman on "You Again" and a heavy metal "Heathers"
Fri, 24 Sep 2010 10:02:10
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You Again director Andy Fickman definitely knows how to make an audience laugh.
He pulls out all the stops in You Again—building two parallel rivalries that stretch back to high school between Marni [Kristen Bell] and Joanna [Odette Yustman] and Gail [Jamie Lee Curtis] and Ramona [Sigourney Weaver]. Within those rivalries are all kinds of hang-ups that started freshman year and still haven't been resolved. The humor arises from the simple fact that no one really grows up no matter how hard they try, and Fickman is fully aware of that. However, the director is not afraid to let the characters go to extremes, and that's where the real laughs come. Whether it's Joanna smashing dishes and dancing to Kriss Kross or a zany pool fight, You Again is an laugh-out-loud screwball comedy for a new generation.
You Again director Andy Fickman sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview why he didn't have to blow anything to make the film funny, some playlist picks and his musical adaptation of Heathers.
You Again hits theaters today from Walt Disney Pictures/Touchstone Pictures! Don't miss it!
What was it that you dug about You Again?
When I read the script, I found that the central theme was really universal. Then I was like, "Man, this could be a chick flick." I'd tell all of my guy friends about this movie, and I was waiting for them to say, "Are you going to blow something up in it? Can you blow something up in it? Is there a lot of nudity?" [Laughs] However, everyone was into it! Guys that come out of it relate to it universally too. I think the comedy's there. We got lucky.
Was your goal to strike a balance between the heartfelt moments and the hilarity?
Yeah, I didn't want it to just be a slapstick-y flick where everyone's bitching and moaning. I wanted there to be some real heart. At the end of the day, everybody has somebody from their past, and that makes it universal. I guess that dream is you can go up that person and be like, "You were a douche in high school! Now you're okay, but you owe me a beer!" [Laughs] That's opposed to my earlier thoughts of, "You were a douche and I ran over you with my car—several times!" To be honest, when I started meeting with our actors and interviewing people, every actor—from Sigourney Weaver to Jamie Lee Curtis—would sit and tell me these stories about things from their past. I realized, "Holy crap! You're Ripley, and you're talking about some girl who bothered you in high school! You could kill her!" Or I'd think, "You're Laurie Strode! You survived your brother who could get back up on Halloween! That girl cannot bother you anymore." To hear them tell these stories from 20 years ago was amazing. That's when I realized there is a lot of heart there. We had great actors who were able to bring it down to that next level when we needed them to.
Does You Again remind you of any songs?
Probably about 5,000 songs [Laughs]. I never put it in the movie, but "The Bitch Is Back" was always in my head. A lot of the songs in the movie like "Barracuda" came to mind like, "That's a good You Again moment!"
How did Kriss Kross's "Jump" get included?
That was one of those songs that we were always laughing at because it's a guilty pleasure [Laughs]. Then we went to the choreographer and said, "What if we could do 'Jump'?" Obviously, the girls dove straight in and had a great time. It was a lot of fun.
Those zany larger-than-life moments work really well in the film because the characters are so developed.
If you give life to your characters and an opportunity to play, it gives them the chance to do something just a little bit crazier than normal. I think great actors can do that. Peter Sellers was the master of being able to do something so surreally wonderful and then do something slightly tweaked. We got lucky with our actors because they could still hit the believability, but they're okay going a little crazy when we wanted them to.
You want to keep people laughing the whole time, and that technique works.
Pacing, pacing, pacing! It's like a rollercoaster ride. If you keep the audience laughing and having a good time, that's awesome. If you get too down into a lull where you have that 20-minute stretch of no laughter, it can become pretty awkward all of a sudden. Whatever the first laugh is better be a doozy to get everyone back up [Laughs]. I felt like that was an important aspect, and we had that in our mind from the very beginning.
The film captures the fact that nobody really grows up. We carry a lot of the same traits from high school.
I think everybody thinks of themselves in the 18- or 19-year-old space. I'm really not that different than I was when I was 20-years-old, which is probably the worst possible thing for the people I'm living with [Laughs]. I'm one step away from a kegger at any given point. Yet, I know that if I show up at the college now, I'm like that guy. Everyone would be like, "Dude, you probably shouldn't be having a kegger now." It's like, "Alright, I'll go watch CNN" [Laughs].
That spirit is the most important thing. You've got to cut loose, and the movie shows that.
When you send Marni back to the battle zone, she's stronger, looks better and she should slay dragons now. However, it doesn't take long to have her quickly drop back to where she was in high school and have the pettiness come up. I think that's what we all do though.
Even Joanna changes, she really doesn't. That new veneer is flimsy and constantly about to fall off.
I appreciate you seeing that. We're all a thin layer of what ourselves were. I'm the same nerdy kid I was in high school, and it's a thin line until I hit my total geekfest moment and I'm like, "I'll watch that Scooby Doo marathon right now!" [Laughs] I think people who were assholes or bitches in high school have an element that was their go-to protective mechanism. When push comes to shove, it's right there. When Marni starts pushing Joanna, the only thing that can come out is the old school high school girl.
It matches up with Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver's rivalry.
We're really excited about that, and I think it was one of the things that attracted me right away. I'd seen rivalries before, of course. However, when you add it at a different generational level, you realize it doesn't go away. It never became about a wedding. It was always about these problems that needed to be solved before the characters were able to move forward.
Hall and Oates always equals hilarious.
Yes! That's actually the encyclopedia definition [Laughs]. When you look for "hilarity," you find "Hall and/or Oates." The band are amazing guys! They read the script and got on the page right away in terms of where the comedy was going to be coming from and how the song had to be used comedically for the payoff. That was fun!
Who else is on your playlist?
I'm not going to lie. It's pretty eclectic. U2 and Coldplay are usually always playing. I'm from Texas so there's always something old school country. Jerry Jeff Walker is always there. Elvis Costello is always there. This past weekend, I listened to all of Bob Marley's Legend album, and I was having the time of my life in that mode. I can go very old school. At the same time, I'll be driving, toe-tapping and say, "This song's great! Who's this?" Then the radio will announce, "You're listening to Justin Bieber!" [Laughs] I've got "Bieber Fever," what!? Everyone has a little "Bieber Fever!"
I'm developing some different things right now. I do a lot of theater, and I'm doing a musical reading of Heathers September 13 in New York. Larry O'Keefe is doing the music for it. He did the music for Legally Blonde: The Musical and Kevin Murphy who did the lyrics and music for Reefer Madness. It's a good combination of Larry and Kevin. Dan Waters who wrote the original is involved. It's just as dark and crazy as the movie, maybe a little darker.
You could have Slayer score it too.
Heathers is scored by Slayer, or it's Megadeth's version of Heathers [Laughs]. You can't even get beyond Act 1 because everyone's dead. There is no Act 2! What would be the point? What are you coming back for? It's redundant [Laughs].
I'll go see it.
I want you there! Only Act 1. Act 2 is bloodshed [Laughs].
Will you be seeing You Again?
Check out Andy Fickman's "Revenge Playlist" here!