Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski Yammer About Screenwriting
an interview by Daniel S. Duvall
© 2017 Daniel S. Duvall – all rights reserved
In the entertaining introduction to the published version of their screenplay Ed Wood, Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski describe the titular director’s posthumous fame as “a classic American success story: an eccentric individual achieves immortality, simply because he wouldn’t bend to tradition.”
Alexander & Karaszewski know about avoiding tradition. In an Industry that encourages endless recycling of familiar stories and genres, these two guys don’t just seek the path less taken; they create altogether new paths by writing unpredictable stories about esoteric people and situations. While the multiplexes entertain the masses with the latest batch of serial killer potboilers and computer-generated spaceships, Alexander & Karaszewski quietly craft their unique scripts in their Beverly Hills office. A biopic about an Angora-obsessed grade-Z filmmaker widely hailed as “The Worst Director of All Time?” Another biopic about an uneducated pornographer who became a multi-millionaire while redefining the legal definition of free speech? Who could have predicted green lights for projects such as these in a town flooded with pitches that begin “It’s X meets Y” where X and Y are any given “event” films that grossed at least five times their budgets?
Ed Wood and The People Vs. Larry Flynt are page-turning scripts that yielded two of the better films of the 1990s. Alexander & Karaszewski initiated both scripts, and the resulting films firmly cemented their reputations as skilled storytellers who can shape biographical material into compelling screenplays. Thanks to this reputation, the guys landed a gig to write an Andy Kaufman biopic.
Man on the Moon takes their craft to the next level. While most scripts give the reader an objective clue about what’s “really” happening in the story, this script has the same effect that Kaufman’s presence had on audiences. Just when you think you’re in on the joke, you realize that you’ve pulled the wool over your own eyes.
At the end of this interview, Alexander & Karaszewski discuss the writing of a comedy that they directed. Released under the title Screwed, the project was known as Foolproof when I spoke with the legendary writing duo via telephone in the autumn of 1999.
“Maybe those moon men are on to something,” opines Screwed’s emasculated protagonist as he watches “an old scratchy Sci-Fi Christmas movie” in which Martians plan to kidnap Santa Claus. It is on page nineteen of a May 1998 draft that Willard Fillmore, the overworked servant of a verbally abusive pie mogul, plots revenge: he will kidnap his tyrannical employer’s beloved dog (Muffin) and demand a million dollar ransom with the help of his buddy Rusty, a professional fryer of chicken.
This plan is destined to spiral badly out of control, for Willard and Rusty are characters in a script by Alexander & Karaszewski, writers who excel at devising complications that escalate exponentially until their heroes are, well, screwed.
“Obsessive, unpleasant characters who just refuse to back down or listen to common sense [are] a recurring motif through most of our scripts,” Alexander notes in the interview below.
In Screwed, at the end of the first act, the plan goes massively awry as Ms. Crock (Willard’s abusive multimillionaire boss) finds the ransom note (“PAY US ONE MILLION DOLLARS OR HE’S A DEAD DOG”) and assumes it is Willard who has been kidnapped. (Muffin, unnoticed by Willard or Rusty, escapes and returns home approximately one minute after the guys wrangle him into Rusty’s van.) When Willard and Rusty realize what has happened, they fleetingly consider giving up. Then they decide that a man is worth more than a dog, so they send a new note: now the ransom is five million dollars. Wackiness ensues: I don’t want to spoil the hilarity of the second and third acts, but be aware that Willard and Rusty eventually set out to acquire a corpse to keep their ever-evolving plan viable.
At various points in the project’s development, Screwed was titled Ballbusted, then Pittsburgh, then Foolproof. The film is the directorial debut of Alexander & Karaszewski. In the section of the interview about about Screwed, I’ve left the references to the title Foolproof intact.
First, though, Scott & Larry regaled me with anecdotes about how they wrote Man on the Moon, how that project evolved in the editing room, and their screenplay for a live-action Jetsons film that as of July 2017 has not been produced and at one time had Joe Dante attached to direct.
The following interview with Alexander & Karaszewski took place in mid-October of 1999 – near the end of the twentieth century!
Daniel S. Duvall: Did you originate the Man on the Moon project?
Scott Alexander: A lot of cooks can take credit for having the idea first. We had the idea right after we wrote Ed Wood. Miloš [Forman] says he had the idea after he saw Andy perform about twenty years ago. Danny [DeVito] had always thought it would make a good movie. Even Jim Carrey says he wanted to make this movie, too. So a lot of people happened to get together in a room and say, “Hey, what about a movie about Andy Kaufman?” Just sort of a Jungian synchronicity.
DSD: How did your process differ from Ed Wood and The People vs Larry Flynt?
SA: This is the only job we’ve ever gotten without a meeting. With every other movie, we’ve either written on spec or gone into an office and done a pitch: “Here’s what’s going to happen. Here’s what it’s about. Here’s the problem, and here’s the first act, the second act, and the third act.” With Andy Kaufman, it never happened. Because of our other biopics, people trusted us. Danny and Miloš called us on the phone, and we said “Okay,” and then Danny called Universal, and Universal said “Okay.” And then the check showed up, and we had the job without meeting anyone. We felt that Danny and Miloš are pretty smart guys, and if they say there’s a movie there, then there certainly must be a movie there. But their job wasn’t to write the movie; that was our job. So suddenly we realized that we were on our own, and we got a little scared because we hadn’t figured out the story at that point. So we started acting like journalists and interviewing people and trying to figure out the three acts.
Larry Karaszewski: On Ed Wood and Larry Flynt, we actually knew the story we wanted to tell before we did the research. We did months and months of research, but we had an outline, and we did the research to plug into the story. Andy Kaufman was the first time we agreed to write a movie, and then had to start from scratch and totally figure it out. We really were lost. There was no book on Kaufman at the time.
SA: As opposed to the seven that are out now.
LK: Correct. We started interviewing every person who knew Andy. Anyone who worked with Andy, or anyone who had dated Andy, anyone who grew up with Andy. Family, friends, colleagues. The more we interviewed people, the more lost we became. Every single person that came in was sort of describing a different person. After four or five months of this we didn’t know what to do. We were looking for our Rosebud, something to explain the real Andy Kaufman to us. We ended up taking Lynn Margulies, Andy’s girlfriend, out to lunch one day. She mentioned that she had once thought about writing a movie about Andy but could never really figure out how to do it. We said, “We’re just looking for the real Andy Kaufman.” She said, “There is no real Andy Kaufman.” And that put the lightbulb in our heads. That would be the subject of the movie: no matter how much you think that you’re on the inside with Andy, he’s a person who’s not happy unless he’s wearing a mask.
DSD: As you sorted through all your interviews and research, how did you settle on the key events for your broad outline? You seem to be fans of Syd Field.
LK: Our material and our subjects tend to be very strange and avant-garde, but we put the Hollywood formula on top of it so that the studios have a comfort in knowing that while the story may be odd, it plays by traditional Hollywood rules.
SA: In terms of making index cards, it was easy to do a first broad pass and say, “What’s every famous thing Andy ever did?” Just throw it all out there. Then you start getting a sense of the key events of his life: he goes to college (which isn’t in the movie), he meets George Shapiro, he moves to L.A., he gets a job on Taxi. You start mapping out the obvious stuff. But because Andy’s life was about trickery, we could just completely deconstruct the chronology of his life. The order never really mattered; it just became a sense of trying to move the cards around on the big table and say, “What feels like a three-act structure?” Also, we wanted to include a lot of the famous routines, but we didn’t want the movie to simply be an in-concert kind of movie: we had to give each of those routines a dramatic structure and a dramatic purpose. That helped us a great deal in structuring it. Andy had certain routines that were funny and essential to the movie: Mighty Mouse, wrestling, Carnegie Hall. We had to figure out a way to make those events fit inside the drama so that you weren’t simply watching a person on stage re-creating Andy’s act, but there was some kind of dramatic arc going on that particular evening for that particular sketch. We did it almost like an old-fashioned musical. If you watch Singing in the Rain, they managed to work in a moment where Gene Kelly has to take voice lessons, so that motivates him to sing that song, and it becomes a production number. It’s dramatically motivated. It wasn’t just like a concert film, or a film about a comedian like Lenny where you’re just cutting to [Lenny Bruce] on stage doing his routine. We wanted to see, like, now Andy’s having a mental breakdown backstage, and what he does on stage will be a catharsis for what’s going on in his real life, even though it’s probably all made up by us. Also, a lot of the routines are big con jobs of one kind or another because Andy was all about manipulating reality. For every routine we had to figure out, are you seeing this through Andy’s eyes, or through the family’s eyes, or Zmuda’s eyes, or the audience’s eyes? Is the audience in the movie theater in on the joke, or are we tricking them? A lot of times it had to be something like the family watching Andy on live television so you get the sense of danger through their eyes, as they were worried about their son being injured, so it plays like drama.
LK: It’s sort of an odd movie in that it is a portrait of one guy, but the movie quite often intentionally has to go outside his head, or make you think you’re inside his head, and then it turns out the movie’s tricking you. We wanted the movie itself to feel like an Andy Kaufman routine. The movie feels Kaufmanesque. In a weird way, it’s similar to what Bob Fossey did with All That Jazz, where he turned his life into a Bob Fossey musical. We’ve turned Andy’s life into an Andy Kaufman routine.
DSD: That often comes across in the screenplay within individual scenes that seem to be heading one direction in tone, and then there’s a quick bit that makes you reframe or question the reality. Like when he’s in the wheelchair at the airport. The scene is very sad and poignant, and he seems to be genuinely frail and sick, but then he makes a wry aside to a fan who suggests he add an I.V. bag to the chair: “That’s good. I’ll use it on Letterman.”
LK: I like that scene. I wish it were in the movie.
DSD: What about the moment when Andy’s sister notices that the alleged Cedars-Sinai doctor is wearing old tennis shoes?
SA: That got in, but we had to fight for that one. That was an editing room thing, where Miloš was like, “This scene we can cut shorter.” There was a big bloody battle over the shoes.
DSD: That moment seems essential to keep shifting the reality around, to plant the question of whether or not the guy is a real doctor.
SA: It’s a weird movie: because the script had so many pieces to it, in a sense nothing was essential. We’ve never had a movie like this, where you could make a fight to include or to cut out anything. The movie could work with or without any given scene.
LK: I’ve never worked on a movie that was more liquid in the editing room. Different versions didn’t resemble each other. It was weird: depending on which set pieces were in or out, it became an accumulative effect, which is “What do we think of Andy?” If he was too nasty too many sequences in a row, what might have seemed more charming in the script might have turned him into sort of a jerk in the film. Then you could pull out one of the set pieces, and suddenly there’s a quick tender moment with him and Lynn, and he seemed sweeter. Whenever you have the lead character in a film, you really want to try to understand this person and get under his skin and learn who this person is so you know how he’s going to react. With Andy, that was impossible. In fact, I would say that the thesis of the movie is that you will never get to know this person. No matter how many times you think you know the real Andy, you’re not even close. When that is what the movie is about, your movie is set on shifting sand. It was very difficult to get a hold on who the guy was. Sometimes that was enjoyable, and sometimes it was confounding. We had to find the right balance. People seemed to get a kick out of how disorienting the script was, how it’s sort of fun and entertaining, but you always have butterflies in your stomach because you never really understand if this is true or if you’re just being jerked around some more. The final movie has less of that, because it wears an audience out after a certain point. Audiences need more of an emotional investment.
DSD: In addition to the fight over the doctor’s shoes, were there other notes from the studio or Forman that you strongly disagreed with?
LK: Lots of battles.
SA: Battles like you have on any film. We were very much a part of the process. What’s great about Miloš, and with Tim Burton [on Ed Wood], is that everyone was allowed to express an opinion. There was a lot of give and take.
LK: What was different on this movie is people got very protective of Andy, which certainly never happened with Larry Flynt or Ed Wood.
DSD: People like Kaufman’s family?
LK: It was more like shifting sand; as the months of post-production went on, people kept switching sides. Sometimes people would fight for the movie, and sometimes fight for Andy’s memory, or fight for the scenes that Andy would have liked. Or, “Oh no, Andy wouldn’t like that, we have to cut that out.” Or, “I don’t know what Andy’s dad is going to think of this.” The producers of the film are friends of Andy. George Shapiro was his manager. Bob Zmuda was his writer. Danny DeVito worked with him for years on Taxi. We never really worked on a film where the people whose lives we were examining were also the producers. So a lot of times the arguments got a lot more emotional. People got more worked up on this movie fighting for what they thought was right than on any other film we’ve done. You’ve read the script; the big battle was over the closing shot. The closing shot was in and out and in and out of the movie repeatedly, because there were all these arguments over whether it was too sophisticated an ending versus an emotional ending. Sophisticated versus emotional: what makes for a better ending? One version was the Kaufmanesque version, and one version was the emotional catharsis version.
SA: And people kept jumping sides. It worked either way.
DSD: Do you really miss any scenes that were cut prior to shooting or filmed but edited out?
SA: Something that sort of bums me out that isn’t in the final movie is the way Andy made street theater part of his everyday life. We interviewed millions of people, and all of his friends brought up the same issue; if you wanted to be friends with Andy, you had to be prepared to just go with anything. Just to walk down the street with him, you had to be prepared for anything strange to happen, to go with the flow. If you couldn’t handle it, you couldn’t really live in his orbit. He was constantly trying to confuse or upset or mess with the heads of complete strangers in the vicinity. In the longer draft, there was a lot of that. But the movie got shorter and shorter, and it just all fell out of the film, which is a shame because it was a big part of his everyday existence.
DSD: Are there any specific cut moments you wish you could restore?
LK: I have affection for those scenes, but I’m happy with the way the movie plays now. In general, we are not screenwriters who want directors to throw stuff back in. We’re usually the guys saying, “Make it a little shorter, make it a little quicker.” But there is beautiful stuff in Andy’s life, like him going on Fridays and pretending to be a born-again Christian. That was a great sequence that just wound up never being shot.
SA: Though it does appear in the Newmarket Press publication Man On The Moon. In the final film, Andy seems to do the majority of his deconstructions on stage. There’s a rubric of performing officially. There was a lot more of the [street theater] in the original script.
LK: When he fools other people, it’s just the immediate cast. We had a lot more of him just going nuts on the street. There are scenes of him doing these antics, but it tends to be with Zmuda and George Shapiro.
DSD: So the scene in which he answers a fan’s letter, goes to meet her, and panhandles during their date got cut?
LK: The first half of that scene got shot, where he’s screwing around with the girl, but not the part where he panhandles. But even the part that was shot is not in the movie.
DSD: Possibly on the DVD.
LK: Yeah, I think Miloš is going to be aggressive with the DVD and throw in a lot of the Kaufman stuff that the fans will really like.
SA: We spent a bunch of time in the editing room in New York, and it’s sort of comical how often Miloš would bring up the DVD before we even had an actual final cut of the movie. He was worried about, “We’ve got to make sure we keep this cut of this other scene for the DVD.” It’s sort of funny too: Ed Wood was a book, Larry Flynt was a book, and now Man on the Moon is a book. It helps us in the cutting process when we’re trying to get the 175-page version of the script down to the normal shooting length of around 120. We say, “Let’s lose that scene but keep it for the book.” At least you know that somewhere somebody will know that you wasted all your time and effort on a scene that’s actually pretty good, but doesn’t fit into the big picture. The first draft we ever showed our producers was around 170 pages, but there was a longer version that they never saw. Doing the book, we put in alternate scenes that nobody had ever seen except me and Larry just because we thought it would make our producers scream with shock to open the galleys and read scenes they never even knew about. When you do the research and the work and you like something and then cut it out just because it doesn’t fit the final form, you still want to have an audience somewhere.
DSD: Did the casting of Jim Carrey affect your rewrites at all?
LK: No, not at all.
DSD: What was your time frame for writing the script?
SA: It took forever. It took us a year. My God, these last two biopics, Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon, each one took a year for the first draft, which is just an extraordinary amount of time to spend on a first draft screenplay.
DSD: During that year, were you focusing just on that project?
SA: Yeah. A lot of it was the months of tracking people down and doing all the interviews, and then organizing all the research, and then a couple months of saying, “This will never work.” Somewhere around month seven or eight, we finally started writing. We always end up with these long drafts because the biopics take so long to write that by the time we finally have a printout, we feel bad that our employers have been waiting so long. So even though it’s too long to shoot, we feel obligated to turn something in just to reward them for their patience.
LK: Also, we feel it’s better to get everyone’s input into at least one cutting round. When you have Miloš or Tim, who have to direct, we like to give them the script and see what they’re reacting to.
SA: Jersey [Films] was great. At about 150 pages, Danny said, “Let’s go shoot. We don’t need to cut it.”
DSD: Was there ever a point on Man on the Moon where you were ready to walk away from it, or was it pretty enjoyable all the way through?
SA: There was a point where we were trying to structure the script, and we called up our agent and said, “This movie’s not going to work. Tell Universal they can have the commencement money back.” He told us we were fools and lazy and shiftless: “Just pound out something. It’ll be fine.” It was the toughest script we ever had to write, so there were times when it felt like we would never see the end.
DSD: How does your time frame for writing the biopics differ from your time frame to write a completely fictional spec?
LK: I’m not sure the last time we wrote a fictional spec, actually.
SA: I think we were nine years old.
DSD: Looking back on your past few projects, would you change anything if you could travel back in time for one final rewrite?
SA: Maybe condense the fund raising in Ed Wood. I don’t know. Life’s too short to travel back in time. Maybe we should have killed the kid at the end of Problem Child.
DSD: Do you ever do any uncredited script doctoring?
LK: Never. Absolutely not.
SA: We’re morally outraged that you would even ask that question. No, we do, once in a while.
LK: Yeah. We become really very grouchy when we’re juggling work, and directing Foolproof put us way behind on our writing obligations. Neither of us finds working on someone else’s script emotionally satisfying.
SA: We got a kick out of working on Mars Attacks! because we love working with Tim Burton. Tim brought us in, and at the time they had sort of a ludicrous start date when they thought they were going to start shooting. They were taking the whole script apart and trying to add a million jokes, and we killed ourselves working on it for a few months, and then the budget was too high, and they pushed the start date back, and we had other obligations and had to leave it. The first writer came back on and sort of put back a lot of his stuff. It probably ended up being sort of unsatisfying for everybody. We didn’t get credit. Most of the first half, we added a lot of goodies. I wish in hindsight we’d been able to stay on that movie. Taken it all the way through. But we would have ended up on it for three years.
DSD: How does the day-to-day experience of working in The Industry differ from how you imagined it when you were students at USC?
SA: It’s much more of a traditional grind, traditional work. We go to work every day, write our scripts, and go home and play with our kids. It isn’t that life-changing. We rarely interact with the glitz of Hollywood. Once in a while we get a movie made and go down to the set. Ninety, ninety-five percent of the time it’s just me and Larry sitting in a room.
LK: Looking at each other.
SA: Which is certainly never how I envisioned my adult life.
DSD: Do you have any pet projects that you would love to make if someone handed you a huge budget and no creative restrictions?
LK: We’ve been very lucky in that our dream projects have gotten made. When we were toiling in the Problem Child days, we sort of had a gleam in our eyes like, “If only someone would make that movie about Ed Wood that we’ve talked about. Or that crazy idea we have for a movie about Larry Flynt.” Those would have been my answers ten years ago, and in the past ten years those movies have gotten made.
SA: Our next biopic is about the Marx Brothers, which is a subject that’s been dear to both of us since we were little kids. We’re attached to direct it.
DSD: What was the story and approach you took on your Jetsons script?
SA: We loved the script we wrote.
LK: It’s a damn shame that it didn’t get made. It was a few weeks away from production, and the plug got pulled. There were production offices. There were sets being designed.
SA: It was a great concept. What if you have a futuristic world where machines do everything and people have gotten complacent, and on page thirty all the machines break down? We thought it was a hell of a good idea for a Jetsons movie.
LK: Jane Jetson now has to make breakfast for the first time instead of pushing a button. The space cars don’t fly. Nothing works.
SA: The problem with all these so-called franchise movies is they take famous characters from a cartoon or TV series or a comic book, and then they give them these arbitrary plots. They tend to be about the dad losing his job, or a real-estate company taking the land that the house is built on.
LK: They’re all about real-estate speculation for some reason. We said, “If we’re going to come up with a Jetsons movie, let’s come up with a premise that’s about the concept.” The premise became the machines stop working.
SA: We’re proud that we gave The Jetsons a real plot.
DSD: Was that intended to be live action?
LK: Live action. Joe Dante was directing.
SA: The experience probably soured us on big, expensive mega-production kind of movies. The two we worked on, Jetsons and Mars Attacks!, just became so exhausting and so terrifying.
LK: Suddenly you’re getting notes like, “Does it have to take place on that set? Because that set’s going to be too expensive to build.” Which is the sort of note you never get when you’re writing Ed Wood.
SA: There’s too much synergy. The Burger King people are going to be reading the script, and things like that. That just doesn’t interest me as a filmgoer or a filmmaker.
DSD: The Burger King execs can actually have creative input?
SA: The input gets really weird. On Jetsons, they had this Academy Award-winning production designer who designed these gorgeous sets. They were just amazing looking. They were so beautiful. And the studio’s note was, “It doesn’t look like the cartoon.” Of course it doesn’t look like the cartoon: that was a cheap, two-dimensional Hanna-Barbera drawing.
DSD: This might explain why Scooby Doo has been stuck in development hell for years.
SA: Sure; dogs don’t talk.
DSD: Were you going to have Astro in The Jetsons?
SA: We solved that problem, too. We actually came up with a way to make Astro talk. And the studio wanted a big cartoon blue dog.
DSD: Of the writers working in the Industry today, whose work do you admire?
SA: I thought Kario Salem’s script for the HBO movie Don King was terrific.
LK: I thought Alan Ball’s script for American Beauty was really good.
SA: We love Albert Brooks. Particularly his early films, which are obsessed with obsessive, unpleasant characters who just refuse to back down or listen to common sense. That’s become a recurring motif through most of our scripts.
DSD: Are you pretty settled into features, or would you take a TV deal if someone offered one?
SA: People are always trying to make us write a thirty-minute pilot, but I don’t know. What do they do every week?
DSD: You’ve turned down sitcom offers?
LK: It’s an open-ended offer. “Come in with something, boys. What have you got for us?”
SA: We’re happy doing what we do.
DSD: How did Foolproof [released as the film Screwed] originate?
LK: Foolproof was a pitch that we set up back around ’92 or ’93.
LK: Was it? I don’t remember. It was actually the last script we wrote before Ed Wood. We really had very little in mind except to try to be funny. At some point while we were writing the Andy Kaufman script, Norm MacDonald had read [the project ultimately titled Screwed] and loved it and was trying to get a bunch of people to make the movie.
SA: It’s probably going to surprise people when they see it because it’s so dissimilar to the biopics. When we were making it, the movies we kept talking about were the crazy comedies of the ‘30s and the mid-1940s. Particularly, Universal made a lot of these films; the ones we like were directed by a guy named Edward Cline. He did some of the WC Fields pictures, like Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. He made these completely absurd fast-paced comedies about these nutty guys trying to do something ridiculous. They’re sort of shameless, the way they’ll do anything to go for an absurd joke.
LK: And also, I’m sort of a fan of pure comedy as opposed to plot or heart or romance…
SA: We do have a plot.
LK: But so many comedies today get taken in by heart and romance that slows the movies down. We just wanted to make an old-fashioned Marx-brothers kind of movie along the lines of Duck Soup or Horse Feathers or Monkey Business, the really insane ones, as opposed to after they added the opera songs and things like that.
DSD: Were you writing it with the intention of directing it?
SA: Originally no. It was a pitch where we sold it as, “We just want to write the funniest film imaginable.” It’s certainly the most convoluted script we’ve ever written. It’s convoluted for the sake of being convoluted; that’s sort of the joy of the movie.
LK: It’s a screwball farce.
DSD: Do you remember about how long that took to write?
SA: A few months.
DSD: Why the change in location from Atlanta to Pittsburgh?
LK: Because Norm MacDonald isn’t a southerner. It was originally written for like a 68-year-old black man.
SA: It was written back when Driving Miss Daisy had come out.
LK: Right, so we thought like Robin Harris and Redd Foxx as two guys who sort of hate the world. And then Robin Harris and Redd Foxx died.
SA: So it became Norm MacDonald and Dave Chappelle. We picked Pittsburgh because the movie has to take place in an environment where jobs are hard to get and people have an edge of desperation. It’s probably more like Pittsburgh back in 1975, but Pittsburgh has always had that reputation as the place where all the steel mills closed down.
LK: It sort of led the whole class of men without jobs. Probably has no relation to the Pittsburgh of today, “City on the Move.”
SA: But technically our movie doesn’t have a time frame on it. Maybe the movie actually takes place in 1975. It just doesn’t say it.
DSD: Is it too late to add a graphic at the start? “Pittsburgh: 1975.”
LK: Never too late to change anything. We may even change the title. It’s such a loony film that we want people to know what they’re in for. We would love a title like the old W.C. Fields titles, like Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. Something that conveys the lunacy of it all. Throw Momma from the Train is a great title.
DSD: Whereas Foolproof could be the title of a bad made-for-TV heist movie.
SA: It’s unusual for a comedy in that it doesn’t really have a key concept. Most movies are like, “Adam Sandler is a water boy!”
LK: This movie is more a series of misunderstandings that just get bigger and bigger. There’s no sort of key five-second idea.
DSD: Kevin Smith only directs projects that he originates. Would you ever direct a non-Alexander/Karaszewski script?
LK: We’ve been developing some other writers’ work over the past year as producers, and a couple of those we’ve contemplated the idea of maybe directing. I think I’m into it a little more than Scott is. I actually think that writing and directing are two different hats entirely, and the idea of interpreting someone else’s work sounds appealing.
DSD: During the production of Man on the Moon, were there any Internet rumors that struck you as just completely off-the-wall or inaccurate?
LK: Yeah, there was this one that said “Andy Kaufman is dead.” Now where do they get a rumor like that?