Five Favorite Films

Five Favorite Films with Get Smart Director Peter Segal

The Get Smart director talks about his movie education.

by | May 12, 2008 | Comments

Peter Segal, WireImage

Director Peter Segal has spent time with The Klumps, gone on 50 First Dates, and lived through Anger Management. This year, the go-to guy for summer comedies is gearing up to Get Smart, the spy spoof update starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, and Alan Arkin that’s out June 20. Read on to find out Segal’s five favorite movies as told to RT.

The Godfather: Part II

I’m sure this is on practically everyone’s list of favorites, but if I’m being totally honest I have to start here. I’ve made sequels and I know how hard they are to do well. The fact that this movie won Best Picture is a testament to how successfully Coppola topped his own masterpiece. The flashbacks are pure genius, and give it a completely different feel from the first movie.

I’ve watched this film probably more than any other, and have learned so much from it. How a character can deliver key information in a wide master with his back to the camera… in very dim light? I can imagine the studio notes: “I can’t see who’s talking. Where’s the coverage?”

Dr. Strangelove

A masterpiece. Kubrick is one of the most fascinating directors of all time. The fact that this movie sits alongside 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining in his filmography is mind-boggling. Peter Sellers was so understated.

This movie constantly reminds me how comedy is funnier when you ground it in real circumstances. The more dramatic the stakes, the more you can mine laughs out of people who have to squirm through those situations. I still try to emulate Kubrick’s sense of editing and composition. I patterned a war room scene in Get Smart after the one in Strangelove.

Young Frankenstein

Talk about a movie that holds up… this is the king. I remember the first time I saw this in Westwood when I was a kid. I’ve never heard an audience go that nuts before in a theater.

This movie, probably more than any other, made me want to do comedies. It’s so grounded and faithful to the Boris Karloff version. That’s what makes it so great. Mel stayed within the boundaries of the original, and then pushed it an inch further for the laugh. That’s what he did with Get Smart [the TV show], too. He took the premise of James Bond and pushed it that same inch. It’s such a delicate balance… and one that he has mastered.

The Natural

This movie is my ultimate guilty pleasure. I’ll admit it, when Randy Newman’s score kicks in as Redford’s final homerun is blasted through the stadium lights into the stratosphere? I don’t just have chills, I’m a weeping bag of tears and snot.

I love everything about this movie: Caleb Deschanel’s spectacular cinematography, Randy Newman’s iconic score that I ripped off from the opening tree house shot in Tommy Boy, to Barry Levinson’s amazing direction. This movie is magical. I love stories about second chances, and this movie epitomizes that.

The Right Stuff

Whenever I watch this movie, I want to go out with my son and fire off an Estes rocket in the back yard. I love this movie. I love what it stands for — exploring the unknown and our deepest fears. I love the era: the space race with the Russians. I love the heroism — Chuck Yeager had the biggest pair of balls of any man. Ever!

The greatest lesson this movie teaches is the balance of tone. Obviously it has some incredible drama and action, but it also has straight up comedy. It’s really hard to juggle those three things in one movie. Harry Shearer and Jeff Goldblum are the perfectly understated comic relief guys. Fred Ward, who I got to work with in Naked Gun 33 1/3, is hilarious. This movie has it all.