As one half of the Farrelly brothers, writer-director Bobby Farrelly has been one of the filmmakers instrumental in shaping modern American movie comedy. Before the Apatow era, the Farrellys redefined the idea of raunchiness on screen, delivering multiple hits like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary while helping elevate performers like Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller to superstar status in the process. (Their unlikely influence on the mumblecore genre is also, apparently, not to be overlooked.)
This week, the duo’s latest — their take on the classic slapstick The Three Stooges — arrives on DVD and Blu-ray, which gave us the chance to talk with Farrelly about his all-time favorite films (and get an update on the Dumb and Dumber sequel).
Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975; 100% Tomatometer)
I’ll never forget when I saw Jaws in the theater, the impact it had on me — so much that I wouldn’t swim in a swimming pool for the rest of the summer. [Laughs] And I enjoyed so much hearing later how Spielberg had had a hard time working with the shark, so they had decided to not show the shark, and instead use the music, you know. The way they did that was just incredible; the way they would shoot so that you’d see just the shark’s point of view instead of seeing the shark itself. It taught me, as a feature filmmaker, how important music is and involving all your senses and all that. So that’s my all-time favorite movie — Jaws.
It really was a stroke of luck that things didn’t go right on that film.
[Laughs.] Right. It really was. And I’m reminded too, as a filmmaker, that stuff happens when you’re making a movie — so you’d better be thinking quick, and sometimes you can turn it to your advantage. The filmmaking process is never gonna go as easily as you hope, so you’d better be ready for some curveballs.
Did you ever experience a happy accident like that on one of your movies?
We’ve had a lot of happy accidents over the years. I remember when we were making our very first movie, Dumb and Dumber, just because when we started, we started in May, and the story calls for winter. It was a particularly warm spring, and we thought, “Oh my god, it’s not gonna look too wintery.” So we went to the highest mountain we could find, which was Estes Park in Colorado, and the night before we planned to shoot we had a foot and a half of snow — and it was everything that we needed. So we got lucky that time. That was a big break for us.
That is one of my favorite comedies of all time, I have to tell you.
Oh thanks. We’re right now working on the sequel, which is 20 years later with the same guys, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. We’re hoping to be shooting it this fall. It hasn’t been easy to get off the ground, but we’re still hoping to be shooting in the fall.
I heard you guys had hit a glitch with the studio, yeah; but everyone wants to do it — both Jim and Jeff?
Yeah. Yeah. Jeff’s at a point in his career where he’s got a lot of stuff going on where he’s got that new show and, you know, he’s really at the top of his game right now. So we would love to get those two guys back together. And it’ll be almost 20 years later, so with those two characters that seems like about the right time for a sequel. I’m glad we didn’t do one the next year or two years later or something like that. Twenty years later we can have a lot of fun with we’re they’re at.
Will they have changed at all? I hope not…
Very little personal growth. [Laughs.] Very little. That’s who they are. [Laughs.] They don’t have a lot of character arc in their story or in their lives. You know who they are, and they’re pretty consistent.
The Sixth Sense. I don’t know if you’d call it a horror movie — the genre’s not really my cup of tea, but I heard people say “You gotta go see this movie The Sixth Sense.” I was blown away, ’cause I took it hook, line and sinker. I never saw that ending coming. I was one of those guys. M. Night had the hook in my mouth. He shot it in a way that, when I go back and look at it and knowing what you didn’t know the first time, I just think he did a masterful job with that movie.
I tend to agree. I’d heard nothing about it, and the ending got me.
Yeah. I’m so glad I didn’t know. I went with some friends in Texas, where I live and — [laughs] — on the way home in the ride, one of them still didn’t get it, and we had to explain it. [Laughs.] And this was an intelligent person. But it was just so well crafted, you know; it really was well done. And I think a lot of people have tried to imitate that storytelling, but it’s hard to do as well as he did it in that movie.
I think I gotta go with that old stand-by, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Love Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Love the — you know, it’s the two guys. It’s what me and my brother specialize in, the two guys. Well, in the Three Stooges‘ case it’s three. But the relationship between two guys like that, I don’t think it’s been done any better than with Butch and Sundance; particularly with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The way they worked in so many different things, from comedy to romance to action and the way it’s so beautifully shot and, you know, a great story. And they didn’t pull the punches at the end. If you made that movie today, I’m sure that you’d do the test screenings and somebody would raise their hands and say, “We want them to get away at the end!” But they didn’t get away at the end. Today you’d have to re-shoot the ending where the guys go off on some secret beach somewhere and live happily forever — ’cause that’s the way audiences kind of demand it. But with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, of course, they met their demise at the end of the movie, and they had it coming ’cause that’s who they were. I just think it was a beautiful movie.
I love that era of downbeat endings in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Directors were getting away with all kinds of stuff.
Yeah, it was a good time for filmmakers. But again, they didn’t have the test screenings. In today’s day and age, you kind of have to give the audience what they want. They demand it, and so there’re an awful lot of endings that fall right into a particular category. They want a happy ending, so people walk out and they’re happy — but not all stories in the world have happy endings, and that’s why I love some of the ones that leave you, you know, without the traditional ending.
[Laughs.] They’re classic, I know — I’m not really picking ’em deep from my quiver — but I’ll go with The Godfather. I can watch it any day, any time. The original Godfather. The sequels were good, but the original Godfather was masterfully done. All those characters who you come to know; 30 years later you still talk about Sonny Corleone. It really sticks with you. It just felt so real. I’d read the book before I saw the movie, and usually when you read a book and then see the movie you say, “Eh, the movie didn’t live up to it,” but on that one I really think that [Coppola] captured it. Just a powerful, powerful story. And it felt real. I’m not really a fan of violence, but in that movie it didn’t bother me in the least — because none of it felt gratuitous, like they were just doing it for effect. I really believed it was the lives that those guys lived. I really thought it was just a beautiful movie. All those tremendous actors in it, too — years later, you realize he did a pretty nice job of casting it.
Especially when you think about who the studio had wanted, too — Robert Redford as Michael Corleone was one suggestion, I think.
Yeah I know. [Laughs.] I bet they were. Sometimes you gotta go to the man on some of these things — and the studio does have their reasons for wanting to cast people. Generally they want the guys that are seemingly the hot ones at the time. But I can’t imagine recasting that movie and making too many changes. They certainly got the characters right.
I gotta get a really good comedy in there, and I don’t know if there’s ever been a better comedy — for my funny bones — than Animal House. All the laughs they crammed into that movie — I don’t know that it’s been beat. All the different characters; the way you basically, again, you like the anti-heroes — you like the guys who were in college and they were the slackers and all that. Just so many laughs in that movie. For me, if I’m flipping through the channels and I see Animal House on, I could sit down and watch that movie at any time, any day.
Does that movie describe yours and Peter’s college life?
Well, we were closer to those guys. [Laughs.] Closer to those guys than the guys in the good frat. [Laughs. ] We were not particularly good students. We certainly, you know, tried to have a good time when we were at college — and we both succeeded. [Laughs.] We weren’t “frat” guys, but if we were to join one, we probably would have been in the Delta House.
The Farrelly brothers’ latest, The Three Stooges, is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.