Farrelly Bros. Discuss Casting The Three Stooges

February 1, 2011 | In The News

Farrelly BrothersBOM: You resolved years ago that when you finally make The Three Stooges, it’s going to be PG.

Peter: We always assumed it would be PG-13 just for the hitting. It’s a lot of hitting. But we went to the MPAA in advance and showed them original Stooge clips and asked them, “What is this stuff?” They said it was just PG because they’re cartoony hits nobody believes, and nobody gets hurt. When we realized it was PG, then we looked at the rest of our script. You know, there’s no sex in the Stooges. You might have a woman come by with cleavage and the guys will go, “Nyung-ga-ga-ga!” But the last thing you want to think of is the Stooges as sexual beings. That would creep you out. So there’s no sex and there’s no language, so it’s a natural PG. One of the great PG movies of all times is Napoleon Dynamite–it’s not PG-13–and yet it’s hysterically funny. They didn’t have to do anything to make it PG. The way those people talk and live is PG. And that’s who the Stooges are.

BOM: Was it also important to be able to introduce the Stooges to kids so that they can grow up with them the way you did?

Peter: Absolutely. We’ll get made fun of for making the Stooges PG. And no matter what you do, there’s going to be groups saying, “How dare you! They’re icons!” But the Stooges were never given the A treatment. They were always considered B. They got B class treatment always. They never got the Laurel and Hardy, Marx Brothers treatment. They didn’t even get movies-they made shorts. For my money, I always found the Stooges funnier than those people and it’s sad that they never got the glory they deserved. They never made any money. They were lower middle class people and they died with no money in the bank. And yet, we love them and they’re hugely influential to us. We want to give them the A treatment they deserve.

BOM: I have an uncle whose entire basement is dedicated to the Stooges.

Peter: Yeah? I have a couple friends who are just the same. They literally have been collecting Stooge memorabilia for 40, 50 years. Their whole basement is loaded with everything Stooge.

BOM: His wife, my aunt, collects nutcrackers. She’s easily got 300 of them. And when he banned her from bringing any more into the house, she went to a craftsman and commissioned him to make Three Stooges nutcrackers. It worked, she broke his will.

Peter: That’s funny! That’s very funny!

BOM: You’ve had to answer questions about The Three Stooges for 15 years now.

Peter: I know-we finished the first draft 12 years ago!

BOM: How do you stay committed to a project for a decade and a half? What keeps you going?

Bobby: Just the belief that the Three Stooges were remarkably funny guys. It’s rare that I can watch comedies from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and still be laughing at what they did. Because comedy changes. That slip-on-a-banana-peel humor is always funny, it’s internationally funny. We think that those guys did it as well as anyone. We don’t want people to think that we’re trying to be better than the Stooges, but if we can recapture some of the comedy that they did and reintroduce them to a new generation of kids, it’d be a good thing. We know it’s a risky project because these guys are legends of comedy, but we hope we can do them a service.

BOM: It’s true, you have to balance two audiences: their audience and your audience.

Bobby: If anything, we’ll be more true to the original guys. We don’t want to just reshoot their old gags–we have to come up with all new gags–but we have to be true to Moe, Larry and Curly. We’re going to be as true to them as we can.

BOM: Any plans for Shemp?

Bobby: Maybe if we’re lucky enough that the franchise works, we could reintroduce Shemp down the road. I’m not sure. Shemp did come in later. No Shemp yet.

BOM: What’s that like to work on a project under so much scrutiny?

Bobby: We’ve had some great actors circling the project. That’s exciting. Sean Penn–we haven’t seen him do comedy in a long time. We like to open it up to anyone and anyone. We love good actors more than we love guys that you think of as comedians. When we cast Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber, he wasn’t the most obvious choice. But we thought that he was a brilliant actor, and if we’d written the script correctly, he’d be able to do that. We feel that way about all of our parts. But not everybody can nail those characters. You have to nail their look, and that’s tricky.

BOM: There’s been more ink dedicated to talking about it than Avatar. Just last month, there was a new rumor that Johnny Knoxville was in the cast, which you had to shut down. But the internet loved the idea of Knoxville�does that make you take a harder look at him?

Peter: We’re definitely considering him, but the truth is we haven’t chosen anybody. It could easily be Johnny Knoxville–it could easily be several guys–but we don’t want to give the impression that we picked anyone. We haven’t even met with Knoxville about it. But he is one of our all time favorite guys. We worked with him on The Ringer, which we produced, and he was fantastic to work with. I’d love to work with him again. To make this movie, you gotta have three really cool dudes doing it because they’re going to be slapping the shit out of each other. I don’t want somebody who’s going to flip out.

BOM: Jim Carrey said he decided he was too old to gain weight to play Curly.

Peter: He started gaining weight about a year ago and he didn’t feel very good. You could always put on a fat suit, but none of us wanted to do it that way, so he dropped out. We take a zen view of casting. If we had gotten who we wanted on Dumb and Dumber–I don’t want to mention names but it would have been way worse than what we got. We were lucky that 150 people passed on Dumb and Dumber, which led us to Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. Nobody could have beaten them. So that’s how I feel about the Stooges. Yeah, it’s disappointing when Jim Carrey, Sean Penn can’t do it. But in the long run, I know we’re going to get the best people. It’s just the way it is. You can’t control everything–and I try not to–because if you do, it’s only going to be as good as you could make it. As opposed to opening up the universe and letting something better happen.

BOM: The Stooges are over 80 years old. How will their humor work today?

Peter: They’re timeless. They’ll work in any time because of their physical humor. If you look at physical humor, it travels well and it ages well. You know what doesn’t age well? Verbal humor, repartee. It gets old because that changes. But hitting and slapstick and falling still work. Of all of our movies, I expect Dumb and Dumber will last the longest because of the physicality in it. And I think the Stooges are the same. I think we could have made this movie 50 years ago, 30 years ago, 10 years ago–we could make it 10 years from now–and it would still work. It’s not reliant on a wave of humor.

Box Office Magazine February 01, 2011 by Amy Nicholson