Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Another PP article
Steve Martin fills role made famous by Peter Sellers
A touch of Pink
Louis B. Hobson
February 4, 2006
HOLLYWOOD — Though he thinks he should keep it a secret, Steve Martin is tickled pink he’s the new Inspector Clouseau.
WHAT A JERK ... Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther, opening Feb. 10.
“My heart is so with The Pink Panther. I want to make another. I’m so happy with this film I feel, with hip replacements, I could go on forever,” says Martin.
Then he adds cautiously: “I’d love it to become a franchise but don’t tell anyone. I don’t want to jinx things.”
On Feb. 10 when The Pink Panther opens, Martin will be stepping into a role Peter Sellers created in 1963.
The bumbling French detective Jacques Clouseau became one of Sellers most memorable creations and a comedy icon.
Sellers revived Clouseau for A Shot in the Dark (1964), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Back (1976) and Revenge of the Pink Panther which he filmed in 1977 less than three years before his death.
“Of course I had reservations about playing Clouseau. Every role I do starts with reservations,” admits Martin, who received Montreal screenwriter Len Blum’s screenplay after Kevin Spacey and Mike Myers had toyed with it. “While I was reading it, I came up with some ideas for gags. The more gags I envisioned the more I overcame my reservations.”
Still Martin refused to commit until he bumped into director Shawn Levy.
The two had worked together on Martin’s 2003 hit Cheaper by the Dozen.
“When Shawn told me he was interested in directing The Pink Panther, I knew I had an ally I could trust.”
Martin says Sellers was so good as Clouseau because “Peter knew the character inside and out. They say he could ad lib as Clouseau endlessly.”
The first thing Martin did was work on a faux French accent because “that is so much a part of the humour.
“Then I concentrated on the physical look I wanted for him but it wasn’t until I started thinking like Clouseau that I actually felt comfortable.”
Martin admits once filming started he felt so at ease with his Clouseau accent he used it off camera as well as on.
“I almost lost my girlfriend (Anne Stringfield) over using that accent off set.”
Martin says there are certain attributes he shares with Clouseau including the man’s “naive belief he can do anything. I admire his will to believe in his own genius.”
Then, with a chuckle, Martin adds “I also share his lust.”
Though he insists it was never his intention to imitate Sellers, Martin admits he “had the benefit of his performance. We knew why it worked.
“I’ve been wanting to return to broad comedy for quite a while and Clouseau was a ready-made character to do it with.”
Martin says his Clouseau is not all pratfalls.
“I like to find the heart of all my characters. I call those little moments of pathos good sentimentality. I tried to take my Clouseau from very physical comedy to little verbal jokes.”
In 1980, shortly before Sellers died, the two comedians met in Hawaii.
“We were both there promoting films,” recalls Martin. “I was there for The Jerk and he was there promoting The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu. I was coming off a really hot stand-up career and there were critics who felt I didn’t belong in films. Peter came up to me and said: ‘You’re under a lot of criticism now, but I know what you’re doing.’
“It was a wonderful gesture on his behalf. It’s something I needed to hear.”
In The Pink Panther, pop diva Beyonce Knowles plays Xania, the girlfriend of a murdered internationally famous soccer coach (Jason Statham). Jean Reno plays Gendarme Gilbert Ponton, Clouseau’s assistant assigned by the devious Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline).
Beyonce says she was “too nervous to laugh. Steve Martin is such a comic genius. I didn’t want to betray the trust he had in me by casting me.”
Clive Owen has a cameo in The Pink Panther as a British agent with the code name Agent 006. “I think we knew at the time we approached Clive he was being considered for James Bond,” reveals Martin.
“I think that’s a big part of the joke of having him play our Agent 006.”
Martin admits he and Levy have ideas for a sequel, but is adamant he “won’t write a thing until this movie is out and we see how it performs. Then we could be working on the second one by the end of the year.”