Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Steve speaks about PP, some new stuff not seen elsewhere
IF Magazine
Not only does the actor star as the bumbling detective, but he was co-scripted the film as well
Contributing Writer Published: 2/13/2006

It was forty-three years ago that Peter Sellers donned the bumbling persona of Inspector Jacques Clouseau in Blake Edward’s classic, THE PINK PANTHER. This film marked the first in a series of kooky detective comedies that was a precursor to THE NAKED GUN movies.

With Hollywood’s stigma toward fresh material and their incessant tendencies toward remaking popular movies from the past, it was only a matter of time before they got around to revamping the farcical misadventures of the screwy, French inspector.

Actor, Producer, Writer, and all around funnyman, Steve Martin (THE JERK, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS) co-wrote the screenplay with Len Blum (PRIVATE PARTS).

"I don't view it as a remake because we totally redid the script," says Martin. "And it all started with reservations, not only with this film, but actually a lot of films. Though you have these reservations and what happened in this case was that the idea for gags overcame my reservations, and I just fiddled with the script secretly. And I still wasn't going to do it and I ran into [director] Shawn Levy in a parking lot and he said, 'Have you read this PINK PANTHER thing?' I said, 'Yeah. I was actually fiddling with it.' And I told him some of the gags and he thought that they were funny, and I said, 'Why? Are you interested in directing?' He said ‘yeah’ and then we were off and running. As soon as you have an ally that you trust, it makes things much easier."

Initially, Martin says the studio insisted the movie be called a "re-imagining," but the actor didn’t have a clue what that meant.

"So it's not officially a remake because a remake to me is when you use the same script or the same story, and so I don't know what you call it," Martin says with a laugh. "I really don't know and who cares. It's THE PINK PANTHER."

Regarding his comedic style of writing, Martin adds that the process is mostly about pleasing himself.

"If I write something and I laugh that makes me feel good, and then I'll maybe call someone and ask what they think of it, or I'll be at lunch and ask them what they think of it," says Martin. "The strangest one was when I was writing a monologue for The Mark Twain Awards and I didn't have anything, and I was like, 'I'm going to write this.' It was at night, I was having dinner by myself, had a little glass of wine and I'm just writing and I'm laughing and laughing and the next day I read it to a friend who just starred at me. So I threw it out. I realized that I had made a mistake and so laughter isn't always the key."

Opposed to imitating Peter Seller’s madcap depiction of the witless detective in the new PINK PANTHER, Martin explains it was important to him to completely reinvent the character of Inspector Clouseau for the new film.

"It would've been harder to imitate Peter Sellers," admits Martin. "I realize that Peter Sellers knew the character inside out and he could probably adlib all day as that character and I thought that is the sign to me when I have it, when you can adlib all day as the character. Eventually that came. I first worked on the accent, and then I worked on the outfit and the physical attributes, which I didn't have any problem with at all, and finally when I realized that I was thinking like him I felt very comfortable."

In fact, back in 1980, Martin had met Peter Sellers who gave him a bit of advice that has stuck with him to this day."He said something really profound to me," adds Martin. "I was in Hawaii and we were both promoting a film and I was coming off a sort of hot standup career, and you know the cycle of sort of criticism, discovery, enthusiasm, success, slaughter. Right? So I was coming off the sort of slaughter years of my standup career, which I stopped in 1980 when I had just done THE JERK and it wasn't out. I was in Hawaii at a luau and it was at night and he came up to me and he was a god to me, and he said, 'I know you're under a lot of criticism right now, but I know what you're doing.' It was kind of breathtaking really. So I felt like there was like a little torch passed to me. And we have the benefit of his performance and his definition of the character. But I bring a lot of heart to my performances. I don't know if it's good heart or bad heart, but I always like to find that little emotional moment whether it's CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN or FATHER OF THE BRIDE or SHOPGIRL or CYRANO. There is something there that kind of runs through my work and I like to think of it as good sentimentality. I think that sentimentality now means bad, but I think that there is good sentimentality, and I think that's what this movie brings. I think that the relationship between Jean Reno and myself is warm, between Clouseau and Ponton."

One of the major omissions in the new film is the character of Cato (Burt Kwouk) – who was Clouseau’s trusty sidekick in many of Sellers’ PANTHER films.

"In the script that I inherited, Kato was gone already," says Martin. "And it's just as well because I always viewed that as a great initial scene in one of the movies, I can't remember [which one], but I think that it was A SHOT IN THE DARK. And then they have this fight, and then when Kato answers the phone you realize that he's his houseboy, essentially and that was it for me. I didn't think that it stayed as funny. I don't think that it would be so funny in the movie today."

Describing his working relationship with film director, Shawn Levy (CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN), Martin explains that what makes it work so well is they have the same temperament.

"We don't like to belabor a joke over and over," says Martin. "We like to get it and move on. But neither of us will move on until we get it, but we know that you don't have to do twenty-five takes in a comedy. If you got it, you got it. He will also cover things three different ways. Like we'll have an ending gag, and it's like, 'I'm not sure if that'll work, but lets make sure that we have this shot so that we can cut away if we need to.' And we both do that very quickly."

Improvising was a major part of filming the new remake as well according to Martin.

"There was improvising, but I always say that you improvise before you shoot," explains Martin. "You don't really improvise on camera because it throws the other actors off. That's to be done in rehearsal. That's when you're saying, 'What if?' Or like I met with Kevin Kline and Shawn Levy in my apartment and we went over the scenes where I whack him with the classical pointer and was just working out the scene before we shot it to see what we could come up with. Kevin is his own artist. Jean Reno is his own personality and his own presence. So there was no problem with that."

For Martin, returning to the kind of off-the-wall, slapstick comedy was important since it hearkens back to the type of movies he did in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and he feels it now brings his career full circle.

"One of the reasons that I wanted to do this is because I want to go back to broad comedy, and this is just a ready made thing for broad comedy," says Martin. "The character is ready made for this. It felt great. It feels really good. What I love about these kinds of comedies, and in our PINK PANTHER in particular, is that it will go from very physical to what I'll call tiny, tiny, little verbal jokes. So it's all over the place and always sort of coming at you like big, tall, smart and dumb."

Thanks KMT


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