Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Thursday, February 02, 2006

Steve talks about making PP

Monsters and
Movies Features
Steve Martin in the 'Pink'
By Angela Dawson
Feb 2, 2006, 19:00 GMT

Steve Martin met his comedy hero Peter Sellers at a luau in 1980. Both were in Hawaii promoting their respective movies and Sellers surprised Martin, then a rising young comedian, by introducing himself.

'I was coming off the slaughter years of my stand-up career and he said to me, `I know you`re under a lot of criticism right now but I know what you`re doing,' recalls Martin. 'It was breathtaking, like a torch was passed to me.'

A quarter-century later, Martin, 60, is stepping into Sellers` signature role, that of the bumbling French Inspector Jacques Clouseau in 'The Pink Panther.' The film co-stars Jean Reno, Kevin Kline, Emily Mortimer and Beyonce Knowles.

In the all-new story, which Martin co-wrote, Clouseau is investigating the high-profile murder of a professional soccer coach and the theft of his priceless Pink Panther diamond. Among the suspects: the victim`s girlfriend, an American singer (Knowles).

Clouseau`s boss (Kline) assigns a gendarme (Reno) to assist the inspector in his investigation, using the gendarme to keep tabs on Clouseau`s progress (or lack of it) on the case. The chief hopes Clouseau will bungle the assignment so he can step in, solve the murder and win France`s prestigious Medal of Honor.

As with the classic 'Pink Panther' comedies of the 1960s-`80s, Clouseau stumbles his way through the investigation, oblivious to the chaos and mayhem he creates wherever he goes.

For Martin, 'The Pink Panther' marks a return to his roots in physical comedy. 'One of the reasons I wanted to do this was because I wanted to go back to broad comedy,' he explains. 'And this was just a ready-made thing for (that style of comedy). It goes from very physical to what I call tiny little verbal jokes. It`s all over the place and always sort of coming at you: big, tall, smart and dumb.'

Martin, an author and playwright as well as an actor-screenwriter, had toyed with the 'Pink Panther' script for some time. He wasn`t completely convinced he could do it until he ran into director Shawn Levy. (The two had previously collaborated on the 2003 hit comedy 'Cheaper By the Dozen.') 'I asked if he was interested in directing this, and he said `yeah,` then we were off and running,' recalls Martin.

The gags he conceived overcame whatever trepidation he`d felt early on about playing the iconic character. The key, he says, was getting the accent right. He took his cue from his predecessor and practiced with a voice coach.

'Peter Sellers knew the character inside out and he could probably ad-lib all day as the character, so the sign to me that I had it was when I could do the same, and eventually I got to that point,' he says.

(Martin nearly drove his girlfriend crazy with the accent, which he would fall into during regular conversations.)

Though the character is a bit of a stereotype, Martin says the film has nothing derogatory aimed at the French. 'That`s not where we`re coming from,' he insists. 'We`re not trying to insult a country.'

After nailing the accent, Martin concentrated on Clouseau`s look, including the inspector`s trademark mustache. 'I grew my own because I can`t stand that paste-on thing on the lip,' he says. With a fake mustache, 'the upper lip looks frozen, and for comedy that`s ridiculous.'

Martin clearly relished playing the bumbling inspector and says he hopes audiences will enjoy it as well. 'My heart is so with `Pink Panther` and I want it to do well so that we can make another one,' he says.

Born in Texas and raised in Southern California, Martin became a television writer in the late 1960s, winning an Emmy for his work on 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.' By the end of the decade he was performing his own material in clubs and on TV.

A frequent guest on 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,' Martin went on to host 'Saturday Night Live' several times and created a number of memorable catchphrases ('Well, excuuuse me!'). The multi-talented performer won Grammy awards for his comedy albums 'Let`s Get Small' and 'A Wild and Crazy Guy' and had a gold record with his single 'King Tut.'

Martin`s first film, a short he wrote and starred in called 'The Absent-Minded Waiter,' was nominated for a 1977 Academy Award. Two years later, he made his movie debut in 'The Jerk,' directed by Carl Reiner. He went on to star in three other Reiner comedies, 'Dead Men Don`t Wear Plaid,' 'The Man With Two Brains' and 'All of Me.'

Throughout the 1980s, Martin tried different types of comedy, from the romantic 'Roxanne' to the edgier 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.' In 1989, he starred with Mary Steenburgen and Dianne Wiest in Ron Howard`s family comedy 'Parenthood' and continued to show his versatility in films such as 'Grand Canyon' and 'The Spanish Prisoner.'

Audiences have responded best to comedies like 'Father of the Bride,' in which he starred with Diane Keaton, and the more recent 'Cheaper By the Dozen' comedies, co-starring Bonnie Hunt.

For the past decade, he has explored other creative avenues. He wrote a play ('Picasso at the Lapin Agile') and became a best-selling author with his 130-page novella, 'Shopgirl,' which he adapted into a movie and starred in last year. His 'Pure Drivel,' a collection of witty short stories, was published in 1998. Martin`s second novella, 'The Pleasure of My Company,' also became best seller.

Martin has been enjoying one of his best years, having impressed critics with his dramatic turn as an older man who courts a younger woman in 'Shopgirl' and drawing huge numbers at the box office with the 'Cheaper By the Dozen' sequel. 'Sometimes you just get lucky,' he says modestly. 'I`ve never had three hits in a row. I don`t know if (`Pink Panther`) will be a hit, but I think it might be.'



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