It is Tuesday. We are shooting Tuesday through Saturday. This film, which takes place in the world of NASCAR, stars Will Ferrell, John C. Riley, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan, Sacha Cohen, and many other great actors. My job as the producer is to make sure the movie turns out well and comes in on budget. If the script is strong and the cast is great, then you are halfway there.
This is a very easy movie for me because the director, Adam McKay, wrote the script with Will, just like they did on Anchorman, so they know exactly what they want to do. Movies often turn out badly because the key creative people disagree with each other. Sometimes the studio doesn't get it, or the actor has a different take than the director, or the script never locks. In this case, everyone is in agreement and having fun, so as of three weeks in we are doing well.
What does this mean for me? I try to look ahead and anticipate issues with scenes coming up in the near future, but for the most part I wait for problems and pitch jokes to Adam, jokes that are rarely needed because this cast is so world-class funny.
Every morning when I go to work I listen to the radio. I have become fascinated by this radio station here called "The Ride." They have these ultra-serious bumpers between songs where a guy in a deep, 1970s voice says, "You are listening to The Ride. A trip so smooth you'll forget you are even listening to the radio." Then they play the most ordinary classic rock. Don't get me wrong—I love the classic rock—but having a DJ take back seat to music doesn't make listening to the radio a "ride."
This seems to be the new trend in radio—actually playing music and acting like it is a shocking and innovative choice. The funny thing about "The Ride" is they play songs you almost never hear on the radio, and they play them almost every day.
"On The Dark Side" by John Caffery and the Beaver Brown Band
"I'm No Angel" by Greg Allman
"You May Be Right" by Billy Joel
"Dirty Work" by Steely Dan
"Hello, It's Me" by Todd Rundgren
All are OK songs, but if I hear them almost every day and I don't listen to the radio much, how often can they be playing them?
With the Rolling Stones touring I am reminded of the time Ben Stiller and I were hired by Mick Jagger to write a film for the Rolling Stones when they released the album Voodoo Lounge in the mid-90s. Mick Jagger wanted to make a concert film that had some sort of funny story line that played out between songs. Next thing you know, Ben and I are on phone calls with Mick Jagger almost every day. He was very nice and would complain about how tired he was from his workouts and the dancing he was doing to prepare for the tour. I taped every single conversation surreptitiously, and for a while I set my computer so that every time I made a mistake, Mick Jagger's voice would say, "I am so tired" or, "That's funny." I know it's awful that I did that. But, come on, this was once-in-a-lifetime stuff.
The story line that we came up with: Two fans follow the Stones across America like Dead Heads. They notice another fan stalking the Stones. They think the fan is gonna kill the Stones, so they try to get to the fan and get to the Stones to warn them. It ended with the stalker parachuting onto the stage saying he knows he is one of Mick Jagger's illegitimate kids.
For a while it looked like Brad Pitt was interested. Ben and I met with him twice. At the end of the day, he decided to do some movie called Seven instead and became a huge international star. What a fool.
Anyway, before that happened, Ben and I had to fly to Canada to pitch the story to the entire band. Ben was to do the main pitch, and I would fill in the holes. When we sat down with them in a girl's school where they were rehearsing for the tour, I choked and did not say one word. I am not exaggerating. I was silent.
Ben, however, was magnificent. I sat in awe as he told Mick what he would do as director, writer, and actor. At one point Ben said he wanted the movie to have the look of Gimme Shelter, to which Keith Richards replied, "Well, this time let's do it without the murder" and laughed his ass off. They all did. It was like being in the den with the devil.
Later, Ron Wood raised his hand, without anyone asking a question, and said, "I'm in." Keith Richards looked at him and said, "OK, Brian Jones." It seemed to be some inside joke based on the fact that Brian Jones thought he was the boss. Or not, I am guessing. It was just cool that we saw Keith Richards say, "Brian Jones." When Ron Wood said he liked something Ben pitched, Keith Richards said to Mr. Wood, "Are you gonna direct the movie, too, Alfred Hitchcock?"
You could feel the tension in the band. After the pitch, they told us to go downstairs, but Ben closed the door then stood at it and tried to listen to their debate. I was terrified that Keith Richards would catch and kill us. We couldn't hear anything, so we went downstairs into the school gym where they were set up to rehearse. A moment later, we were told we were going to make the movie.
Then they said we could stay and watch them rehearse. Next thing we know, the Stones are performing, and we are getting a private concert. Between songs Mick Jagger would walk over to us to see how we were doing. "Can I get you anything? A glass of water?" he said, not jesting. It was amazing.
On the walls, they had a list of every song they had ever recorded, and between songs they would refer to it and pick one to try out. Then they would play a CD of the song to remind themselves of how it went. They sounded amazing because they were not trying to look good or be visual. They focused only on the music. I know this sounds hard to believe, but the song that kicked the most ass was "Undercover of the Night."
Ben and I knew this was the greatest rock 'n' roll moment we would ever experience. I remember saying, "Even if this all falls apart, at least we got to see this." And then it fell apart. Brad Pitt fell out. We realized what we had written was probably impossible to shoot. The band couldn't get it going with anyone else and had to settle for a bizarre episode of Beverly Hills 90210 where the gang went to see the Stones.
But all in all, they couldn't have been nicer, and it was a perfect experience. We got paid, we saw the Stones, and we didn't have to work hard on a movie that was probably impossible to make. And we didn't sink Brad Pitt's career before it started. But no, I am not going to see the Rolling Stones on this tour. I can't top the one show I saw, so why try?