Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Interview with Jamie Kennedy about "Son of the Mask"

Jamie Kennedy stars in “Son of the Mask,” the sequel to 1994 Jim Carry movie. Kennedy plays a would-be animator whose infant son inherits the magical powers of the mask belonging to Loki, the Norse god of mischief. In a telephone interview, he talked about making the movie and his other projects.

In this movie, you violated the two laws of show business: “never work with children or animals.” Your character spends most of his time with a baby and a dog. What was that like?

The hard part wasn’t so much working with the dog and the babies; it was the handlers. The dog was ready to hit its mark but the trainer was always there waving a piece of cheese, saying, “Over here! Over here!” The baby’s handler was always there with a rattle going, “Look here!” So it was fine working with the dog and the babies, but the tough thing was keeping my focus with all of that distraction. If you are going to work with animals or children, you have to prepare to be second fiddle, and prepare to wait.

There was also a weird pecking order with the baby, who was played by twins. We had real babies, called the hero babies, and then we had a robot baby for over-the-shoulder shots, and a third baby, called the stunt baby, for being carried while we were running. Of course, the stunt baby didn’t actually do anything dangerous!

The original movie was PG-13, but the sequel is PG. Why go for a different audience?

It was very freeing because I knew the movie would be very different, a sequel in terms of the concept but not a direct sequel with the same characters. I was glad to gear it for a broader audience, and I think the movie can appeal to kids and to adults.

At one point in the movie, your character wears the mask and gets to be transformed. What’s the most fun about being The Mask?

The best part was taking it off! But the dancing and singing was the most fun – I worked on it for quite a while; even though we pre-recorded the singing, it was hard to do because I had to lip-synch and dance at the same time. I’m happy with the way it came out.

In your television show on the WB, “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment,” you “X” people by playing elaborate, “Candid Camera”-style pranks. Did you do that to anyone on the set?

No, but we felt like we were getting X’ed all the time by the baby. If the baby doesn’t want to work, you don’t work.

What’s the silliest question a fan ever asked you?

Did it hurt when you were killed in Scream 2?”

There are a lot of special effects in this movie. How do you act when you can’t see what it’s all going to look like after the computer graphics are added?

There was a lot of green screen [a blank screen used for filming live action so that the graphics can be superimposed later]. The trick was keeping some frame of reference so we could visualize if not what it would look like at least where we should look and how we should react. There’s a scene at the end where Loki gets a big hammer, but the hammer was done by computer so we had to run in the warehouse with no idea where the hammer was, and 100 degree heat. All we had was the director saying, “Now!” You’ve just got to let go.

How do you prepare for a part like this?

As I read the script, I saw that my character was always getting surprised in the movie, and that the surprises were increasingly more bizarre and weird. There are seven places where the baby does something peculiar that I had to react to. So, I numbered the different levels of emotion so that I could keep track of the intensity. This was really important because between having to work with a baby and a dog, in a sequel to a movie from eleven years ago, special effects to be filled in later, prosthetic make-up to work around, and everything being shot totally out of sequence, going from a love scene to a fireball thrown by monsters, it was hard to stay consistent. I also worked out to stay in shape, and worked on ideas about how my voice would change.

How did the director, Lawrence Guterman, help you?

He’s very funny as a director, very dramatic. In one scene, where I needed to act very upset about losing the baby, he asked, “What do you care about? Do you have any kids?” “No.” “Do you have a girlfriend?” “No.” “Well, think of something you love very much and would hate to lose. Pretend someone took your Ipod!”

And what’s on your Ipod, by the way?

I like every kind of music except for Country & Western, and even there I like Johnny Cash. I listen to Frank, Far Side, Led Zeppelin, Ozzie Osborne, old Wham songs, everything. Music, food, and women -- I like all kinds!

What does pranking teach you about human nature?

It never ceases to astound me. Human beings want to believe the right thing, want to believe in good, and when you do something that’s different, they don’t understand it, but they go along with it. And they are generally relieved, not angry, to find out it was a joke. People have a standard they measure human beings by. When they see something that “is not in the box” they question whether human nature is what they thought it was, so they are happy to find out that the rules they thought they understood really do apply.

People will listen to pretty much all authoritative figures, a cop, a judge, someone in a cloak. They will say, “This guy must be someone; he has a cloak on.” People are gullible. I’m not that way. I like to question authority. If someone says drinking Coke and eating pop-rocks at the same time is bad I want to test it to see.

You once worked as a maid. Are you neat?

Very neat, almost to the point of being compulsive. Something to be said for those navy guys, a place for everything and everything in its place. A cluttered place is a sign of a cluttered mind.

What did you watch when you were a kid?

The “Tonight” show, sitcom reruns -- Don Rickles, Three’s Company, McHale’s Navy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show with Ted Knight, everything.

How did you first make people laugh?

Imitating people, especially my mother’s friends and the nuns at my school. My mom loved it when I imitated her friends. I was always aware of hypocrisy and felt that going to Catholic school I was never allowed to be funny. I couldn’t wait to get out of school to be super-crazy, and I’m still blowing off steam from 1st grade, trying to catch up.

What are you working on now, and what’s coming up next?

I’m producing two shows. One is called “Starlet.” Faye Dunaway will be in a house with ten young actresses. It’s a reality show but really good. The other is a sitcom with Fran Drescher called “Living with Fran,” about a woman who has a 25 year old boyfriend and a 25 year old son.

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