Jake Kasdan (Director - 'The TV Set')
'Ready, Set ... It Might Be A Go!'
An all-star cast bites the hand that feeds them in 'The TV Set,' a sneaky satire of network programming written, produced and directed by Jake Kasdan. As a writer named Mike (David Duchovny, 'The X-Files') struggles to shepherd his semi-autobiographical sitcom into development, his vision - of a guy who's brought back to his home town by his brother's suicide and rediscovers his joy in life - is slowly eroded by a domineering network executive named Lenny (Sigourney Weaver, Aliens) who favors trashy reality programming like Slut Wars!
Writer, director and producer Jake Kasdan may be the progeny of renowned Hollywood writer, director, producer Lawrence Kasdan, but stylistically, the apple fell far from the tree in this family. Dads name was synonymous with big, broad, blockbusters like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (1981), 'Return of the Jedi' (1983) and 'The Bodyguard' (1993), while son Jakes reputation was built on smart, offbeat, comedic projects like the cult TV hit 'Freaks & Geeks' (NBC 1999-2000) and the oddball detective feature, 'Zero Effect' (1998).
So, having completed the aforementioned 'The TV Set,' it was obvious that his next project was also going to be somewhat edgy and interesting. And since musical biographies keep sweeping the Oscars every year, it’s about time a comedian took the p*ss out of them! So, Jake along with writing buddy Judd Apatow are bringing to the screen a comedic version of such hits as 'Walk the Line' and 'Ray'. Therein, 'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story' features John C. Reilly as a musician plagued by inner demons!
Based on the facts made known about all TV pilots and which make it and which don’t, was it always the same horrid ratio even back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, perhaps?
Jake Kasdan "Well, there were fewer outlets. There were fewer networks. There wasn't cable. So there were probably fewer things made overall. But the basic structure of the system has been place for a long time and people have been griping about a lot of the same issues for a long time. And if you talk to Garry Marshall and Norman Lear and any of those historic show runners from the '70s they would tell you it's been essentially the same kind of system for their whole career."
It just seems that a lot of time and money is ploughed into these projects for most all of them never to see the light of day! "It's extremely wasteful. There's no question about it. I've got to believe there's a better way to do it. My intention is that it actually screws up what's on the air, which is what the movie is about in part. All these pilots are in competition with each other when they're getting made. So everybody's drawing from the same talent pool, playing with the same money, and fighting for the same locations and stage spaces. And what ends up happening is the glut of research and development - which is what pilot season basically is - definitely starts to work against itself. In terms of it does start to negatively impact what gets made."
The way the scenes play out they were very casual, very easy in their speeches. Was this down to an incredible amount of impromptu moments with the actors or a tight script that was just so easy to memorize? "I allowed them a lot of freedom while we were shooting to go off script and make the words their own. I made sure we got what I wrote, but I left a lot of room to sort of make it as natural as possible. That movie in particular was of paramount importance to me that they get as natural and as real performance levels as we could. In the end what ends up in the movie is pretty close to what's in the script. And I think if you compared the script to the final movie yeah, there is some additional stuff; some ad-libbing and a few big jokes, but the vast majority is actually much tighter than how it was written then it looks like. Which is a testament to the acting."
Why was Duchovny's character and his recurring back issues such a major go-to factor in this film? "Well, he's physically crumbling as he's emotionally crumbling and the stress of doing it is wreaking havoc on his body. To the point where the process of making this pilot lands him in the hospital. It's something that happens to a lot of people and you hear a lot of stories like that in show business. It's basically serious workaholics getting some kind of stress ailment that ends up becoming a really distinct physical problem.'
"It's something that happened to Judd Apatow, my frequent collaborator and who I worked with on all the TV shows that I worked on. Judd, over the course of making 'Freaks & Geeks' - of which he was executive producing - over the course of the year long run of making the show he had a disc problem that moved so far out of control that he did end up actually needing surgery by the end of it! So that was one thing that was lifted directly from his experience."
What do you think was going through Duchovny's head in the final scene, when his beloved project had been butchered and yet the audience was baying wildly with love for it? "I think it's open to interpretation ... but to me he's accepting where he is, he's a little bit horrified, but he's trying to be a man and assume his responsibilities. A lot of what this movie is about to me on a human level is about someone trying to navigate their life and the compromises that life presents while still maintaining some dignity. It's about him trying to figure out how to move forward in his life and make the show now that he's got to make ... and stay standing! On the one hand he's compromised a lot, but he's done what he needs to do in taking care of his family and paying the mortgage."
In the interview on the DVD you mention you got nearly all the actors you wanted to appear in this to appear … and yet there was no Lucy Lawless! Did you try to get her to appear also? "I did ask her to do it at one point," he laughs. "Lucy did actually want to do it, but was shooting something else and allowed us to use her name."
You also state that the character of ‘Lenny’ was always meant to be that of a man! I would have imagined that anything written for such a loud verbal male such as that character would have had to have been too much for a woman to take on! "Well, the truth is a lot of it was. She just adapted it brilliantly."
Please tell us more about the reality series where 14 women are taken to the Caribbean to contend on ‘Slut Wars’! Could such a reality show actually one day make it on to our TV screens?! "Yeah," he laughs.
Would you like to make it? "No, absolutely not, but I do think it could happen at any moment."
And, if it truly were set in the Caribbean, would you honestly have gotten pasty-skinned Seth Green to brave those tropical heatwave’s as I think he’d quite literally die out there?! "That's true. I think you'd definitely have to worry about him out there," he laughs again.
Was ‘Freaks & Geeks’ the last TV pilot that you were part of that actually made it to TV? "That was the first, but I also did the pilot for 'Undeclared.' Then I did a pilot that I wrote and directed based on my first movie called 'Zero Effect.' I tried to adapt it to a series, but it didn't get picked up."
After all these years both in front and behind the camera, have you come closer to discovering a secret for a pilot having more of a chance of being picked up? "No ... but if there is I haven't figured out what it is," he gently laughs this time.
Will you be doing any more TV pilots any time soon? "No, I'm not really. I'm taking a break from it for a little while."
Please tell us more about your next movie, 'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story' "I had an idea that I sort of mentioned to Judd as something that I thought might be funny to do. It's a fake bio-pic about a fictional rock legend. He sparked to it and we wrote it together pretty quickly and got it going. It's basically a musical. There's a lot of original songs with John C. Reilly - who's playing the title roll - actually singing all the songs! It's essentially a very broad joke, a broad comedy ... and it's been a very complicated movie to make. Because it's basically a musical, a period piece that spans six decades with John playing the role from the age of 14 to the age of 80. So, it's a big goofy comedy, but it's been really fun to do."
Please reveal something about the movie that we should look out for – a behind-the-scenes tidbit, perhaps? "That's a tricky one," he admits. "Well, we spent quite a while looking a group of guys for a certain scene. There's a convention which is where a bunch of guys do cameos as famous musicians. And we had this big scene with The Beatles and we couldn't quite figure out how to cast it and who would be around to do it. We finally ended up with a pretty extraordinary line-up that I'm not really supposed to talk about in advance too much. But, I think we've done a version of The Beatles that no one's ever done before," he gently laughs.
With Jack Black and Jack White on set was there ever any fun made of the two names/people? "No, although I've joked about it a bunch," he laughs knowingly.
And it seems you yourself have an acting role in the upcoming ‘Shades of Ray.’ Please tell us more "I am in one scene in 'Shades Of Ray,' that's right. But you've got to make it all the way to the end before you can identify where I was," he laughs one final time.
Finally, as you and Judd Apatow seem to now be hot to trot as writers and directors, shouldn't Hollywood start to pay more monetary attention!? "We've been working together for a long time, but he's just had so much success lately that everything he does people are just paying more attention to. He's one of my closest friends and we've been working together for the longest time. He's been in some way associated with most of the stuff that I've done. We really like working together. It's a good thing."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story' Official Website
'The TV Set' DVD Purchase Link
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