With the September 7 release of his new Sony Pictures comedy, The Brothers Solomon, I asked director Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) to answer some questions. Odenkirk has been a good friend of SXSW since 2003, when his feature directorial debut, Melvin Goes to Dinner, screened to enthusiastic responses, and an audience award. After that, he’s helped make our trailers, screened some of his short films, and even juried SXSWclick this summer. Since he’s part of the SXSW family, I wanted to give him a platform to speak the truth about his upcoming surrogate-mother comedy (starring Will Arnett, Will Forte, and Kristen Wiig). Here’s what we uncovered:
Me: How did you get involved with The Brothers Solomon?
Odenkirk: The movie was a go project from Revolution Studios and I got the script to consider, if I would meet to direct. Tom Werner and Matt Berenson were producers and we had just done Let’s Go To Prison together and they still liked me, so… that was nice. I’ve been a fan of Will Forte’s and he’s only seemed to get funnier as I’ve become more familiar with his style: dry, silly, unrelenting. I liked the script, and it was very “Forte” – so I saw it as a cool challenge. Which is something I am very attracted to.
I remember reading Blades of Glory about the same time and thinking; “Well, that’s a hit…you don’t need me, it’s got all the components already in place.” Not to take away from the guys who directed that, in particular I’m sure the action sequences were very challenging, just not the challenge I keep being attracted to. Point is, The Brothers Solomon was so unique, almost a “meta-film” with how simple and absurd its premises and scenarios were. That’s what made me want to do it.
Me: When you’re working with such a great cast of talented comedians and improvisers, how do you maintain any sense of order on the set?
Odenkirk: I yell. I throw things. I talk about the old days and how great they were. I have a points system and the winner (the actor who listens and mimics my demonstrations most closely) gets to choose any CD from the “Starbucks Recommends” standee. I have a guy named Pacheco who stands behind me and keeps fingering a holstered pistol and reminiscing about the Cali cartel. I have a number of ways. But honestly, we had more room for improvisation on this film, but not much. We had a very tight schedule, and so you basically have to knock stuff out economically and move on. Someday I want to do a film like Apatow and shoot around like that, improvising alot. But with Forte’s writing, and the high absurdity of The Brothers Solomon‘s characters and plot, there isn’t that much room for improv.
Me: What do you hope the film teaches today’s great parental role models like Britney Spears or Scary Spice?
Odenkirk: That they’ve gotten it right, right off the bat. By the way, Scary Spice was my neighbor until about five months ago. She was a very nice person everytime I went over to her house at 4 AM in my pajamas to ask her to turn the music down.
Me: If you could adopt a baby from any developing country, which would it be and why?
Odenkirk: I know it isn’t a developing country really, but could I please have a Samoan? I would be very kind and strict so that it worshipped me, and when it grew up it would be like having a bear that does your bidding.
Me: Do you wanna have any more children any time soon?
Odenkirk: No, I have two and it’s awesome, and we’re good.
Me: As a director, how does a production like this one differ from Melvin Goes to Dinner or even Let’s Go To Prison?
Odenkirk: These three movies could hardly be more different. Melvin was totally indie; shot handheld, super low-key, shot in 12 days. It’s more like the Derek and Simon episodes I’ve made for Super Deluxe, an area I love to work in. Prison was played like a 70’s exploitation flick. Gritty, everyone playing it plain and real and hard. The Brothers Solomon is extremely light-hearted, very silly, at times a bit magical (if I did it right – and I think I nailed it a few times. I’m most proud of the banner sequence in the last third) and very absurd. They’re all so different. The vibe was different on every one, the end products are all different. But let me finish by saying that the thing I’m most proud of with The Brothers Solomon, is the way I think I have delivered Will Forte’s funny, sweet, good-natured absurdity and humor to the screen.