“This moderating is exceeding my wildest expectations,” “Saturday Night Live” feature film spin-off “MacGruber” writer-director Jorma Taccone said in the middle of a panel at the SXSW Film Festival today. The comment came after moderator (and Lonely Island performer) Akiva Schaffer said to “MacGruber” actor Ryan Phillippe: “Ryan, you’re obviously much better looking than the rest of the cast. More of a comment than a question, I guess. But was that fun?”
Entitled, “How to defuse a bomb and other life lessons from the cast of MacGruber,” the panel was essentially as fun as they come. “MacGruber” stars Will Forte, Kristen Wiig and Val Kilmer joined Phillippe (who suggested at one point he may have been cast as “Captain America” in the new film), Taccone, Schaffer and Taccone’s co-writer John Solomon for the riotous hour-long event, which followed the film’s world premiere at SXSW last night. At one point, Seth Meyers (SNL head writer, and an executive producer of “MacGruber”) came up on stage from the audience to share a story from the set of the film.
“This is not a joke or anything,” Meyers recalled. “This was a very harrowing moment that I had on set.” He then went on to tell a story about one night during filmming, perfectly imitating Forte and leaving the entire panel and the vast majority of the audience in hysterics.
“Forte said, ‘I just want to warn you that this house is haunted, by a boner ghost,” Meyers deadpanned. “And he probably won’t even come around. But if he does we found the best thing to do is just let him have sex with you. It will just take a few minutes and it’s far less risky than making him mad.”
The story climaxed with Meyers describing a ghost “that looked a lot like Forte with a towel over his head.”
In relative seriousness, Forte discussed how “MacGruber” – which has been a sketch on ‘Saturday Night Live’ for years, was the brainchild of Taccome.
“He kept coming to pitch it every week [as a sketch on ‘Saturday Night Live’],” Forte said. “And I would say ‘no, this doesn’t work.’ He did it enough weeks in a row, and finally just to shut him up I said ‘ok, let’s write it.’ So it was his idea.”
“I’m not very good at pitching,” Taccone responded. “And every Monday we have to go into [SNL creator] Lorne Michaels office and you have you to pitch in front of this wildly famous host and it’s very nerve-racking. And this was probably one of my worst pitches ever. I think it went something like ‘MacGruber, who diffuses bombs only using pieces of shit and pubic hair.’ And I just got the worst groan… So the fact that we’re sitting here is remarkable.”
The sketch eventually made it to air in 2007 – minus the shit and pubic hair – with Forte starring as “special operations agent” MacGruber, who is tasked in each episode with deactivating a ticking bomb. Its popularity allowed it to become the first SNL-based feature film in nearly ten years. Budgeted at just $10 million, it’s as low-budget as studio pictures come these days.
“What we were about to get out of that [budget] is pretty awesome,” Taccone said. “We tried to make it as big as possible. And then we would have to cut stuff because we’d be told ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ But, honestly, we didn’t cut that much. There’s still a lot of big action sequences and explosions and stuff.”
One of the highlights of the panel came when an audience member – and big Val Kilmer fan – suggested they should change the ending to something kinder to Kilmer’s villainous character Dieter Von Cunth (spoilers ahead).
“I should live,” Kilmer said back to her. “I agree. Thanks, Mom.”
Taccone wasn’t so sure. “I wish we could have actually cut his dick off,” he joked. “I like Val, too – as a person. But not as a character.”
Audiences can decide for themselves when “MacGruber” hits theaters this May. But in the meantime, Taccone wanted everyone to know that “MacGruber” is on twitter in the lead-up to the film’s release.
“If you want to check out some raunchy twitters,” Taccone announced, “Will’s been tweeting as MacGruber. We’re trying to get the word out because he’s been doing it for the last couple weeks. But we couldn’t get ‘MacGruber’ for Twitter, so it’s at ‘twitter.com/grubes69.'”