How Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, and Jody Hill Are Revolutionizing American Comedy and Beyond

The trio's Rough House Productions is helping put a spotlight on small movies like "Donald Cried." Here's how they see their unlikely role in the industry.
rough house pictures
Rough House Pictures co-founders Danny McBride, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green

Freedom in Television

DM: We were really eyeballing TV right away.

DGG: The British version of “The Office” was the first thing that made us go, “This is a different way to do a story. It’s contained.”

foot fist way
“The Foot Fist Way”

DM: When we met with Adam McKay and Will Ferrell after they picked up “Foot Fist Way,” they were shocked that we wanted to go do a TV show. That’s how much the climate has changed. They were like, “Are you sure it’s not a movie?” So the atmosphere then was definitely not that you’d take the opportunity from having an independent film at Sundance to get a shot at playing in the world of feature films to go make a TV show. At that time, it seemed like people were really eyeing TV shows to get movies. It’s funny how that’s completely changed now. Comedy really does well in TV because it can be so specific. A comedic film has to check a lot of boxes to do any business. I think comedy works better when it taps into a certain kind of humor, as opposed throwing out a wide net and trying to make everybody laugh. It’s very hard to make a classic when you do that. The failure-to-success rate is higher. The moment you make a comedy with curse words in it, you’re already alienating people.

DGG: On this show we’re doing now for Seeso, Andrew Bujalski’s doing some episodes, and So Yong Kim. It’s called “There’s Johnny.” It’s about “The Tonight Show” in the ’70s. It’s a totally new terrain.

This Is “Halloween”

DM: We can’t talk for too much about the “Halloween” reboot, but David and I had a long talk with each other about when people do these with movies, where it goes wrong. What pisses me off when it comes to something I like? We all came to the decision that remaking something that already works isn’t a good idea. So we just have a reimagining instead.

DGG: Jason Blum came to me. I’m a huge horror fan and I’ve never made one. I developed “Suspiria” for several years with Luca Guadagnino, who’s finishing directing it. It’s going to be incredible. I woke up at a hotel and had this email from Jason that said, “Halloween reboot. You get it. What do you say?” I was just like, “What the fuck does this mean?” I wrote him back and said, “Call me immediately, my body is reacting to this,” because “Halloween” is one of those influential movies that I was never allowed to see and lied about having not seen to my parents for years. It hit all the right taboos, and it had a lore to it. We’re just writing it now.

DM: The coolest part about that was going to John Carpenter and pitching him. If he didn’t like the take, it wouldn’t bode well. He’s one of my biggest heroes. I think we were just so concerned about getting the job that we didn’t think about how fucking scary that was to go sit down in front of him to tell him how we’d continue the story he’d created. It wasn’t until afterward that I realized, “Fuck, this could go so badly. We’ll be really hurt if he schools us right now.”

I was going to do a remake of “Klown.” I love that fucking movie. I think it’s incredible. I was working on it when “This is the End” came out and people were playing themselves. When you started to take away that element, it felt like I’d seen this movie I’d seen before. But that original and the series it’s based on are so good. It’s also dangerous with something like that, being arrogant enough to think that there needs to be an American version of this thing that works great.

Pushing Buttons

DM: Look, we’re not working in a bubble. We trick audiences with tropes that get someone onboard with a character and then punish them for it. Some people take that ride and some people don’t.

JH: Some things will work. When these guys made “Pineapple Express” — that’s a great movie and also works very successfully commercially. Danny was talking about a tone we’re focused on. A certain feeling. It’s not that we’re so fancy with our comedy but it’s just not as broad. When we started, we felt a real need to be different.

“Pineapple Express”

DGG: It’s hard to deny the climate of aggressive politics in culture that we’re in the middle of right now. If you look at my favorite movies — from “Nashville” to “The Bad News Bears” to “The Deer Hunter” — that was the ’70s, coming out of a heightened political environment from Vietnam and activism. Right now, there are two options: Play it safe, follow everybody’s rules, try not to step on anybody’s toes. Or, bring the conversation up, have fun, take risks, challenge the culture, make this a creative chapter of the universe. There’s so much dialogue going on. Let’s bring people together and start making beautiful noise.

JH: The idea that we have to show happy characters that go through journeys we agree with — that just seems boring. My life’s not made up of a series of right decisions.

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