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Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Shawn Levy Talk About ‘Date Night’

Tina Fey and Steve Carell in Date Night photo

Tina Fey and Steve Carell in ‘Date Night.’

© 20th Century Fox

Steve Carell (The Office) and Tina Fey (30 Rock) team up for the first time to play a married couple whose night out goes horribly wrong in the action comedy Date Night. Directed by Shawn Levy (the Night at the Museum films), Date Night finds Carell and Fey starring as Phil and Claire Foster, an average couple with two kids who are pretty settled in their routines. However, in an attempt to break free of their usual night out away from the kids at a familiar local restaurant, the Fosters head into Manhattan to an upscale restaurant – without a reservation. After the snooty maître d’ blows them off, they ‘steal’ another couple’s dinner reservation. That act sets off a chain of events which has them running for their lives.

Together for a press conference in LA in support of the 20th Century Fox film, Carell, Fey, and director Levy explained what drew them to the project.

Steve Carell, Tina Fey, and Director Shawn Levy Date Night Press Conference

For Steve and Tina, we know NBC is having a little bit of trouble these days. Do they get any bulk rate for loaning you out to 20th Century Fox?

Tina Fey: “I first will say thank God NBC is having trouble or my show would not be on the air.”

Steve Carell: “Neither of our shows would be on the air if NBC wasn’t in trouble.”

Tina Fey: I think we are certainly happy that Fox wants to advertise the movie on NBC. That’s good for them.”

Steve Carell: “Yeah. They are making something off the ad campaign.”

Can you talk about the ad-libbing?

Steve Carell: “It was 65 ad-libs, and you can probably pick them out. We would always do the script as written because it was very strong and the script didn’t need to be changed in order to… But then once we had it, and Shawn can speak to this, once we had it to our satisfaction, then we would open it up and play around. So, it’s hard to determine what necessarily was ad-libbed and what wasn’t.”

Shawn Levy: “I will just give you a little more. Part of why we didn’t improvise from scratch every day is that we spent close to a year with the script. Steve and Tina would give their input and I would go back and we would work the script more. So by the time we shot, we had a script that we had all lived with for close to a year. Then, yes, once we did some takes, but I would bet that if this room called out their favorite 10 jokes, I wager at least five of them were something that somebody came up with on the shooting day.”

Steve and Tina, since you’re both married, do you actually do date nights and have you ever had weird experiences on those nights?

Tina Fey: “We definitely try. We don’t have it as formally. I mean, maybe once a month my husband and I get out and it is a massive effort to get a baby-sitter. And if we get more than 10 blocks from our house, it’s a miracle and I am exhausted. So, I definitely related to the idea of like, ‘Okay, oh good, it’s our date night.’ That made sense to me. But Steve’s had tons of weird stuff happen.”

Steve Carell: “Lots. We are always happy when we get invited to an award show, because that is it. That’s our excuse to get dressed up and go out somewhere, and even on those nights, we are generally back by about 10. And, as most people with kids know, you pay for it. If you really go out late and whoop it up, the kids are up at 5:30 the next day, so are you. So, that kind of determines how crazy our date nights get. Generally our best date nights are very, very simple. And we spend a good deal of them talking about our children anyway. So there is no escape.”

Were you looking for something to do together? How did this come about?

Steve Carell: “Well, we were both offered or our interest was weighed initially, and we spoke on the phone and kind of sussed each other out in terms of what we each of us was thinking. And Tina said the funniest thing. She said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to just be hanging off a car bobbing through New York City?’ And I am like, ‘Yeah. I am in. That sounds great.’”

Tina Fey: “And, for me, I really wanted to do something with Steve. The idea that it was a married couple, who are grown people, appealed to me because I felt like yeah, cause that’s what we are in real life and at a certain point, you can’t be making a movie about your GD wedding. It gets to a point where you’re getting up there and I just felt like this is a movie, that if my husband and I got out, we would actually want to go see this movie…this topic.”

This movie feels like one of those films from the 1980s where it seems like no matter what you did for a living, drug dealers and crooked cops would end up coming after you. What influenced you making this movie?

Shawn Levy: “Well, when I was developing the movie and even making the movie I wasn’t thinking really about the influences. When I watched the movie, they occurred to me. All I wanted to do was to make a funny movie that could also be honest about some aspects of grown-up life. And to make a movie that was, hopefully, super funny but more than just funny and kind of more relatable than your standard comedy. But when I watch it. certainly, when people invoke the 48 Hours and the Beverly Hills Cop and the Midnight Run kind of character-based action comedies, where yes, there is a weird preponderance of dirty cops and drug dealers, then yes, I will say that maybe there’s a borrowed page from that book.”
Tina Fey and Steve Carell in Date Night photo

Tina Fey and Steve Carell in ‘Date Night.’

© 20th Century Fox

Steve Carell, Tina Fey, and Director Shawn Levy Date NightPress Conference

Tina, once they take your bag away, you don’t have any props. You did a great job ad-libbing. How hard was that?

Tina Fey: “Thanks. Yeah, once I lose my purse and coat, it was just me and my arms and the night. Just my bare arms.”

Shawn Levy: “I feel like we thought about…it was always, ‘What are the arms and hands doing in every scene?'”

Tina Fey: “And I was trying to hide my arms behind like a doorjamb. The only thing they didn’t take was my heels. They didn’t take my high heels.”

Shawn Levy: “That’s right because of course you would keep your high heels on as you are running for your life. Always.”

Tina Fey: “I mean I took them off when we were in the car sometimes. You know, I would cheat a little bit. And I think we had several sets. We had this sort of like grandma set and a higher set and then the higher set.”

Shawn Levy: “Anytime Tina ran it was an inch and a half but with an athletic strap that went across the top of the foot.”

Tina Fey: “There was a steel reinforcement in the heel. Steve built all those shoes for me. He is also a cobbler.”

Tina, can you talk about the scene where you’re on the stripper pole? Whose idea was that and how was it done?

Tina Fey: “Well, going into that sequence, shooting that sequence, Steve and Shawn and I agreed that we should not plan it, because I would only have time…”

Shawn Levy: “We made a decision not to hire a choreographer.”

Tina Fey: “Because then we would just get in our heads about it and try to learn too much.”

Steve Carell: “It would have been too good.”

Tina Fey: “It would have been too good. He would have gotten aroused and it would have been like embarrassing in the theaters. And I forget the part where Steve carried me around. I forget how we got to that.”

Shawn Levy: “I don’t know.”

Tina Fey: “We only did like two long takes of the whole sequence.”

Shawn Levy: “Yes, we did two takes.”

Tina Fey: “And the first take, Steve picked me up and I just neglected to hold the pole. I was supposed to be going around the pole, and I remember you going, like, ‘Hold the pole!’ But it was a sequence that I was kind of nervous going into. Like, ‘Oh boy, what is this going to be?’ And then I kind of knew that I could count on Steve to deliver throughout it, which he did. The robot. One of my favorite things in the movie is Steve licking the pole. I mean, it made me nauseous. I would like to say that we went to a bunch of strip clubs and like really studied and stuff, but we didn’t.”

Shawn mentioned before you got on the set, you were working on the script. What were your concerns and how did you want the movie to feel?

Tina Fey: “We also wanted the movie to feel like it was at the top of its intelligence in dealing with this couple and marriage. We really wanted this couple to feel truthful and realistic to us and that they weren’t a couple who hate each other, who were fighting all the time. They were just a real couple who were kind of worn down by their everyday lives and were, in a way, struggling to try to come together and that this night sparks that for them. So I think we tried to pursue jokes and speech that felt true to that.”

Shawn Levy: “In earlier conversations…some of the kind of easy ways to do a movie like this would have been they’re on the cusp of divorce and this is their one last try. So kind of, no, that became too obvious, where at the end of the movie they move to the city because that’s where vibrant life happens.”

Tina Fey: “The only place.”

Shawn Levy: “But no, we tried to ban ourselves or kind of resist those easier script development ideas in order to do something that maybe was a little more [of a] grey area at the beginning. There is a scene early in the first 10 minutes when they are on a date night and at their neighborhood joint, and there is those silences and you look around at other couples. And one of the really vindicating things is how many people have said that it was uncomfortable how honest or relatable that dinner felt, because all of us have been on them.”

Is there a certain defensiveness or is there a certain kind of perverse pleasure in showing the terrible things that could happen to you in New York City?

Tina Fey: “I definitely encountered people like the maître d’ that we encounter in the movie. People are propping up their own self-worth by trying to make everyone feel terrible. And then…how else is the city portrayed? It’s portrayed pretty good. We took out all the shots that had real rats in them.”

Shawn Levy: “That’s actually true. Several times we were filming in the middle of the night in the streets of New York and a rat would run by. And, in fact, in one scene Tina reacted to the rat. I ended up thinking that people would think it was a CG rat, because it is so perfectly framed and the timing is so perfect, that it almost felt like it would read as a gimmick.”

Steve Carell: “So cliché.”

Tina Fey: “Rat in New York City?”

Shawn Levy: “There were a lot of rats. What I thought was interesting, not quite in answering your question, is sometimes we would put the camera across the street and one scene in particular when Tina is freaking out and Steve is trying to get her to calm down and then he has got the crazy eyes and he starts freaking out…when we first started shooting it we went across the street with a long lens and just… There is a few moments in the movie where we were filming and somehow the lockup wouldn’t be perfect so someone – a real New Yorker – would walk by, and how often the crazy people freaking out would get ignored by the regular New Yorker. I thought, ‘They really just don’t care.'”
Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Mark Wahlberg in Date Night photo

Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Mark Wahlberg in ‘Date Night.’

© 20th Century Fox

Steve Carell, Tina Fey, and Director Shawn Levy Date NightPress Conference

What is it that you do in real life to avoid this kind of boredom?

Steve Carell: “What do we do in real life? Boy, it’s like I knew we would get questions like this on the press junket and I thought that I prepared, but I clearly haven’t, because then you feel like you are giving relationship advice. I think every relationship is so different and so unique, so I don’t think there is any sort of blanket advice. For us, Nancy and myself, there is a lot of laughter. There is an open line of communication and we just have fun with one another. We never forget to make fun of ourselves and to not take it all too seriously. That’s, I think – at least for us – that’s what helps. And amazing lovemaking…”

Tina, how was handling the action scenes?

Tina Fey: “I thought all the sort of action stuff was really fun to do, yeah. And I enjoyed those days where we spent several days and nights in those cars and being pulled on giant rigs. I thought it was really fun. It was impressive. Our crew was kind of awesome that they built these crazy…it involved like two monster trucks tethered to two cars. It was pretty cool.”

Shawn Levy: “It was really cute how into the bad ass Tina got. Because she had wind blown in her face and we would blast music on the set and Tina really channeled her inner…”

Tina Fey: “Mommy dare. The last few days of the shoot were on the roof in New York City and that was good times. Pretending a helicopter is coming and screaming – who doesn’t want to scream at Ray Liotta?”

How did your husband react to your schedule and all these wonderful things that have happened to you?

Tina Fey: “He is very understanding about it and he also works the same TV show that I work, and so we are sort of all working toward a common goal. I think if we had truly separate jobs it would be hard. But yeah, he is the house daddy in the morning if I have an early call, and so far so good. He is very good and helpful about it.”

Shawn, can you talk about casting Mark Wahlberg and James Franco?

Shawn Levy: “Well, it is something I had done in the Night at the Museum movies where you kind of sit there and you picture, ‘What if we got so and so for this small supporting role?’ And I just kind of learned in those movies that you just ask, and frankly if you have Steve and Tina, who are themselves… I mean, talent likes being with talent. And great actors and funny actors like working with other great and funny actors, so I credit Steve and Tina as a big part of the drawing power.”

“I think it might have been our first meal – the three of us, we were talking about, ‘Well who would be great for Holbrook? Who would be great for Taste?’ And I remember bringing up all these names. Like, ‘What if Kristen Wiig played your friend and like Mark Ruffalo is her husband, and Mark Wahlberg took his short off and got like crazy ripped?’ Older, like old-time, original Mark Wahlberg – and it all happened. I just would call these people, and people liked the script. People, frankly they loved Steve and Tina’s work but they also know them and me just to be a normal, nice person. We try to make work pleasant and efficient, and everybody said yes. And, I am thrilled when I watch the movie seeing how much it adds.”

Shawn, what are your plans for the DVD?

Shawn Levy: “The DVD actually is a different cut of the movie. The DVD has, I think, it is about 15 minutes longer. It’s really good stuff. Some of it is improvisation. A lot of it is just stuff that was in the script and for some reason it didn’t quite make sense in the theatrical version. But, yeah, the DVD is a longer cut of the movie, in addition to a lot of the improvisation made it there. There is this featurette that is basically composed of how much I would kind of shout out to the actors from off camera. For instance, that stripping sequence, we just played that song without choreography and they would keep going. Every time I saw them run out of an idea, like for instance one time I am like, ‘Sex Robots, Sex Robots!’ And actually that is why that character in the movie ends up saying, ‘Sex Robots.'”

“[…]Same thing when Steve kind of started getting down on the ground, and I was like, ‘Intercourse worm, Intercourse worm!’ So that is a featurette that I think DVD fans can really look forward to.”

Tina, in 30 Rock is Floyd’s wedding going to take us to the season finale and how crazy is that wedding going to get?

Tina Fey: “Yes. Floyd’s wedding, we are building to a multi-wedding season finale. It’s good because apparently people like weddings. So, we are just trying to do a bunch of weddings. I think it will be kind of our version…I think Liz ends up actually having to function [at] three weddings on the same day.”

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April 12, 2010 - Posted by | 1

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