Rusty Cundieff talks “Movie 43”

MOVIE 43 is touted as one of the most irreverent films of any kind, this equal opportunity offender, a comedy with some 12 directors, nine writers and a gang of producers plus an impressive cast too long to list. I spoke with one of the daring dozen, filmmaker Rusty Cundieff (Sprung, Tales from the Hood, The Dave Chappell Show), about his participation in MOVIE 43 from the distinguishable Farrelly (Something About Mary, Dumb & Dumber) film vault.

Sandra Varner/Talk2SV: Well let’s just dive right in, shall we…I understand Terrence Howard (Red Tails, Pride, Crash, Ray) wanted to show his funny side in his film segment. As his director, how did you help him achieve that goal?

Cundieff: I pretty much stayed out of his way. Terrence is incredibly talented and creative. He was really interested in this film project because he wanted to get out of just being seen as someone who can only do serious roles. In this film, the key for him is that he played his character straight and the straighter he played it, the funnier he was. It was interesting to see someone do almost the exact same thing he would do in a dramatic film but amp it up just enough so it becomes hysterical. He’s very, very funny in the piece so it really wasn’t that hard for me to direct him. He came ready to go gang busters with it and did a very good job.

Talk2SV: I don’t doubt that at all. The Farrelly Brothers are cut from a unique fabric, creatively. What did you observe about them that speaks to their distinctiveness?

Cundieff: Well, all of their humor has a tendency to go pretty far and I would say this film, if you take it as a whole not just the small pieces, isn’t like anything I’ve seen that goes as far as some of the sketches go in this film. There’s practically no taboo subject that’s left alone; and all I can say is, don’t go see it with a parent unless you have a very good relationship because you’ll be squirming.

Talk2SV: Given your description of MOVIE 43, would you say that this film is an act of courage or a bold act of defiance?

Cundieff: I guess it’s a little bit of both. Not speaking for the segment that I did in particular, but for the most part, I’d say the movie is the kind of stuff that people sometimes laugh about but don’t want anyone to know that they’re laughing about it. A lot of taboo things, a lot of dicey subject matter and, to their credit, I don’t know how they got all these people in this d-mn movie. It’s amazing that they got some of the talent they did to do some of the things that they did.

Talk2SV: Elaborate on the creative construct of Movie 43.

Cundieff: Basically, it’s a sketch movie with a through line in the overall story about a couple of kids searching the internet for this hard to find clip called Movie 43. As they are looking for this clip they come across all sorts of other insanity and that’s the framework that holds the whole thing together. AlI the little pieces of the overall story allow you to enjoy these different kind of crazy small sketches and different slices of sick comedy.

Talk2SV: So the vignettes that make up the film are all part of their findings?

Cundieff: Yeah, and there’s a bit more of a story to it as it goes along.

Talk2SV: The vignette with Terrence Howard is set in the locker room of his basketball team…

Cundieff: Yes and we cast a couple NBA players as well. The scene reflects some actual footage of them playing ball against the team that they’re going up against; the rest takes place with Terrence in a locker room giving his players an incredible speech before they go out on to the floor.

It is set somewhere in the mid to late 50’s, in the black team’s locker room of a group of players who come from somewhere in the inner city. They are playing in this championship game and are afraid because they are playing a white team. Terrence’s character, their coach is trying to pump them up with his speech, saying things like, “you guys are like 25 and 0, what are you afraid of?” Their response back to the coach is, “Yeah but everybody we’ve beat were black teams.” The coach fires right back, “Well that’s the point, you’re black and they’re white, this is basketball, and I don’t get what you’re so worried about.’!” That’s basically the angle and the coach’s speech to them. This particular sketch plays on a lot of racial and ethnic stereotypes between black and white and that whole thing. Of all the sketches, it’s the one that is most rooted in race relations but I would say it’s also the only one that starts its comedy from a point of something that is in the real world. The other vignettes are a bit more constructed. The overall goal was to make something crazy out of this idea that you could actually play as drama if you wanted to.

Talk2SV: Sounds funny…

Cundieff: You’ll definitely see a side of Terrence (Howard) that you haven’t seen before. He told me the first day we began filming, “yeah, I’m getting my Richard Pryor on.’ He really does go for it and, in fact, I think he says some things even Richard Pryor would be a little bit shocked about but some of those things didn’t make it into the final cut.

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