PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Now the game where we reward a lifetime of success with something completely different. Peter Farrelly along with his brother Bobby became famous for raucous comedies that had high box office and bawdy humor - "There's Something About Mary" and "Dumb And Dumber" among many others. Now he has taken a turn towards the serious with his critically acclaimed movie "Green Book" about a road trip into the segregated South. Peter Farrelly joins us now. Welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, Peter.
PETER FARRELLY: Thank you very much - really appreciate it.
SAGAL: So we were looking into your career as a very successful film director, usually with your brother. And you did not have that classic sort of film school kind of background, right?
FARRELLY: No, I was an accounting major in college, Providence College. Four years accounting major, graduated with a 2.0, and...
FARRELLY: ...Got into film after that.
SAGAL: So did you - you didn't - I mean, like, whenever you - I talk to, like, filmmakers, they're like, oh, yeah, I was, like, making videos in the fourth grade, and all - I was constantly going to the movies. You weren't one of those guys?
FARRELLY: No. No. We really didn't - you know, we didn't have a movie theater in our town except for a couple of years in high school there was one. But what we did love is television. And we- you know, I was more influenced by TV, specifically probably "The Andy Griffith Show," more than anything else.
SAGAL: Whoa. Whoa. Wait a minute.
FARRELLY: Oh, yeah.
SAGAL: You are - all right, let's go over some of your movies again. So "There's Something About Mary" and "Dumb And Dumber" and "Dumb And Dumber To" and "Kingpin." And you're telling me that the guys who made those movies were inspired by "The Andy Griffith Show"?
FARRELLY: Yeah. I mean, what we try to do - it's - we, you know, obviously try to make you laugh, but we also want to make you feel something. And if you watch "The Andy Griffith Show," every episode you're going to laugh, but you're also going to feel a little something. And that was unusual for a TV show. You normally didn't feel much.
SAGAL: Wow. I guess - I mean, I've noticed that about your movies, that despite some of the gross-out humor, they're very sweet at heart.
TOM PAPA: Peter, you act like you've never seen Barney Fife before.
BRIAN BABYLON: Yeah, he's hilarious.
PAPA: That guy's hilarious.
SAGAL: Yeah, I've seen Barney Fife. I don't remember the episode where he got his junk caught in his zipper, though.
BABYLON: And you know what? And, you know, the caring part is Andy Griffith. That was a white man you could trust, you know? Like, you know, from my grandmama and auntie, you know, in those days, they ain't trust white people. But Andy Griffith - if you went to his town, he wouldn't jerk you around.
BABYLON: He would have you leave the town, but he (unintelligible).
SAGAL: Yeah, I know. Yeah. It was the South.
SAGAL: So wait a minute. So, Peter, I mean, one of the things that amazes me is I know so many people who did everything they could to break into Hollywood, and they never managed it. How did you get in there? How did you sort of start your career?
FARRELLY: Well, you know, it was very - it took me nine years to get a movie made.
FARRELLY: You know? But, you know, I took the baby steps. First of all, I went off and wrote, like, 350 pages by myself, you know, for about six months, eight months. And I went to - luckily got into grad school at UMass Amherst for creative writing. And then I transferred to Columbia University for creative writing. And there I met somebody else. And then, you know, we wrote a screenplay, sent it out. And boom, boom, boom, nine years later, we finally got "Dumb And Dumber" made.
FARRELLY: But I got to tell you. You know, we had never directed anything before. Not a, you know, video, commercial, nothing - student film. So we were figuring it out on the set. We were kind of like, you know - we were very honest with everybody, the crew saying, you know, we don't know what we're doing; help us out. I knew the script.
FARRELLY: I knew the script that I wanted, but I didn't know anything about lenses, cameras, lighting, any of that stuff.
SAGAL: Let me ask you about your latest movie, "Green Book," which is out now. It is - you've made a lot of movies since "Dumb And Dumber." But it is a departure for you - right? - from your...
SAGAL: ...What you usually do.
FARRELLY: Big departure, yes.
SAGAL: Yeah, so this is a movie - well, you can describe it. I don't want to do that for you.
FARRELLY: Yeah, it's a true story. 1962 - a black concert pianist named Don Shirley - his record company was sending him on a tour of the Deep South. He was nervous about going. So he went down to the Copacabana nightclub in New York and hired the toughest bouncer, an Italian-American guy with a sixth-grade education who was racist himself to drive him because he needed the muscle. And somehow, after being on the road for two months together, these guys became lifelong friends. And it was that part - that was the thing that really appealed to me.
SAGAL: It's a serious movie. It's - although it has laugh. But what's funny is it seems pretty restrained. Did you have to, like, restrain yourself from doing the things you normally do in a movie set?
FARRELLY: This is also an odd-couple type story. You got, you know, a concert pianist with three doctorates and a sixth-grade-educated, you know, bouncer. And so there was tons of laughs in there that I kind of avoided. But a lot of them come through. There's just natural laughs in there. But I didn't go for gags. Actually brings us back to "Andy Griffith," which was - their thing - model was no jokes. And "Andy Griffith" never had jokes. The humor had to come from the characters. And that's what I tried to do in this movie. I wanted any laughs to come from the characters. And that's what we tried to do.
SAGAL: I got to ask you one last question about your comedies, though, 'cause your films are famous for, like, going pretty far sometimes. I'm thinking of, like, the hair gel gag in...
SAGAL: ..."There's Something About Mary." Did you and your brother ever come up with something, and you were like, no, that's too far?
FARRELLY: Oh, yeah, all the time.
SAGAL: Saying - knowing what your standards are and that this is public radio, can you tell us about one?
FARRELLY: I - you know what? I have some - no, I can't.
SAGAL: Well, Peter Farrelly, we are delighted to talk to you. We've asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: There's something about dairy.
SAGAL: ...As we've discussed, you made "There's Something About Mary." So we're going to ask you three questions about dairy. Answer two of these three questions correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, the voice of anyone they like from our show on their voicemail. Bill, who is Peter Farrelly playing for?
KURTIS: Raynell Cooper of San Francisco, Calif.
SAGAL: All right, here we go. First question - Americans feel pretty strongly about dairy. In fact, 7 percent of Americans believe what - A, that if you drink only milk every day, your bones will become unbreakable; B, that chocolate milk comes from brown cows...
SAGAL: ...Or, C, that cheese is poop from very special cows?
FARRELLY: I - you know, I'm tempted to go with B just 'cause, you know, it's America.
FARRELLY: I'll go with B.
SAGAL: All right, you are right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Seven percent of Americans think that chocolate milk comes from brown, presumably chocolate-flavored cows. Next question - this one's a little bit surprising. But one of modern history's greatest lovers of dairy products was Fidel Castro. He loved dairy so much that what once happened - A, when he took over the country, his first stop in Havana was a Carvel ice cream store; B, the CIA tried to kill him by poisoning his daily milkshake; or, C, he invited Russia to install nuclear missiles in Cuba because the U.S. had cut off his supply of Wisconsin cheddar cheese?
FARRELLY: I'll go with B.
SAGAL: You're going to go with B again?
SAGAL: You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: The CIA, as you know, tried to assassinate him. And he had a milkshake every day. So they arranged to put poison in his milkshake. But this is what happened. In the freezer...
SAGAL: ...The poison froze, and the capsule broke open and spilled everywhere. All right, last question - let's go for perfect. Here's your last question. As with everything else, there's a lot of innovation in the dairy space. Which of these is a dairy product we might someday soon enjoy - A, pig's milk ricotta; B, drinkable plastic milk; or, C, exploding cheese curds?
FARRELLY: I'm going to say A.
SAGAL: You're going to say A, pig's milk ricotta? You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: According to the chef who is developing it, pig's milk cheese is delicious, but it's really hard to milk a pig.
FARRELLY: Well, I'm so happy for Coop (up) up in San Francisco who won this.
SAGAL: I know, it's pretty - well, wait a minute. It's not official until Bill says it is. Bill, how did Peter Farrelly do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Perfect. Perfect. Three right, right down the line.
FARRELLY: Thank you.
SAGAL: Peter Farrelly's new film is the "Green Book." It's in theaters now. Go see it. It's quite moving. Peter Farrelly, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
FARRELLY: Thanks for having me. I love it.
SAGAL: Thank you.
FARRELLY: See you all. Bye-bye.
(SOUNDBITE OF NIGHTHAWKS' "FISHIN' HOLE THEME")
SAGAL: In just a minute, keep your pants on. It's our Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAITWAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
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