Post Magazine

August 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 51

DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 14 POST AUGUST 2016 A DEPARTURE FROM THE COMEDY COMFORT ZONE BY IAIN BLAIR odd Phillips single-handedly de- molished the old saw about com- edy not getting any respect by racking up $1.4 billion with his global blockbuster franchise The Hangover. Now the director has leveraged that clout, left his comedy comfort zone and made the genre-defy- ing War Dogs, which tells the outlandish — but true — story of two Miami Beach twentysomething friends, Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz (played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, respectively), who con their way into the high-stakes world of arms-dealing during the first Iraq war and manage to land a $300 million deal to arm the Afghan military. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Phillips, whose credits include Due Date, Road Trip and Old School, talks about the challenges of making the film, his love of post and visual effects, and why he doesn't like producing. This was quite a change of pace for you. Was that the appeal? "It was, and the biggest change for me was the tone, as most of the things I've done — really everything I've done — has been straight up comedy, while tonally this movie was a little schizophrenic. It's not straight comedy or straight drama, and that mix is actually my favorite kind of film, where you f**k with the tone a bit and it's not just one thing. David O. Russell's brilliant at that mix, and he can jump from comedy to drama in the same scene. Now, that mix can confuse people and the marketing department as it's far easier if you can label stuff one way or the other, so for me it was a bit of a leap for sure." How big an adjustment was it going from a huge comedy franchise to making a film without a built-in audience? "It was huge, because in this day and age in the movie business, if you don't have a Spider-Man or Lego or well-known brand, it's very hard to push a movie like this through the system. It helped that the Hangover films made so much money for Warners that they really couldn't say no, but it was still a movie that it's doubtful any other studio would make with just any director. I had a certain amount of good- will built up thanks to the Hangover films, but the thing about goodwill in Hollywood is that you have to use it or lose it, as it's perishable. Regimes change, the economy changes and suddenly the new guys don't give a shit about how well the Hangover franchise did." The old cliche is that comedy is hard, but isn't drama hard, too? "Yes, just as hard. All movies are hard to make. Comedies are hard because if they don't work and nobody's laughing, they're nothing. You're totally f**ked. But even if a drama doesn't work, it's still something, as it's more nuanced. That's the big difference." You shot in Romania, Jordan and Morocco, as well as Miami, Las Vegas and California. How tough was the shoot? "Very tough. We shot in seven different lo- cations, so just all the logistics were a big challenge. But running around between all the locations in the different countries is also one of my favorite parts of making a movie. You land in Morocco or Jordan with your crew and just hit the ground running. You know they're there just to focus on the movie, and it's thrilling, while if you're shooting in LA, some crew are thinking about getting home to see their kids or whatever, so life gets in the way sometimes then." Where did you do the post? How long was the process? "We did it all in LA. We rented these funky little offices over a hardware store in West Hollywood as it's close to my house, but you had to actually walk through the store to get to the editing suite. Then we did the rest — all the sound mixing and so on — on the lot at Warners, which was fantastic." Do you like post? "I absolutely love it and I always view it as a writer, as I also write or co-write my own movies. I think every director loves editing the most, because let's face it — directors are all control freaks and you have the most control in post and the editing room. So for me at least, I direct movies and go through all the stress of production and shooting just to get to the editing room. It's all stuff I just have to deal with so I can then sit down and actually make the movie, so it's the final draft of the script and I very much see it as a writing exercise. Post is your last shot at getting the script right." You re-teamed with editor Jeff Groth, who cut the last Hangover. Tell us about the editing process. "He'd get dailies from all our location work and then he was on-set when we came back and shot here in LA. He'd come every day, over two weeks or so, and we'd talk in detail about the edit. When I was in Jordan or Romania or wherever overseas, he'd send me cuts of scenes over the Pix system and we'd discuss them. And because we shot so much abroad, we had an unusual schedule with all these little breaks built in. There was this big break be- tween shooting in Romania and the rest of the shoot because we lost one of the actors for a bit to a previous commitment. So, when we had the two weeks off, I'd be here in LA and we'd go through material. It was kind of liberating, as we were able to edit the whole Romania bit of the movie and then carry on with the rest of the shoot. I really liked that way of working, TODD PHILLIPS: WAR DOGS T On-set: War Dogs was shot in seven different locations.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Post Magazine - August 2016