Mr. Brooks : Dane Cook Q and A

Q. What attracted you to Mr. Brooks and in particular your character of Mr. Smith?
I’m interested in breaking out into cinematic roles of every size, shape and form, so this was really a chance for me to start doing that. When I got the script, it was a real page-turner, I was racing to figure out what would happen next and as I read Mr. Smith, I found myself already picturing how I would play him. What excited me about him is the way he is unwittingly on a path of total self-destruction, every move he makes is the wrong step. I like to keep myself on the right path so it was really interesting for me to play someone who’s so completely off track. I think Mr. Smith accidentally witnessed something and it was like, wait a minute, this might be my calling, this might be who I am. For him, Mr. Brooks is like a hero, he has all the knowledge that Mr. Smith wants. Mr. Smith sees himself as starting off on this great adventure of becoming a killer, but what he doesn’t foresee, is how he’s going to become a part of Mr. Brooks’ journey.

Q: You actually submitted a video to win this part?
Yes, it was like auditioning for ‘American Idol’! Other actors will tell you, when somebody says, ‘Will you go on tape?’ it’s like the kiss of death. What you really want to do is meet the producers and talk about your take on the character etc. But when you send in a tape, you never know what’s going on in the person’s life, and rarely does it seem to work in your favor.

Anyway, yes, I did it. I went on tape. I was down in New Mexico filming ‘Employee of the Month,’ and I literally ran between scenes because I had just one day to do it. I set up the camera and I had one of my good friends read the lines. He’s not an actor and was pretty awful. I kept stopping to tell him how to act! I was like, ‘God, you suck!’ Truly though, I had a real epiphany, when reading the script. You always hear that if it’s the right part, it just starts to take a hold of you, and I knew this guy. I’m an optimistic, encouraging, up-beat, glass is half-full type of person, and yet, I understood the deviant, lascivious side of this person. I drew from a few people that I’d met in my travels, sent the tape and got the call. ‘You did it, kid. You’re in the flick. You’re heading to Shreveport.’

Q: As a comic you write all your own material, how did this compare to having to stay on script for the film?
95% of the time, it’s the writer and director’s vision, and you’re a piece of their puzzle. It’s the polar opposite of comedy, where you’re in such control, as writer, director and producer. The other 5% were scenes with Kevinů There’s a scene where we’ve just come back from one of our dirty deeds, we just started improvising together in the car, and Kevin was so open and available to that, and really encouraged it. I remember, I was punching the seat and it was great, as in front of other actors one could feel embarrassed, with them thinking ‘what are you doing?’, but Kevin was like, ‘Do that, man! Do that! You’ve got to say that again.’ It was a case of taking the best of what I knew, comedically, and the best of working with somebody iconic, like Kevin Costner, who you just trust and you know he’s not going to let you down, and then the material was solid.

Q: Did you ever imagine that you’d do something this dark?
I did a short film about five years ago called ‘Spiral,’ which is on a par with this with regards to darkness. I wrote and produced it myself and it served two purposed. On a selfish, promotional level, it was like, ‘Let me show people what I can do, that I’m more than just stand-up comedy.’ The only way I was going to do that was to do it myself because nobody trusted I could do it. And secondly, I’ve done stand-up for 17 years and just wanted to explore other things, whether it be doing a voice-over for this other movie I’m doing, or talking about this theater project I have coming up, I just want to challenge myself. Now, comedy is safe for me. I can perform in front of 20,000 people at Boston Garden and I’m like, ‘I know how to do this. This is what I do’, I’m totally in my comfort zone, but I want to be a little scared.

Mr. Brooks (2007)Q: What has the transition from the comedy stage to Hollywood been like for you?
When I was in Boston, all of my comedy friends were going to New York. I said, ‘I’m not going to New York until New York calls me, and I have a purpose to go there.’ That is how I do everything, I guess I just don’t push for things. I had other comedic scripts before ‘Employee of the Month,’ and other TV shows that I just didn’t feel were authentic, or didn’t pump my ‘nads. I always have stand-up. I always have a way to make a few scheckles. I’m not in need. So, I just wait for stuff that makes me go, ‘that’s kinda creepy, that’s kinda weird, that’s scary.’ And I think, on a personal level, who knew with stand-up comedy that I would be able to do that.

I hope this vehicle will lead me to everything, but that’s up to the movie Gods and the movie going audiences. When I started getting the nod from my fans and started to receive scripts that appealed to me, I was like, ‘I’m not going to push. I’m going to go with the flow. If this is what I’m meant to do now, I’m going to do it for the rest of my life. If not, so be it’. I’m not going to lie to you though, I love my job and I love the art of comedy, but I also love doing these movies and really hope that I get to do more.

Q: How did you manage to ignore William Hurt when filming your scenes with him?
You can’t ignore William Hurt. He’s William f**king Hurt! I didn’t know how to approach him, I didn’t know what his take was, so I just waited. We did that first scene in the boardroom together, where he’s sitting at the end of the table, and I was feeling him, but I was trying to get myself into that zone, and I finally figured it out. I was like, ‘Oh, okay, this is what I need to do.’ Once I got into this rhythm, I lost William Hurt. I think Pacino once said about Chris O’Donnell in ‘Scent of a Woman,’ ‘I never saw you, but I felt that you were great.’ So I started doing this thing where I didn’t feel him and on the second day of filming he walked up to me and said something very encouraging like ‘I shouldn’t say this to you right now because we’re doing this, but you’re doing really great.’ It was kind of weird because I was so used to not having him in my life, or my periphery. I just went home and called my whole family and said, ‘William Hurt just told me I’m doing really great, and he really meant it.’

There is also a scene in the car, where he leans in between Kevin and I, and I didn’t expect him to do that, I just had to do my thing, but I could feel him. He’s got the Force. I feel like he could flick me out of a scene if he wanted to. Kevin’s got that same way and so has Demi, these are the elite. I’m a confident guy and I knew why they were bringing me in and I knew I could do it, but being new to that level, I also knew that I was going to have to just shut up and really listen and learn, and I did that every day. It was the best course on acting that you could ever, ever ask for.

Q: If you could be Mr. Smith for a day, who would you go after? Hecklers maybe?
No, I love hecklers because hecklers remind you you’re a comedian. Even though they throw off the whole tempo and the rhythm, and sometimes cut right into the middle of a gag, being an anti-cynical type of person, in the back of my mind I’m like, ‘This guy’s yelling out because I’m a stand-up comic. This is what I do, and it’s the coolest thing ever.’ So, no, I wouldn’t go after hecklers. I’d go after some club owners that treated me like a douche bag. I’d definitely take on some of those guys, if I could be Mr. Smith for a day.

Q: Would you ever go back to stand-up?
Always. I’d do stand-up tonight, if I could. Stand-up comedy is my baby.