Interviews: Cast and Crew Talk ‘Fist Fight’
In these dark political times in which everyone needs a laugh, the legendary Ice Cube and Charlie Day team up to play high school teachers who are prepared to solve their differences the old fashioned way in the unapologetic comedy Fist Fight.
Fist Fight is Animal House meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which one high school’s toughest teacher, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), challenges the most docile teacher, Andy Campbell (Charlie Day), to a #TeacherFight on the last day of school. Campbell, terrified of fighting, resorts to desperate measures to try and avoid the confrontation before he beaten to a bloody pulp by Strickland.
It was a packed house at the recent press day for Fist Fight. The attendees included the film’s stars Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Christiana Hendricks, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Max and Charlie Carver, along with director Richie Keen and screenwriters Van Robichaux, Evan Susser, and Max Greenfield. Here is what we learned about Fist Fight.
Director Richie Keen on what drew him to the script:
Keen: When I read Evan and Van’s phenomenal script and began the process of not taking ‘no’ for answer to direct this movie. Because no one would meet me to make this movie because they had all sorts of choices, I began pursuing the job. I began taking all these meetings to convince everyone to hire me. Then Charlie (Day) singed on so it was this huge sense of synergy that Charlie was attracted to the same material I was. Then Ice Cube signed on, and I can’t think of a more comedic visual to go with the phenomenal script I read. I am also a huge John Hughes fan and it seems to have all the tropes of a John Hughes movie: it takes place in a day, the day changes someone’s life. But it also had a piece of Animal House in it. Yes, it played to my sick sensibility and me and Charlie began the year and half long process of being partners on it. I also don’t think I have ever laughed out loud so many times while reading a script. Every page had a laugh.
Richie Keen on working with Tracy Morgan’s first role after his traumatic accident:
Keen: It’s something that I feel truly honored to be a part of. I was actually supposed to produce and direct Tracy’s FX show right before his accident. And when I wanted Tracy for the role, he hadn’t been on TV yet, or been seen yet since. So there were questions: Can he walk? Does he have brain damage? Is he healthy? Then I got on a Skype call with Tracy and within 30 seconds, Tracy is asking, “Who’s Captain Kirk’s best friend?” To which I replied, “Spock.” “No, it ain’t Spock, Spock calls him ‘Captain’. You don’t call your best friend Captain. Boon says ‘damage him’ so Boon is his best friend.” Then I was like, “he’s fine, he’s ready to go back to work. There was a moment we had on the football field where I realized this was the first time someone was going to call “Action” since his accident. And this is a guys who didn’t know if he was going to get up again, let alone be funny and get to act. So, I told him, “I got you, you’re going to be great!” And he was. I am so grateful to be a part of his first project back.
Tracy Morgan on his first project back:
Morgan: There was a lot of funny in me. I was on the couch for a year after that Walmart truck hit me so I had to let it all out and this was the perfect movie to do that. I was so scared the first day because I didn’t know if I was funny or not after what I had just been through. Cube is like a brother to me and he encouraged me and relaxed me so I just had fun after that. I am proud to be of service to people when I make them laugh. Walmart can’t stop me. I didn’t know if I was ever going to be back, I didn’t know if I was ever going to walk again. So to come in and do my first film with Cube and Day, it feels good. Y’all better buckle up because we got a winner here.
The screenwriters on how much of the film was improvised and how much exactly like the script:
Evan Susser: The actors are great improviser. A lot of it is written, but I am happy to take credit for any Tracy line. Jillian’s character was actually supposed to be man, but we changed it. And Richie just kept thinking, “Jillian could get away with this.”
Van Robichaux: I would say about 70% is written and about 30% is improvised. With Jillian really having some of the most outrageous improv throughout the whole thing. If Jillian passed, we didn’t know what we were going to do. We essentially re-wrote the character to go to her.
The filmmakers on if they have ever been in an actually fist fight or pulled a senior prank:
Keen: So, I have. For some reason I just attracted some threats in high school. But I was very much like Charlie’s character like do whatever it takes to get out of a fight. Some of the pranks in the movie are based on actually pranks that I did myself as a child. There is one prank in the film, where the teacher is trying to show a video in class and the student has a remote and he is changing the channel and turning the TV off and on until Ice Cube throws a huge fit. I did that in 6th grade. I brought a little watch that was also a remote control that I bought at Radio Shack, but I was never caught. But yeah, I came to blows a few times with people in high school.
Susser: I was never in fight in high school. But I was punched in the face around the time we were pitching this movie out on the street. A guy, who was on drugs and much smaller than me, came up to me and punched me in the face. And from watching movies, I decided to act tough, and look him in the eyes and say, “do it again.” And unfortunately, he did it again. I definitely identify with the mild mannered Charlie character, and very scared of ever being in a fight.
Max Greenfield: I got the sh*t kicked out of me a couple times in school. I went to a public school in upstate New York and it was sort of the way things were handled to some degree. There were always fights after school and always some fight at a high school party. But because it was such a small community, I remember getting into it with my friend’s brother, Kevin Martin, and a couple years ago I officiated Kevin Martin’s wedding. I’m still friends with all the people I got into a fight with in high school and it was just sort of what we did and how we grew up. There was something very healing and cathartic about it within this small group of people. There was this excitement around it, and it felt very needed. So, that’s probably why I came up with the idea for Fist Fight where two teachers get into a fight.
Jillian Bell on Richie Keen begging her to be in the movie:
Jillian Bell: It was the nicest and most unnecessary thing anyone has ever done for me. I was like I love this script, I love who’s in the movie, and I’m so happy that he asked me to be a part of it. And the getting on the knees was a big bonus that’s never happened to me. And will probably never happen again.
Charlie Day and Ice Cube on how they trained for the fight sequence at the end:
Charlie Day: I had a week of training where they had to show me how to make a fist without breaking my thumb. I trained with a guy named Eves Edwards. I almost got completely knocked out during the training. So I have a lot of respect for those UFC guys and I would never want to do it, ever.
Ice Cube: I have been doing fight sequences in movie for a while. And when you do one with Tom “Tiny” Lister, you learn to get out of the way. So I learned early on to learn to choreography. It keeps you from getting accidental black eyes because they don’t look good on film. So from doing the movie Friday, I just learned to concentrate and do the dance. After eight days of shooting the fight scene we were tired and wondered if we were ever going to be funny again. But we needed an epic fight at the end.
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