I got to sit down with Hart and Ferrell in Austin, Texas, where the film was making its world premiere as part of the South by Southwest Film Festival. And it was just as insane as the actual movie. The first two minutes or so of the interview Ferrell was investigating my beard. The exchange follows.
Will Ferrell: You've got a great beard.
Me: You should grow one.
Ferrell: When I do it comes in salt and pepper. Hold the pepper. Lot more salt.
Kevin Hart: No. I get it. Will. I get it.
And then the interview began.
We discussed how long they'd been wanting to do a project together, whether the movie ever got stuck with an NC-17 rating, the political subtext of the film, and whether or not Ferrell will be back for "Zoolander 2."
Had you guys been looking for a project to do together for a while?
Ferrell: Quite the opposite. We'd been avoiding each other.
Hart: We'd been trying to avoid this for some time now. But everybody was like, "Please. Guys. It's good. Just read it." And after reading it I knew it had to happen. But there was a road that I took purposely. I could go this way, or I could go this way...
Ferrell: Kevin! Why is this so hard? I can't figure out how to get a hold of you.
Hart: There were literally times when I know Will saw me when he called me. He would say, "Hey I'm in town, let's meet." And I said, "Sorry, I'm not here." I think he saw me.
Ferrell: I said, "Alright. Okay. So I guess you're not on Ventura Blvd right now."
Hart: "No, that can't be me. That can't be me."
Ferrell: "Right in front of the Starbucks."
Hart: "Nope. Not me."
Ferrell: "You're in yellow Adidas tennis shoes. And you're waving at me? Okay. Fair enough."
Hart: "No. Not me."
Will could have been the Ice Cube part in "Ride Along."
Hart: He could have. It would have been a completely different movie.
Ferrell: But I don't want to go up against Cube.
Why was this project the one that you guys decided to do together?
Ferrell: Well, this was one that my company had developed. I mean... This really came from us. And Kevin was the perfect piece to complete the puzzle.
Hart [mocking Ferrell]: I've got a company! And we develop stuff. We and Adam [McKay], all we do is genius sh*t!
Ferrell: That's all. That's all we do. I'm going to subscribe to that theory of yours.
Hart: No, it was a great idea.
Ferrell: It was an idea we had and the more we talked about it, it was like, "Let's develop that." And we've known each other for a long time and Kevin's meteoric wise.
Hart: That's a great word.
Ferrell: So we thought, Kevin Hart is so freakin' funny. What if he's the guy? We called him, he was into it and then helped us develop the script.
In a more straightforward buddy movie, Kevin's character would have just been a criminal.
Hart: 100% I would just be the criminal.
Ferrell: He would be the guy with the real past who is trying to do right and it just became much more interesting to just have a guy who gets thrown into the situation.
Hart: There was a first draft, and it wasn't that it was far away, but there were holes. There were things that we felt were this and that. And Etan Cohen [the director] came in and did a pass and I will give him a lot of credit because his writing background is strong and while this is the first one that he's directed, he knows comedy. And what he wanted to do was meet and talk, and what he allowed me to do was make my guy human. I want to give a sh*t about the character, and I thought you should give a sh*t about Will's character, too. On the page it was a little bit more defined. But my guy was just coming in and doing some funny sh*t. I wanted to make both worlds interesting. And Etan came in and came up with the idea to show the other life with him with his wife and kids and everything...
Ferrell: ...To show the B-side to that story -- that this is a family guy, really a middle-class guy who's fronting all the time makes it much more interesting.
Obviously, there's a lot of improvisation...
Hart: Well, I can't read.
That's going to be a good headline for this interview: "Kevin Hart Can't Read."
Hart: It's tough.
Ferrell: And is against learning to read. "Reading is for suckers."
Hart: Yeah, I don't want to learn. It's the dumbest thing to do. It takes so much time. I know how to talk. I've got other sh*t to do. Who wants to sit here and learn all this sh*t when I can just get up there, "Yappa yappa yappa." It's just a better route.
Ferrell: "Yappa yappa yappa?"
You know that expression.
Ferrell: Yeah yeah yeah.
Hart: I read that.
So what was the percentage between written word and improvised material?
Ferrell: It just depends. We're both used to getting down what we had in the script. You know, it really began in rehearsals. We were already writing in the improvisations we'd done and add that into the scene. Then you've got Etan, who's got a stack of alt lines to feed us as well. So that makes us think of other things, too. That's the recipe now for these movies. We'd have to sit and go through scenes with you and go, "Oddly enough, that's 100% from the page. This one we totally went for it." So it's that combination.
Hart: It was a loose set. We wanted to make sure we got what was on the page but you don't hire these two guys without allowing us to bring something or try something.
Ferrell: And nobody's allowed to be precious.
Hart: That's a good thing.
Ferrell: And we both are encouraging of each other, saying, "It would be funny if you did this." So all of that makes for a creative dynamic.
I think there are nine separate cuts of "Anchorman 2" on home video.
Ferrell: I know.
What's the craziest thing that didn't make it into this movie?
Hart: So much. Damn. There's one scene where we go to jump on the yacht and you're hanging off and I jump on his back and there are so many variations of me hanging off of your back. I know we have a shorter version in the movie but the versions we did of me hanging on his back, me grabbing his face, me pulling your hair, that sh*t there, is about five or six different versions.
Ferrell: And the scene in the movie after I have stabbed myself in the head with my own homemade shiv, we riffed on that for... hours.
Hart: And I have to take responsibility. I messed up 70% of those takes. 70% of those takes were unusable because of me laughing that day. I couldn't get it together.
This is an R-rated movie. Was it always R from the get-go?
Hart: Well, I'm a filthy motherf*cker.
Ferrell: I like how your voice got lower: I'm a filthy motherf*cker. [continuing with his low Kevin Hart voice] Here's the thing. You come to a Kevin Hart joint, you're about to go on a ride. It's gonna get nasty.
Hart: Expect some nasty sh*t when you come to a Kevin Hart movie.
Ferrell [still doing the Kevin Hart voice]: You're going to feel a little sick to your stomach. But ultimately you're going to laugh. [Will resumes his normal voice] Well this was a decision... There was a discussion from other powers that be asking us, "Is there any way you can do this PG-13?" And there's just no way. Prison is a horrible, nasty place, and for us to do a PG-13 version... We just had to have the free reign to talk about any subject any way we wanted to. That being said, there were certain cuts of the movie that were still NC-17, before we made some choices.
Hart: Oh Jesus.
What made it NC-17?
Hart: There was one scene in particular.
Ferrell: I don't want to spoil it.
Hart: It's a bad one. Trust me, when you see the movie, there's no way you won't know. But I remember about midway through, we talked about this during the movie, we're cussing. We've got a lot of stuff in it. But we said, "Hey, let's make sure it's not overkill."
Ferrell: It's a weird thing.
Hart: I know it sounds crazy. And you had told me during "Step Brothers..."
Ferrell: Yeah, that was our first R-rated movie and we got so excited that we had to come back and pull out so many F words because we were too excited to say it and we just became immune to it.
Hart: I remember on this one, you telling me that story and me talking to Etan saying, "We know that we've got our cuss words here and there and at a certain point the dialogue doesn't need that." You know you've got your moments where that works but it probably works better because we didn't overkill it. That was something we were both conscious of.
There's some subtle political stuff there, and you and McKay are obviously political dudes.
Hart: They're into that sh*t.
Ferrell: Yeah, he's all about the Black Panthers.
Hart: I'm all about the goddamn revolution.
How important was that political element?
Ferrell: The genesis of the idea is thought that if, for whatever reason, you, after this interview, find out that you're going to prison. How would you react? And what's the comedic potential in what you would do. That's where the comedy comes from. But once we had this whole other thing we could talk about too. You're constantly bombarded with news about the hedge fund guy who's fined one dollar for scamming millions of people. So we get to comment on that a little bit and we get to comment on, in this racial world we live in, stupid perceptions we have of each other and how silly they can be. So it was a platform for that as well. Ultimately we were just trying to make people laugh.
Hart: I'm just trying to start the revolution.
Are you guys going to work together again? Is this the new Crosby and Hope?
Hart: No. This is it for me.
Ferrell: You're seeing the new Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Hart: [laughs uncontrollably]
Ferrell: We just need a third person and we'll play some folk music.
I think you're looking at him.
Ferrell: Are you musical?
Hart: Are you musical?
No. Are you?
Hart: I am.
Ferrell: Oh yeah. Just listen to him.
Hart [singing]: If I'm gonna fly...
Ferrell: You know what? Save it.
Hart: That's what I got.
Just before they kick me out, are you coming back for "Zoolander 2"?
Ferrell: Oh yeah. I'll be in Italy the entire month of May.
"Get Hard" opens in theaters nationwide March 27.
When obscenely rich hedge-fund manager James (Will Ferrell) is convicted of fraud and sentenced to a stretch in San Quentin, the judge gives him one month to get his affairs in order. Knowing that he won't survive more than a few minutes in prison on his own, James desperately turns to Darnell (Kevin Hart) -- a black businessman who's never even had a parking ticket -- for help. As Darnell puts James through the wringer, both learn that they were wrong about many things, including each other. Read More