An array of familiar faces flitter in and out of Lorene Scafaria‘s directorial debut. Be it Rob Huebel or Patton Oswalt, they all have a minute or two to shine before the apocalypse strikes the world at play; amongst some of those soon-to-perish characters is Rob Corddry, an actor well-known for bit parts and the “asshole” role. In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Warren, played by Corddry, briefly revels in his final days, and in the way we’d hope to see him do onscreen.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World also shares a connection to another film Corddry has coming up: Michael Bay‘s Pain and Gain, based on a true (and insane) story. The doomsday bit isn’t the common thread, but the voices behind them are. Scafaria’s voice is shaping up to be a notable one, as Michael Bay’s is globally known. We’ll see Bay stretch some storyteling muscles the next time out, but, as Corddry tells us, his behind-the-scenes methods remain both the same and beneficial.
Here’s wha Rob Corddry had to say about the crux of over-preparing for roles, having no frame of reference in acting school, and why Ed Harris was smashing a lot of phones for Michael Bay:
The last time we spoke I was pretty amazed by the level of detail you put into Ron Fox’s background. Did you do the same for Warren?
[Laughs] No. You know, I was in a period then when I was perhaps over-preparing. Right after that, for W., I played Ari Fleischer — who was in that movie for about as much as I’m in this one – and I actually spoke to Ari Fleischer. No one else spoke to their counter parts. When I told them – and I was probably showing off, telling them – they were, like, why? I couldn’t answer the question. I was, like, “You’re supposed to…?” When they asked what information I got from him I’d use, I said, “Nothing…” [Laughs] I’ve learned that the role dictates how much preparation you have to do. I’m really finding a middle-ground. In the mean time, I’ve perhaps under-prepared for certain things, where I go, “Oh, shit, I have to do more.”
[Laughs] Subconsciously, do you think it helped on W.?
Yeah, I think so. I’m trying to find a common ground between a character, to find something to latch onto a character. For him, there was a performance aspect to his job, and I told him that. I said, “I notice you look people right in the eyes, you do this, and you do that. Is all that conscious?” He said, “No, it’s not conscious, at all. I just speak the truth.” I said, “Oh my God, you are press secretary until the end.” Also, by the way, when I got to the set and did everything that I prepared, Oliver Stone came up to me, and said, “By the way, don’t do that. Do this and this.” You can’t be too prepared, because then you’re fucked and it doesn’t matter. I got to this set and realized I hated Connie Britton‘s character and everyone at the party, except for the kids. Like, I had not even thought about that before.
It still must have been an experience getting to work with Oliver Stone.
God, yeah, it was great. I mean, it was like acting school. I’m in a lot of scenes, but I’m just sitting there watching Richard Dreyfuss and Scott Glenn act their dicks off. I mean, fucking Jeffrey Wright! I learned more that afternoon doing nothing than I ever did in four years of acting school.
Did you enjoy acting school?
Yeah, you know, I was a pretentious theater guy, so, yeah. [Snobbish voice] I enjoyed it as much as I could, but it was much more about the art, blah, blah. So much feeling and thinking.
[Laughs] A good amount of actors have said that acting school is a weird process, in how you’re acting things you haven’t even experienced yet.
Oh my God, yeah! It’s so ridiculous. I didn’t play anything in college I was prepared to play. There was completely no frame of reference for anything in life. You know, there’s not a lot of plays about partying college students who want to have sex with theater girls. They just don’t exist, because it’s not interesting.
So, they didn’t prepare you for Ron Fox?
[Laughs] No, they didn’t. I was trying to think, “Did I learn anything from acting school that would prepare me for Harold and Kumar 2? Probably, well, make big choices? That was on the first day.”
You said you watched movies like The Fugitive for that role, and do that frequently. Did you watch any movies for Seeking a Friend for the End of the World?
I do that even more now. But, no, not for this one. I didn’t do a lot of preparation for this. I just read the scene over and over until I felt comfortable with it. There’s not a lot to think about, so why over-think it? It’s pretty apparent what this guy’s awakening was.
And the structure of the movie is so tight I bet when you read the script, you thought, “I got to hit these beats, and just not screw it up.”
That’s exactly right. Even if you do turn in a C+ performance, the script and world is so good I’d still be okay [Laughs]. Sometimes I also come away from a whole movie going, “Well, I’m not going to get blamed for that.” [Laughs]
[Laughs] Since you’re watching more movies lately for roles, can you give any recent examples?
I just did a movie with Leslie Bibb, who’s dating Sam Rockwell, probably one of the greatest actors working. They both do that a lot. We were doing a horror movie and she’d watch Doris Day movies all morning, and while in the makeup trailer. I thought, “What could she possibly be getting from this?” She played a character who’s possessed and so sweet in this one scene before she turns into a demon, at the drop of a hat. It made sense. Now, when I get a script or an audition, I’ll text Sam and Leslie, asking, “If you had to play this, what would you watch?” They immediately go, “Well, this movie, of course.” It’s hard to figure out what to watch, but it helps.
When you go into a Michael Bay world, what do you watch? Do you revisit his films?
No, I didn’t watch anything. It’s funny you bring that up, because I consciously said, “I don’t want to go into this with the strength of a Michael Bay personality or have any preconceptions for what this is.” Luckily, I fared so much better, by letting it unfold.
Having spoken to some actors Bay’s worked with, he seems oddly like an actor’s director, by always telling you exactly what he needs. Do you have any stories about working with him, in that regard?
Actually, just about that. You know, it’s funny, I’ve never heard someone say he’s an actor’s director, but I very much respond to his style of directing, which is: “Hey Rob, what you did there sucked, and it fucked up this, so do it differently.” I was, like, thank you! That’s helpful, you know? A lot of directors are, like, “Well, how do you think that take went?” I go, “Well, you hated it, so tell me how to do it better.” I have no ego about this at all.
[Laughs] Would he actually do that, saying “that sucked”?
Yes, yes he did. I fucked up a take, and it was with three cameras moving and a stunt. I fucked it up. I improvised a joke, but then messed up my second line. He was, like, “Yeah, your joke tanked, and then you got distracted and fucked up your second line. Let’s go back.” That’s exactly what happened. In the moment, I probably wasn’t conscious of it, but then I got it. You know, some people treat actors with kid gloves, and then they come to expect to be treated with kid gloves. He does not treat anyone with kid gloves, so there’s certain personality clashes. I didn’t see any on this movie, but it’s what I’ve heard. That kind of actor probably thrives in a different environment.
Being known as a comedic actor, when you’re with a more indecisive director, is there a lot of, “I don’t know, do what you want here”?
Yeah, I don’t like it. They’ll go, “Yeah, we wrote this, but we hired you to go in there and do your thing.” I’m, like, “I don’t know what the fuck that is. [Laughs] Honestly, tell me what to do. You know, I’m doing this movie because I love the script and want to say these words.” What they really mean is: “Hey, we like you and are looking forward to having fun.” I know what it means, but I would be terrified if someone went, “Yeah, we don’t like this, so we’re hoping you’ll bring that Rob Corddry feel!” I have zero idea what that means.
I know I have to let you go soon, but I have to say, you ruined the ending of Grease for me, by spelling out the ending’s moral: dress like a prostitute, and people will love you for it. So, I was wondering…
If there’s any other movies you want me to ruin for you?
What’s your favorite movie?
Taxi Driver! Alright, when you think about it, it’s really kind of unsatisfying, because we only learn until…well…I can’t ruin Taxi Driver, sorry. I tried. I was hoping the words were going to happen. Come on, dig deep! What’s your guilty pleasure? Like, I could watch The Abyss over and over again, but it’s hardly anybody’s favorite movie. What’s your favorite movie that’s not on everybody’s top three list?
Well, I could watch most Michael Bay movies any time.
[Laughs] Well, you know, those are an open book. I’m sorry, maybe it’s just that one movie I could ruin for you.
[Laughs] Let me ask you, then: Favorite Michael Bay movie?
Bad Boys is awesome, but I haven’t watched it since it came out. I like The Rock, because I love Ed Harris. Also, it’s like watching a video game. Not even a video game, but, like, mouse trap. Remember that old board game? I used to love that game, and The Rock is like that, for me.
If you love Ed Harris, watch the outtakes from that movie.
They’re the most intense outtakes you’ll ever see.
You know, I met him. He was on Pain and Gain. We don’t have any scenes together, but I met him one day. This is very apropos, because I told him, “I learned more watching The Abyss twice a day in college than I ever did in acting school, because your first four lines could not be worse clunkers, but it was poetry coming out of your mouth. How did you do it?” He goes, “Ah, man, I don’t know. On The Rock, I had to say all this shit, all these patriotic things. I couldn’t get my anger or emotions up for it, so I would smash a phone receiver.”
[Laughs] You see him smash a phone in the outtakes.
Oh, yeah? That’s so funny. He’d do that, and then they’d say, “Action!” Michael Bay started bringing in the phone for him to smash, and before each take [Laughs]. Amazing.
[Laughs] Well, hopefully you’ll get to do that on a Bay film someday.
[Laughs] Oh, man, he beat the shit out of me, but that story is for the next one. When you interview me for Pain and Gain, we’ll talk about that.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World opens June 22nd.