The last time we spoke to actor Rob Corddry, he told us how director Michael Bay “kicked his ass” and how he’d tell us about it next time. Now, almost a year after promoting Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Pain & Gain is finally hitting theaters and Mr. Corddry is here to tell us how Bay went about that ass-kicking.
Some actors haven’t always taken to Bay’s blunt style, but Corddry embraced it. A director can’t get much more honest than telling one of his actors they “fucked up,” something Bay would tell the creator and star of Children’s Hospital after a take gone wrong. If Corddry didn’t respond to that approach, then he most likely wouldn’t have done a pool stunt for Bay, considering he isn’t a fan of the water. But Corddry is a fan of Michael Bay’s tireless work ethic, and here’s what else he had to say about him, along with a New York theater experience gone bad and why talking to Ari Fleischer wasn’t the best idea for Oliver Stone‘s W.
Did you get to see the film with a big audience?
Yes, twice. The premiere is tomorrow night, and I’m actually looking forward to it. I’ve seen it twice in the last week.
Do you always look forward to seeing your work?
Nope. [Laughs] No, a lot of times it is work. This time I just really enjoyed the movie.
[Laughs] Good to hear. The last time we spoke you said Bay “kicked your ass” on set. Before filming, did you know it was going to be that type of environment?
Yeah, in a way. There was one scene in the script I knew would be tough for me. I think we already talked about me not liking the water so much, so the pool scene was a struggle. I signed my contract and I knew what I was getting into, but the environment on set is just so fast and crazy that it got a little scary. You just put your nose down, do it, and hope everything works out. You know there’s a paramedic 10 feet away. Also, I did nothing compared to those guys. I mean, they were out beating up Tony Shalhoub. He was literally getting the crap beat out of him everyday.
The day you filmed the pool scene, did you tell Michael Bay you were nervous?
Noooo, I don’t talk to him about that! No way. That day Mark Wahlberg said, “Hey dude, did he tell you where we’re doing today in the pool?” I was, like, “No…what?” He just smiled and went, “I’ll, uh…I’ll let him tell ya.” [Laughs] Later on, when doing it, they described this whole stunt with flipping, being pushed under water, six cameras, and this dog swimming in the pool! Mark asked me, “Are you okay in the water?” My only response was: Does it matter? [Laughs] We just laughed and did it.
[Laughs] How many takes did you do?
This was the first question I asked. Luckily, they only had three changes for my wardrobe. It was three takes. We got it in one, but of course we did it two more times. I hurt myself on the third one. It was the lamest thing in the world, by the way. It wasn’t something cool, like, “I got a concussion doing my own stunts!” I scratched my cornea rubbing my eyes because they stung! Production shut down for 10 minutes. Man, on a Michael Bay film, production does not shutdown. He’s going to shoot without a camera, and I heard him say that. They got the medic and people all over me, but I couldn’t open my eyes and I was, like, “I’m fine, I’m fine!” He comes up and was, like, “You okay?” I told him “yep” and asked for some numbing drops. They gave me some numbing drops, which, basically, are really not good for you. They numbed my eye so I could open them again. Then we carried on the day.
Was that the scene you spoke of last time, where Bay said your joke “tanked” and you “fucked up” the shot?
No, no, no. Actually, it’s leading up to that scene. It was when I said, “If that dog pisses in the pool, you’re fired.” That line was improv. When I first did that line I fucked it up, screwed up the timing, and didn’t get my real line right to Mark. That’s the scene Michael called me out on. Like I said, it was a stunt, so they had six cameras going, with two of them under water. You don’t want to mess that up.
You said you liked the directness of that style, but does a part of that ever make you feel insecure?
Not insecure, but a part of me that feels disappointed in myself that I don’t do everything perfectly every time [Laughs]. Also, I’m realistic, and so is Michael. I mean, I told you how much I like the way he works. There’s another moment at the end where I’m being carted away with handcuffs and I was screaming. We did that, maybe, twice. Michael said, “Alright, moving on.” The guy didn’t know how to put handcuffs on, so they were really tight. Oh God, my poor handcuffs were tight! I was pinching a nerve or something. My arm started to get numb, in a weird, scary way. I was, like, “Yo, get these off me.” Then I heard, “Wait, wait, we gotta do it again! Quick!” Everyone lined up and got going. When I asked for him to loosen them up a bit, Michael yelled, “Corddry, get on your mark!” The guy kept saying we gotta go, but I kept asking him to loosen them up. Bay said, “Corddry, where are you?” I go, “I’m just loosening the handcuffs,” which he said “come on” to. I yelled, “Oh, I’m a pussy because I don’t want my handcuffs to cut off my circulation?” Michael just kind of smiled and shook his head. That’s the environment, and he got it. He understood I did not want to delay the scene as much as he didn’t want to. I just needed one second.
In the Armageddon commentary he mentioned being condescending to Ben Affleck, to get what he wanted out of him. Does that attitude push you to do better?
Well, I don’t know. Maybe that’s the way Ben Affleck interpreted it. I’ve definitely heard Anthony Mackie say Michael would purposefully poke him about how much bigger Dwayne and Mark were [Laughs]. He didn’t do that to me, but I know he does that. I had a minor role, of course, compared to Ben Affleck in Armageddon, so I imagine that’s definitely in his toolbox. For some actors, it’s effective. I don’t really respond to that, because I kind of see through it and think too much about it, and not in the way he’s trying to…Does that make any sense?
He didn’t do that with me because he knew it wouldn’t work with me. He was just very direct with me, like, “You fucked up. Do it again.” I respond to that.
When you were in theater school, did they prepare you for that? Any experiences like that in theater?
Not in theater school. There are directors I’ve worked with who are just as honest and direct, but maybe in a less intense way. Like, [Warm Bodies director] Jonathan Levine, you know exactly what he wants. You know what you didn’t do and what he wants done better. It’s the same thing with Michael Bay, but they have different styles, of course. Most directors don’t do that. There are some directors who just go, “How do you think that went?” [Laughs] I do recall doing a really bad play in, like, 1995. It was off, off, off, off Broadway.
What was the name of it?
I don’t remember. I don’t know, because I wasn’t in it. I was fired. It was written by a Vietnam vet about Vietnam prisoners of war. It was me and this other guy, and it was really intense. Of course, it was terrible, but I was up in New York and needed work. I mean, I was getting paid 100 dollars a week.
The first day of rehearsal the Vietnam vet is screaming. He was screaming at the top of his lungs at my scene partner. What he was saying to him wasn’t making any sense. Then I realized…he was yelling at me. He’s yelling at me, but looking at him! I realized it wasn’t going to work, at all. I called him that night to say, “That’s not the way I work. I’m not going to be comfortable with that. That’s not going to work on me and it’s going to be antithetical to what you’re trying to get.” Before I could even start the ball rolling on quitting, he fired me [Laughs].
[Laughs] Was that a big lesson?
Well, it was a big relief. Yes, it did crystallize for me on how I prefer working.
For W., you mentioned how useless it was meeting with Ari Fleischer for that role. For Pain and Gain…
Well, he’s dead. John died in prison of heart complications or something. Nobody spoke to their characters. Really, I’m a practical actor. When I talked to Ari Fleischer, I had no idea why I was doing it. I just was, like, “That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? You do a cop movie, you ride around with LAPD for six months.” I realized in my first conversation with him that it was completely valueless.
What did you discuss?
Oh God, when you talk to Ari Fleischer for a minute, you get…it mostly became me asking him questions about his time as press secretary. I was living and breathing that when he was in office at The Daily Show. I think he was really good at it, and frustratingly good at it. He was maybe one of the best ones in recent administrations. To say that a press secretary is good, that means he gives you nothing [Laughs]. He was a very nice, smart guy and I had great conversations with him, but I also realized, “Oh, he’s the one from the administration feeling us out. I’m the sucker that said ‘yes’.”
[Laughs] So, you were duped?
Well, it was definitely…he got more out of it than I did.
Pain and Gain is in theaters now.