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Interview with Jake Kasdan, director of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Jake Kasdan directs and co-writes Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story about the rise of rock'n'roll music legend Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly--he's nominated for a Golden Globe!) as he falls in love with his backup singer, Darlene (Jenna Fischer). Produced and co-written by Judd Apatow, the guy who brought you Superbad and Knocked Up. Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence Kasdan, has previously directed The TV Set, Orange County, Zero Effect and some episodes of the TV show "Freaks and Geeks." I had the privilege to interview him.

Columbia Pictures releases Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story on December 21st, 2007.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why did you decide to spoof music biopics?

JK: There were a lot of biopics in a short time that had this funny thing where they would take these people with extraordinary lives and then cram them into a 90 to 100-minute movie that somehow makes all the lives of these extraordinary people similar.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What are some of your favorite music biopics?

JK: Iíve seen La Bamba maybe 100 times. I donít know why I kept on watching it over and over again when I was a teenager. I love The Buddy Holly Story. I thought Walk the Line had a ton of great scenes in it.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How often did you laugh on the set?

JK: We were laughing pretty much the whole time. We were cracking ourselves up. All of the 60ís era stuff was very near and dear to meóthe silly manís guide to the 1960ís. All of the songs that the guys wrote Iíve listened to thousands of times and they still give.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like to work with John C. Reilly?

JK: Itís the most completely committed performance of something totally preposterous. It doesnít matter how ridiculous something going on is, he plays it as though itís actually happening with the same kind of process and attack that he would bring to The Hours or any real movie.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Did you always have John C. Reilly in mind as Dewey Cox?

JK: We had John C. Reilly in mind from the very beginning. We wrote it for him, Thereís just not that many people who can be this funny, can act well and can also sing like this. The singing really narrows the list hugely and weíre huge fans of him. Judd Apatow had just worked with him on Talladega Nights.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How many songs did John C. Reilly actually sing for Walk Hard?

JK: John C. Reilly tracked 40 original songs for Walk Hard, of which about 19 or 20 are in it.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you cast the four Beatles?

JK: I was just coming up with four really funny people who donít really look or sound anything like The Beatles, except Justin Long was a shockingly good George Harrison impression. He can actually do all four Beatles separately. The others are just brilliantly funny guys doing the worst imitations ever. The idea was that we didnít want them to look like The Beatles, but their hair suggested which one they were.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why did you decide to include those male frontal nudity scenes?

JK: [laughing] We felt is was time to bring the penis back to mainstream comedy. We needed to tell the real story, the entire Dewey Cox story, and we werenít going to pull any punches here just because it would be easier not to show it. We put out a call through extraís casting for guys who were up for doing that. We found that there were quite a few. They brought in a stack of Polaroidís of guys in their underwear, which doesnít really tell you what you need to know. Then it becomes this horrible guessing game where you donít even wanna think about because you need to see what youíre dealing with.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What was the casting process for those nudity scenes like?

JK: My assistant director and I were going through this stack of Polaroidís feeling the surreal element of it. We get this one shot of this guy, who was the only one standing completely naked, with this goofy smile and we thought we had found our penis. We brought him in to read and he was really funny. His name is Tyler Nelson. There was something so oblivious and unfazed about him. We didnít want him to seem like a porn star. As Judd Apatow said later, ďYou found the perfect penis because itís a very approachable, unthreatening penis.Ē

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