In Paul Blart: Mall Cop, directed by Steve Carr, Kevin James plays Paul Blart, an overweight mall cop whoitnesses crooks, led by Veck Sims (Keir O'Donnell), taking over the mall on Black Friday. He has a chance to show his courage by saving the hostages that they took, including Amy (Jayma Mays), a wig salesgirl whom he has a crush on. Raini Rodriguez plays Paul Blart's young daughter, Maya. Kevin James has previously starred in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Hitch. He also starred in the hit TV show King of Queens and serves as the co-writer and producer of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It was a real privilege to interview him.
Columbia Pictures releases Paul Blart: Mall Cop nationwide on January 16th, 2009.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Whatís the genesis of the filmís basic concept?
KJ: Adam [Sandler] was saying, ďYou know, you gotta get another movie and try to do one by yourself. If you can come up with something great, letís do it.Ē I just kept thinking I would be funny in a CHiPs way, like, if Iím some kind of a motorcycle cop, or something in a uniform, I could, like, swagger up. I thought it would be kind of funny. Then I thought it would be funnier if I had less authority and [then] we thought about mall cops. I didnít want to make fun of them, because I respect them. They have to enforce the law without any real weapons and thatís it. And no one respects them. You see how it is. Itís a tough life and I think they need to be heard.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Why did you choose the title Paul Blart: Mall Cop?
KJ: Itís a tough title. I know that itís a little weird. We thought that Mall Cop was just a little too generic, so we just kinda went with that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Was the film always intended to be rated PG?
KJ: As we went along, we said, ďYou know what? It could be a family movie. I want everybody to go and kids to be psyched to see it.Ē Most important, though, is that I could make it a fun movie for everybody. It felt like the best home for it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you manage to balance acting, co-writing and co-producing the film concurrently?
KJ: Scary. Itís scary not only producing, but writing and putting myself out there and this was a movie where I said, ĎEventually, it was going to come out where youíd wanna take a chance and Iíd have to be alone without Will Smith, without Adam Sandler Ė- Iím sick of carrying those guys!-- on my own.í So, I just wanted to be sure that I could be my funniest and really, really connect with the material and really put something out there that everybody would have fun with and this one Iím proud to do it. I feel like this was it, definitely.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you separate those tasks while on set?
KJ: Well, they all kinda tie in together because when youíre on the set youíre writing and working and producing by saying [that] we can bring certain things in. I drew the line, obviously, [when it came to the] budget. We didnít have a huge budget in this movie, either, it wasnít that expensive. We really had to keep tight on schedule, so we had great line producers for that. So, I didnít worry about money so much, we just continued to work. We worked at night, too. Theyíd shut the mall down at night and weíd just have to keep shooting because we didnít have the time to hang out. It was tough. It was a very pressing schedule, but we got through it and it was okay.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you manage to balance acting and doing stand-up routines?
KJ: It gets busy, but the benefit of being able to do one and the other is they kind of go hand-in-hand. Doing standup is fun. I never consider it as work [and] I work with Ray Romano a lot. Weíll go together like a much less funny, less talented Don Rickles - Bob Newhart travel. We go to Vegas together. Itís fun. Weíll perform there. I just enjoy it [because, itís like a vacation for me, you know. Itís really fun.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like doing all the physical comedy in the film?
KJ: Iíve always loved to do physical comedy, so this was a fun action movie to be able to do. We thought it would be funny if we did a Die Hard type of thing. The only change is that itís me instead of Bruce Willis.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel about the look of your body?
KJ: I think that when you have this body, you want to use it that way and have people who can relate. Not everybodyís got to look like Will Smith out there in I am Legend. Itís not all that when you go across America and beyond. So, I try to connect with the everyday guy. What was exciting about Paul Blart: Mall Cop was that I brought them on the journey with me so that they could see themselves in my character as opposed to a James Bond thing when theyíre watching something that they could never do.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel being a sex symbol?
KJ: I donít even know how to start to address that. Thatís insane to me. I love food. I really do. Itís so hard to get in shape and I go up and down. I was heavier in the movie. After we wrapped the movie, I went to back edit it with everybody for just two or three months. Just sitting in an editing room, I gained 25 pounds from there! So, I went up even higher and came back down.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel about having a mustache throughout the film?
KJ: It adds an element of sexiness and it was homegrown. It was all me.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you lose all the weight that you put on?
KJ: Iíve been exercising like crazy. Iím not gonna stop with the food. Thatís just something I wonít do. Stomach stapling is just not gonna happen to me. If anything, Iíd just have my stomach let out. I would just hollow out my a** as just refill it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like working with your stuntman?
KJ: My original stuntman, the guy who doubled for me all nine seasons of The King of Queens, hurt his knee practicing a stunt and couldnít do it, so we had to find somebody quick. We ended up finding Jeff Gibson, who looked just like me [until] he took of 40 pounds of padding and was in great shape. I was so dismantled at that point. I did most of [the stunts]. I hate heights, but I tried to do as much as I could.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like riding a Segway?
KJ: We did a promotion for The King of Queens where I rode one. They came in a taught me how to use it. I remember it being such a funny vehicle and thought it would be great for this. Then I found out that mall cops actually use these in a lot of malls. It takes a little bit of practice. I was very nervous, Ďcos you have to really trust it, you lean forward and thatís how you kind of control it and lean back. Itís with your body weight, so you gotta be careful when your body weightís heavy. I got very confident on it. I could whip around on it and then, during the scene when the dog chases me, I hit a curb and I ate it hard. [laughs] So I got a little less confident after that. Itís pretty nice in a mall, Ďcos it has pretty smooth floors. It was fun.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like being filmed in a mall during most of the shoot?
KJ: That was tricky for everybody because they didnít shut it down during the day. We just shut down sections of it at a time. Weíd use a lot of people in the movie that were actually just shopping that day.
NYC MOVIE GURU:Why wasnít the film shot inside a New Jersey mall?
KJ: We would have [shot it there], but that was a production thing. In Boston, itís a lot cheaper to film there and to get crews. As long as it was on the East Coast, it was fine for me. Thatís the important thing. I donít think we could have faked that in L.A.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Were there any improvisations during the shoot?
KJ: Yeah. Once we got what we needed, we would definitely take different takes, have fun with it and see where it would go. It was frustrating because a lot of the physical things that we did, like the fight with the [fat] woman in Victoriaís Secret, went on for a long time. We had to cut it at some point. There were a lot of funny bits. Thereís a scene when I return the kid to his mother and the mother says, ďOkay, give the fake cop a hug.Ē And I get all upset about her calling me a fake cop and she just doesnít care.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Did you have an experience in malls growing up?
KJ: Yeah, when I was growing up and my whole life Iíve been in malls. Thatís your nightclub when youíre a kid. Social life is walking around [with] a pack of guys, wearing my KISS black concert t-shirt, just checking out all the stores, looking at girls and thatís it. And then later on in life when I did stand-up comedy, thatís all you do. Thatís how you bond with other comics. When you go across the country, you work for an hour or two hours a night and then the next day youíre off, so you just hit the local mall and you just walk around. Iíve always been involved with malls.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like working with Raini Rodriguez, the child actress who plays your daughter in the film?
KJ: Sheís unbelievable! We found her. I guess they put her on tape. I think sheís from Texas and I knew right away. I just said, ďSheís got something!Ē and we connected and we flew her out to LA and she didnít even read. We just talked for like, two minutes, and I was like, ďDone. This is it, sheís great. Ē She was fun. Sheís gonna be big!
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you plan on starring in R-rated films?
KJ: Iíve got two kids now. Iím not against doing [R-rated films], but Iím trying to do a movie where Iíd be okay with my kids going to see it. I like being in that world where I make [a film] for everybody and itís fun for kids while adults can take something away from it, too, and not be bored to tears watching it.